Deep down, even as a child I knew entrepreneurship was my path. It wasn’t the lure of being my own boss and defining each and every work day exactly as I wanted to – though, of course, thinking that was possible was certainly attractive. It wasn’t even the idea of becoming as rich and successful as some of my heroes – Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, Steve Jobs.
No, the main reason I became an entrepreneur was because I wanted to prove to myself and others that the rules of life I’d been given in school were, if not exactly wrong, then certainly misleading.
First, let me explain that my school years had been pretty traumatic. I was not an academic achiever. In fact, my teachers considered me dim-witted and disruptive. I was finally diagnosed with a number of learning difficulties including attention deficit disorder (ADD) and dyslexia, but even then it didn’t do much to erase my teachers’ and the other students’ bad opinions of me.
However, I was still a young child and still trying to figure out where I fit in in life. Yet, everything I thought seemed to be in opposition to what I was being told by my elders, those in charge.
Because there was so much emphasis on academic success, I was told I wouldn’t amount to anything. Dreamers, one teacher told me, achieve nothing (tell that to Martin Luther King!). And as I grew, I realized that the life that school prepares you for is one that’s really too rigid, too conforming for the true entrepreneur.
When I think back on it now, there are three particular lessons I was given in school that I believe all budding business people need to reconfigure if they want success in entrepreneurship:
Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees
Believing that money is scarce creates a fear of the green stuff. People can end up studying for and staying in crummy jobs that they hate just because they get a paycheck at the end of each month. The truth is, money does grow on trees, but you just need to keep looking for these trees or grow them yourself.
You see, a true entrepreneur will do what they can to make money. Lord Alan Sugar, one of the UK’s most prolific entrepreneurs and wealthiest men, started his business career selling car aerials and electrical goods out of a van which he had bought with his savings of £50. More than likely he knew he wouldn’t be doing that all his life, but he wanted to generate his own income and he knew he had to start somewhere.
Equally, when I was a kid I wanted to make some extra pocket money so I asked my local newsagents for a job as a paperboy. I was nine at the time but because they said I had to be eleven to get the job, I suddenly aged two years! I’m not suggesting people lie their way into a job, but sometimes you have to find a creative way to start growing those trees!
Don’t Copy Other People’s Work
This was a daily drill in my school and, of course, passing someone else’s homework off as your own is not going to help you in the long run …unless you really look at how they went about solving the mathematical problem that had you stumped, which steps they took to reach a certain conclusion in an essay or what formulas they used to get the correct answers in a science paper.
You see, in the world of entrepreneurship copying someone’s work involves learning from the best. Studying the habits and actions of successful people helps us to see how they’ve prevailed and prospered. That’s the smart way!
There’s no need to re-invent the wheel when you can learn how it rolls from the people already in the business. Learn from their mistakes, study their lives as lessons that can teach you the important things you need to know about becoming successful. Why waste time trying to figure out something that someone has already proven works? True entrepreneurs do this all the time. Even the big players. For example, do you really think the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smartphone would have happened if there had been no such thing as the BlackBerry?
Don’t Talk to Strangers
This, of course, is very important to instill in young children for their own safety. However, as you grow into adulthood, talking to strangers is one of the surest ways to meet new opportunities. Such opportunities can come in the form of new clients, investors or even a new friend and confidante that you can turn to for business advice.
If you’re fresh to the world of entrepreneurship it can be intimidating reaching out to new contacts or even chatting to people at the different events you attend. However, having a large network is vital to your success as an entrepreneur so rather than gravitate towards those whom you know at your next big event, try chatting to a complete stranger instead – You never know where it might lead.