The day I left university, I was proud of my relative success. The feeling didn’t last. The very next day, it was replaced with an unsettling, crippling uncertainty. I left the comfort of further education baby faced, immature, lacking responsibility, self-confidence and unsure of the future.
No matter where I looked, I couldn’t see a way forward. There were very few suitable jobs and none in the city where I lived — a realization that only dawned upon after I had spent four years studying.
With the lack of options available to me, panic and stress quickly set in. Had I just stumbled blindly into an aimless future?
Then something happened that would change everything. After a heart-to-heart with a fellow graduate, it became clear: if there were no desirable jobs available, I would have to create one.
It was time to take control of my future.
I started a business.
Fast-forward to today, and I’m still baby faced — with some ‘designer’ facial hair to hide it — but so much is different.
I’ve been through a lot, and most of it tough as hell. I have dealt with crushing blows and amazing successes. I have expanded my skill set and knowledge base. I have met some truly inspiring people who have changed how I see the world, and more importantly, myself. Long gone is the confidence-shot kid, replaced with the ‘new me’ — full of maturity and self-belief. The journey has kept me humble, my experiences have kept me grounded, and it’s left me grateful beyond words for everything I have achieved thus far.
For the first time, I see what’s ahead of me, and it fills me with confidence.
Becoming an entrepreneur has changed me; completely, truly, totally and forever.
Should you choose to take up the entrepreneur mantle, it could change you, too, for the following reasons.
You become skilled at fire fighting
A lot of entrepreneurs talk about ‘putting out fires.’ It seemed like silly talk to me — typical buzzword hype — until I started a business and immediately saw everything go up in flames. On a daily basis, I would have to attend to unhappy clients, move money around, chase orders, manage other subcontractors, all while trying to do the job itself. It turns out, as a founder, you really do spend most of your time fixing things.
Running a business involves reacting to problems, and finding the solutions to them, while simultaneously juggling various issues and making tough judgment calls. To say I struggled with this in the early days is an understatement. But as you work through this complex process day after day, you learn.
Learning through problem-solving has so many benefits; you will become more prepared for the next issues, more efficient at solving them, and more capable of implementing the solutions. You will be more confident and more trusting in your future judgments.
Jack of all trades, master of most
Our business was a two-person team. This left a lot of roles to be filled, most of which we were completely unskilled in. It turns out our university experience hadn’t taught us much more than how to drink a row of tequila slammers. But within that chaos of finding our feet lay a silver lining. The variety of roles you take on in your business will force you to adapt and learn at an incredible rate. Whether it’s money management, client relationships, promotion and marketing, social media management, everything you throw yourself into will add another skill to your rapidly growing inventory.
Though we took some flack for assuming all these roles (“why don’t you just hire someone?!”), I don’t regret it one bit. In fact, I’d recommend it. The more you can take on in the early days, the more skilled you can become. Your startup journey has the potential to be an incredible learning tool, but only if you’re willing to use it to its maximum potential.
Failure is your frenemy
Your business venture will not be without serious lows and failures. If this worries you — you’re looking at it the wrong way.
I’ve done it all. I’ve had work ripped out and thrown out on the street because it ‘wasn’t good enough.’ I’ve invoiced clients the wrong bill. I’ve priced projects incorrectly and lost money on them. I’ve lost out on work because I forgot to respond to an inquiry. I’ve driven 3 hours to get to a site, to find out I’ve manufactured something to the wrong specifications.
Disaster after disaster.
Sure, they suck. You’ll be hard pushed to find a gut-punch that hurts more.
But mistakes are the ultimate learning tool. With every mistake comes a lesson learned. Everything you get wrong will enable you to get more right in the future. Every error leads to improvement down the line. The mistakes you make will keep you humble and grounded. They’ll make you approachable and relatable.
Most of all, they’ll make you far more understanding.
It injects you with confidence
As I touched on earlier, I lacked self-confidence when I took my first step into the ‘real world.’ I was more of a follow-the-crowd person. But now, it was up to me, and I struggled. I didn’t apply to several jobs in fear of actually getting the position. My confidence was unhealthily low. Enter the startup, and the boost my rocket bottom belief needed. With every accomplishment, no matter how small, the confidence I had in myself began to grow. Self-belief is such a powerful asset to have in this world. Being sure of yourself and what you are capable of can set you apart from the competition.
The benefits don’t end with your business. I’ve become a better person to be around and a better partner. And it’s transformed my career prospects. I’ve branched out into things I never thought I’d do, like writing, podcast interviews and more. When this belief translates into your day to day life, it enables you to break down your fears and barriers. It will help you conquer your self-doubt while giving you the confidence to take on anything life throws your way.
You get thrown in a mixing bowl of people
Throughout your journey, you will connect and work with many like-minded individuals. You will also have to work alongside those who think differently from you.
I’ve worked alongside 16-year-old apprentices right up to the 80-year-old who still pottered about in our workshop. I’ve been involved in projects with the nicest people you could meet and those who you actively avoid seeing again once the job is over. And it’s the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The last thing I needed was to find myself in an echo chamber of similar people. I was naive and needing a dose of reality.
Learning to work with all kinds of people can be a considerable challenge, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a rewarding one. Being able to understand people, listen to others whether you agree or not and collaborate, are skills that will serve you well in life, and if you can master them, they’ll change your outlook on life forever.
Undertaking the process of creating something from nothing will improve you in every way. Why? Because it puts you right in front of growth opportunities every single day.
You’ll learn so much about the world and your place in it. You’ll meet incredible people along the way and become more open-minded to learning from each of them. You’ll be forced to take on challenges and projects that fall so far out of your comfort zone you’ll forget you had one at all. You’ll acquire new skills and learn new lessons that will prepare you for whatever life throws at you next.
If you’re looking to become the person you’ve always thought you were capable of becoming — choose entrepreneurship.
It will change you completely, truly, totally and forever.
Originally published at Entrepreneur’s Handbook.