It’s often said that 50% of startups fail within the first three to four years, and most don’t even make it past two. I used to have a hard time understanding why there was such a high failure rate, despite all the facts and statistics, but after pushing through those first four years, experiencing the excitement, humility, stress, gratitude, uncertainty, anxiety, joy, determination, frustration, support, pride and accomplishment, I now completely understand why. I’ve experienced firsthand the roller coaster that is entrepreneurship, and I’ve also observed others along the way as they start, pause, start again, juggle a day job, get discouraged, regain passion, go all in and then stop to regroup and look for the next thing. Navigating the ups and downs, seeing through obstacles and finding solutions in the most creative spaces is what shapes entrepreneurs during those first four years. That process is grueling, demanding heart and strength, but it’s beautiful and can lead to world-changing companies.
There is no rule book or road map for entrepreneurs, but there are three major lessons I’ve learned that significantly catalyze entrepreneurial success.
- Focus on what you know.
Entrepreneurship will test your passion to the greatest extent. It’s important to one, know what you’re truly passionate about and two, have experience in the industry your idea affects, know why it’s important and know what difference it will make for humanity.
This may seem basic, but I’ve seen countless start with a seemingly brilliant idea that will “change life as we know it” until it’s realized that there’s either not enough passion to get back up after experiencing the first down and/or frustration takes over because it’s in an industry completely separate from the founder’s experience. I can say from personal experience that knowing the impact you’re making on humanity is abundantly important when building the right team, fostering culture, determining a go-to-market, creating brand loyalty and attracting investors. I spent months, after the fact, trying to nail down exactly what my impact was and how to precisely communicate it. I knew the impact was positive, but I assumed it was obvious, mainly because it was obvious to me. I didn’t know how to definitively express that impact in a short, inspiring statement. Don’t overcomplicate it; focus and be clear about it.
- Practice self-awareness.
As an entrepreneur, being intentional about everything you do and say can quite literally be the difference between success and failure. For example, this inflated trend of networking determining success is just that: an inflated trend that can, and will, trap you in an ever-changing maze, keep you constantly on the defensive and leave you whiplashed and exhausted from misdirection — unless — there is intention set on how, where, why and when you network. Being self-aware brought clear vision around relationships/events/networking opportunities that were valuable versus those that were toxic or a waste of time and energy. Some best practices for self-awareness that I’ve found over the past four years include:
- Listen to and trust your instincts. You’re where you are for a reason.
- Know your limits. Especially important. I was stubborn, pushed my limits, hit burnout, then had to recover physically, mentally, personally and professionally. Taking two days for self-care is not selfish. Ignoring your limits, though, is, as it could require two months instead of two days.
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This Article first appeared in forbes