If your dad gave you a loan of a million bucks, you went to a private school on mommy or daddy’s dime and are “building a business” now, or you grew your parent’s wine business from $3 million to 60 million (although you’re a smart dude, Gary Vaynerchuk, you don’t know what it’s like to be so broke that you save your Top Ramen seasoning packets “just in case”), do not read this column. Also, stop reading if you’ve written something about “Greatness,” unless, of course, you’re one of the Michaels (sleeping on a sister’s couch isn’t really that rough).
Alright, are my real entrepreneurs in the house now? Good.
I recently read that Top Ramen is the new currency in prison. Spoiler alert: That shit has been the currency since the beginning of prison, because motherf-ckers are hungry and broke. Top Ramen is cheap. Guess what? It’s not just currency in the joint, it’s currency on the streets — in the real entrepreneurial circles where that same hunger lives. I know, because I’ve lived it.
Building a business is hard as f-ck.
Especially if you’re self-made. That means you either somehow figured out how to bootstrap your way to profits, held a job while building a business or created something valuable enough to bring on investors, all which are worthy and difficult feats.
So, anyone out there, staying up to 3 a.m. to get that website finished with your business partner, borrowing money from friends just to eat and pay rent or grinding every day just to get that next client, or whatever your hustle is, I salute you. Some thoughts:
1. Cash is king.
Figure out how to preserve all cash flow, especially early on. Get payment extensions on bills if need be.
2. Keep company.
Don’t go at it alone. Find a partner or two. Worst case, be around other entrepreneurs somehow.
3. Validate or invalidate.
Test before you invest. Figure out how to validate, and even better, invalidate your idea before you sink a bunch of time and energy into it. Check out the Lean Startup for more on this. It’s still relevant.
4. Work hard, but disconnect.
Whatever it is that you enjoy, from working out, painting, dance class to photography, get outside and do something new. Don’t get sucked into constantly working.
5. Forget the media BS.
Three percent of companies get that high-level media hype. Don’t pay attention to it.
6. But get media.
Look around. The big media outlets have all shifted models. Most of them have become contributor-driven outlets. Contribute to get the niche exposure you’re looking for (but don’t pitch me, unless it’s something real good).
7. Treat yourself.
Did you get a new client? Finish a new project? Launch a new site? Go treat yourself. Get sushi. Buy a new pair of Chuck’s. Do something to treat yourself and you’ll create a craving in the habit cycle (habit → cue → craving → reward). You’ll then subconsciously want to earn more.
8. Get organized.
It’s 2016 and you can speak into your phone to set reminders, use AI to set your meetings online and have 10 billion apps and products to keep you organized. No excuses.
9. Create content.
What do Snoop Dogg, The Fat Jewish, Martha Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld have in common? They create content. That content helps them get massive exposure. That massive exposure helps them achieve their continued success.
10. Help others and give back.
Whatever that means to you, do it. It makes your journey more impactful. We need more selfless millionaires and multimillionaires. One of my passions is volunteering with The Last Mile, where I teach inmates how to program. Another is teaching underserved youth how to be entrepreneurs through my nonprofit.
11. Cold email everyone.
The most influential people and opportunities in my life have come from reaching out to people. Do it. Use email hunter.
12. Trade money to learn.
It’s the best investment you’ll ever make, and the end result will be more money. The moment you go for the money, you’ll plateau. Choosing learning will continue to increase you to new heights of earning. It’s an awesome formula.
13. Read every night.
I don’t care if it’s the latest issue of Wired. Read. The act of reading makes you smarter, helps keep your mind sharp, spurs creativity and allows you to disconnect.
14. Leverage the compounding effect.
Whatever you do will compound. It’s a simple law.
15. Build your brand.
Early on in my career, I was taught that your personal brand is the only constant you have as an entrepreneur. Build your website, show off your projects, link up your social media accounts, promote your content through Medium and LinkedIn and automate your posts to Twitter and Facebook. Check out the new site I made for myself. Bonus: unapologetically plug yourself whenever it makes sense.
16. Carry an idea book.
The greatest minds, from Edison, Franklin, Einstein, Da Vinci to Gates, have done it. We have between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. An idea can escape as quickly as it surfaces. Carry your book everywhere. The world has endless inspiration.
Just remember: We are the future. Keep building. Focus on the vision, and circumstances won’t seem so hard, keep that hustle hydrated, and do cool shit. The money always comes if you put in the work. Do good, give back and keep evolving. You’re a self-made entrepreneur, and there’s no greater feat.