You Weren’t Born Knowing How to Drive: You Figured it Out

09/23/2016 04:36 am ET

When you start a business, you learn a lot of valuable lessons. You can study your field in college, spend time in a start-up environment and come up with an excellent business model. Despite all of this preparation you probably won’t feel prepared when you start your own business. That’s because nothing can prepare you for the reality of entrepreneurship.

If you ask any entrepreneur, the start of their first business never went as planned. It’s impossible to predict everything that will happen and many entrepreneurs make grave errors early on that ultimately doom their business.

For true entrepreneurs, this a good thing.

There is no way to be taught how to create, build and run a business. If there was a cut and dry formula, anybody would be able to turn their dream into reality. But this isn’t the case and it wasn’t the case for me on the roller coaster ride to an Inc. 500 and Fast 50 ranking. The truth is that the only way to be properly prepared for entrepreneurship is to become an entrepreneur. It’s essentially a trial by fire – that being said, you can always arm yourself with resources, connections and strategies that will help along the way. But no amount of preparation will guarantee entrepreneurial success.

Taking The Leap

The most important thing an aspiring entrepreneur can do is take the leap. How many times have you heard someone talking about an excellent business idea they have, or how often others talk about their dream of owning their own business?

When you ask people, everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. If this is the case, why isn’t everyone an entrepreneur?

The answer is because they won’t take the leap. Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t easy – in reality, it can be stressful, intimidating and life-altering. And it’s those three qualities that make starting your first business so important.

Running and owning your own business is a skill that’s only acquired through experience. Preparation is important, but nothing will teach you what being a business owner is like until you’re a business owner. For those that are timid to start their first business, there’s good news: failure is the predecessor of success.

Failure is the best way to figure out how something doesn’t work. As Thomas Edison put it, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison was an entrepreneur in his own right, and we can learn some valuable lessons from him.

Failure is a part of business. As unfortunate as that sounds, it’s just a reality that some people need to accept. However, this doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t strive for success. Success should always be the main goal of your business – and perhaps your life – but you shouldn’t let success dictate whether or not you abandon your goals.

The best part of failure is that it teaches the most important lessons. Every time we fail, we learn a new way that we shouldn’t approach business. The key to failure is that it pushes us in the right direction, and we should use this guidance to keep moving toward success.

This is one of the most important things someone can learn before they start their own business. Don’t let failures deter you, and don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from reaching your potential. Take the leap.

Lessons to Learn

Thankfully for many aspiring entrepreneurs, failure isn’t as necessary as it used to be. Because there have been thousands of successful entrepreneurs over the years, we can learn from their failures to minimize our own.

The most important part of becoming an entrepreneur is taking the leap. But as I mentioned before, you can arm yourself to make the process faster. During my time as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned a number of important lessons that can be taught and not experienced.

The first thing I’ve learned is the value of leadership. People respond well to a strong leader – even if the leader has never had experience in the role. I learned this early on during my college career at Vanderbilt and then Washington University in St. Louis and I’ve always tried to bring a strong sense of leadership wherever I go. It was at Vanderbilt that I earned the Rob Roy Purdy Award for Selfless Leadership for building its Model UN program with Jimmy Kerrigan from 2002 to 2007. Fittingly I recited a list of people to thank at the award ceremony.

At some point, an entrepreneur will find themselves leading a company – and more often than not, these entrepreneurs have never had the responsibilities that come with being a leader. There’s no shortage of articles across the internet that can teach you how to be an effective leader, and each offer sound advice. But when it comes down to it, the most important thing to leadership is acting like the leader you would want to have.

Would you want a leader that’s closed off, non-responsive and condescending? Of course not. Do you want a leader that routinely ignores information and frequently makes avoidable mistakes? No. Be the person that your employees and coworkers expect you to be. Hold yourself to the highest standard possible. If you do this, people will respond to your leadership.

Aside from that advice, my best advice for becoming a strong leader is to take the leap. Like entrepreneurship, there’s no recipe for leadership success that’s guaranteed to work. You won’t be a perfect entrepreneur when you start working, and you won’t be the world’s greatest leader right off the bat. These are skills you’ll develop as you push past any mistakes and failures.

Don’t let the fear of failure derail your business from the very beginning. Take the leap, be confident, accept that you’ll have failures and continue to try and build something successful.

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