Been a long road, but I think some of my mistakes in life have been trying to do too many things at the same time. I will use this Sunday evening (liking to blog on Sunday evenings) to go through how in my lifetime, I have never really been focused on 1 thing, and maybe relate this to others also having this focus issue in their entrepreneurial or career track.
Encouraged to do many things when we’re young
Back as far as I can remember, elementary school – I was in t-ball (youth baseball) after school, also in boy scouts, going to classes. And in all of these activities, I was trying to be the top, be the best. I remember my father pressuring me to do so much, and I wanted to make everyone proud.
In high school, I was president of my class every year, organizing dance nights, in soccer, baseball, working at 15 years old (cleaning the catholic school during summer), and then to working nights in a grocery store (price rite), getting into college courses while in high school to get credits for college before I started.
Being Told in College To Cross Things off the list
College the same – fraternity, student council, extra classes (masters + bachelors in 4 years), yacht club, working in the library, internships, etc. While rushing, my fraternity brother Josh Griffiths, made me list down everything I was doing, and he crossed a line through over half of them. He said, by next week, I needed to quit those he crossed out in order to pass his “test” (signature to get into the frat). I did it, I quit those clubs, and I focused and felt better.
I still thank Josh for that to this day, when I catch up with him back in New York City. Last time I had seen Josh was in October 2010, NYC when I was consolidating inventory for my e-commerce business….and I was promising him I was focusing then.
Life after college, no more structure
The structure of school – a set plan (curriculum) is gone, and I believe the majority of us become lost – back in 2007 I blogged about this being the odyssey time of our lives.
Life after college / school, there are too many opportunities
And those creative people, those who want to do something different in their lives, are mostly lost.
My basic plan after college
I remember graduating college, it was spring 2003, I felt like I was on top of the world. The basic plan was to start work at Deutsche bank, get a good couple years of a top firm on my resume, save up money, and go to MBA school and then start my own business.
Sounds like a nice plan.
What really happened
I did save up money, I did get experience working in a well known investment bank. I joined my DB friend’s startup (mobile apps) finding my love for internet marketing (2003/2004), but didn’t exactly know WHAT KIND OF BUSINESS TO DO.
I started selling stuff online…seemed easy enough, find a product, sell it for more. The details will later work itself out once I’ve found a good product, and gotten to the top of Google.
Inventory SUCKS. Additionally, friends and business partnerships are hard, and we all grew older with different visions. So I couldn’t buy into that business, took my savings, quit my job, and started a 2nd company to help people buy from China.
Man, that was hard, doing 2 businesses at the same time. But I kept at it, and the China sourcing business lead me to China. And then I met even more entrepreneurs, and got into even more business opportunities (SEO tools, SEO consulting, product development)
Advice for New Entrepreneurs
Now, maybe a young entrepreneur is reading this, and I hopefully can save you years of pain and struggle (but honestly, any real entrepreneur will still endure years of pain and struggle) and pick 1 business, try your best at it, and keep on going.
First, read these awesome articles:
For the chinese readers, they even have it translated to Chinese, so no excuses!
Learning from my mistakes, maybe its even easier to understand:
- Maybe I didn’t focus, because I was afraid to fail PUBLICLY – maybe this is even subconsciously in my mind, I never thought about it, but maybe a reason I didn’t want to do just 1 thing is because I’m afraid my friends / family / blog readers would witness publicly my failure.
- Use this fear to fail publicly to pressure you to make sure it doesn’t fail! – Maybe we should use that pressure to work so hard that there is no option but to succeed. That’s a positive way to think about it.
- do 1 thing good – yes, entrepreneurs are creative + want to do so many things…its so hard to pass up opportunities. But do 1 thing good, and build value.
- Learn to say NO – this is my biggest weakness, even more than the focus issue – the focus issue comes from the fact that I’ve let others control my life, customers trying to get me to do a service I am not really doing in my company, hiring a staff that isn’t suitable for the current open positions, getting into a new business venture because a friend keeps pushing you to join them. saying no is soooo hard, but it really is essential for real success and I am just learning that now, or at least forcing it.
- Not creating a structure – I think many entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs because they don’t like corporate life – the boring, repetitive work, the extra layers of management. But we need some sort of structure. maybe an incubator or accelerator can help, I wished I had known about these when I first started my own business, Chinaccelerator has been awesome in building structure and discipline.
This is a rather long post, but I wanted to connect the reasons why I am not focused, and also hopefully help anyone reading this to better position themselves.
- School has structure, and we can “overachieve”
- After school, we lose that structure, and cannot simply “overachieve”, we have to set our own structure and goals (what I should have done better)
Because really, life is all about positioning. And lasting longer than others can withstand.