There are entrepreneur success stories, and then there are entrepreneur horror stories. It’s easy to hear about the times people crossed the finish line and won it all. Those are the tales people love to tell. But what young, aspiring entrepreneurs don’t hear are all the stories of failure, of big mistakes that cost them everything, or, worst of all, entrepreneurs who ended up losing themselves in the process.
Self-awareness is incredibly difficult to maintain when you are building a successful company. In fact, self-awareness is the trait Gary Vaynerchuk preaches is actually the foundation of building a successful company. Without self-awareness, you not only end up making short-sighted decisions, chasing the wrong goal, but you actually damage a lot of relationships in the process.
You fail to see how you might be overworking yourself. You can’t recognize your significant other or close friends distancing themselves from you (because you’re always stressed out). You only see what it is you want to see, not necessarily the reality of the situation.
It’s interesting how many young entrepreneurs don’t talk much about the self-awareness aspect of the journey—which is why I think it’s such an important thing to discuss. Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see plenty of reminders to “not give up no matter what” or “let your haters hate while you win.” That go-go-go mentality has its merits, but it’s not the full picture. You have to be willing to reflect and stay humble along the way.
Which is why, especially when you’re first starting out on your entrepreneurial journey, one of the best things you can possibly do is learn from those who have already walked the path.
This is the mission behind Knowledge For Men, a well-known podcast in the world of success that focuses on helping men become stronger and more grounded entrepreneurs. The host, Andrew Ferebee, is on a mission to help men not only become successful, but create more freedom and happiness for themselves in the process. The podcast spurred out of a big dark hole. Four years ago, Ferebee was working a retail job he hated, was spending all of his free time in front of the TV and felt unsure if he would ever find a “passion.”
Fast-forward, and he has since built a six-figure coaching and seminar business, working with men from all over the world (North America, Asia, Europe, South America, etc.)., has authored three Amazon best-selling books, and has built his podcast, Knowledge For Men, into an industry staple. His podcast has over four million downloads, and he has interviewed everyone from Navy Seals, NY Times best-selling authors, and entrepreneurs who have sold their companies for over a billion dollars.
When I asked Ferebee what advice he could share with the next generation of young entrepreneurs, the Gen Z-ers, he pointed me to five of his guests, and the powerful lessons they had shared on Knowledge For Men.
1. “Build something you believe in.” — Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com
If you want a real success story, then Tony Hsieh is your guy. He co-founded a company called LinkExchange and sold it to Microsoft in 1999 for $265 million. Next, he joined the Zappos.com team and eventually moved from being an investor to the company’s CEO. In 2009, the company was sold to Amazon for a little over $1B.
What advice did Hsieh share with Knowledge For Men? “Lots of men get into entrepreneurship for the money. They do it because they want freedom and financial success, not because they are doing something they really believe in. This is a huge mistake.”
Don’t make that mistake, young entrepreneurs. More money doesn’t solve anything. Focus on something you care about, and you won’t be led astray.
2. “Develop a curiosity overload.” — Kevin Harrington, former Shark Tank judge on ABC
There are few entrepreneurs who have reached the kind of mountain peaks Kevin Harrington has. He is best known for essentially creating the “infomercial” industry, and has executed over 500 product launches yielding sales of $4 billion, worldwide.
Ferebee said that when he interviewed Harrington, the successful entrepreneur placed an extreme emphasis on always staying curious. Curiosity is what fuels ideas, but it also keeps you open and willing to continue learning.
So many entrepreneurs make the fatal error of thinking, at some point in the journey, that they “know everything.” But the moment you decide you’re done learning is the moment you stop learning. And as soon as you stop learning, you become walled off.
3. “Just put in the time. The rest will come.” — Bas Rutten, MMA legend and former UFC champion.
Entrepreneurship shares so many parallels with sports. They are both competitive pursuits. They are both highly reliant upon mindset and discipline. And they both are notorious for being extraordinarily difficult to master, but promise success beyond your wildest dreams (should you reach the very end).
But what Ferebee learned when he interviewed Rutten is that in order to actually achieve that level of mastery over your craft, you have to care far more about practicing than you do about the end reward.
“In today’s day and age, we all want short cuts and life hacks. But we often forget that the best life hack of all is to just put the work in, and never give up,” said Rutten.
When you keep your focus on improving your skills, instead of “becoming more successful,” that’s what will allow you to keep climbing up the ladder without being distracted (or worse, losing your humility).
5. “Success early on can be the worst fate.” — Robert Greene, 3x NYT best-selling author
This is something not many young people consider, but it’s definitely a “rearview mirror” insight from those who have experienced it.
Robert Greene is the author of the wildly popular titles Mastery, The 50th Law, The 48 Laws of Power and more. And what he shared with Ferebee was the fact that, “So many young people are in such a hurry to become successful. And while you most certainly want to take life seriously, and start working tirelessly to achieve your goals, do not rush the art of achievement. Focus on mastery before you focus on success.”
This is probably the most undervalued insight out there, this idea that sometimes experiencing too much success too quickly can be damaging to your long-term trajectory. Just look at how many child actors or young pop stars end up fizzling out, unable to grow up and mature appropriately with their name in lights.
There is something to be said for being patient, and keeping your sights set on learning, staying curious, and mastering your craft.