12 Things I Learned My First Year of Entrepreneurship


Entrepreneurship is a rewarding experience. It brings joy, heartache, pride and humility. It elicits stress and happiness in the most intense extremes. It provides opportunities only exposed to those who accept the startup life.

Entrepreneurship has taught me invaluable lessons about life, business, and who I am as a person. While each experience is unique, I believe the following lessons are experienced by most entrepreneurs at some point in his or her journey.

What realizations have you made as an entrepreneur? Share on Twitter by tweeting to me at @KRDollar, or leave a comment below.

Some things are better learned through experience. Publications like Inc and Entrepreneur share the voices of hundreds of business owners who have “been there and done that.” When I first started my journey as an entrepreneur I thought I would never be without a confidant. If ever I needed words of wisdom or solace I believed I would find them somewhere within the articles streaming across the internet. This is true, but only to a limited degree. I am incredibly thankful for the stories and feedback shared by other entrepreneurs. Yet, there is so much about entrepreneurship that is experienced privately. I don’t think authors are holding back. I think this is because each journey is surprisingly unique.

It requires discipline. No one wakes up as a successful entrepreneur or world-class “anything” without continued hard work and patience. It takes dedication to get up each day and follow the best course of action. It takes perseverance to proceed even when everything seems to be falling apart. I’ve learned to appreciate the journey and know that everyday I’m getting closer to my goals. As I like to point out, if you train like a ninja you will become a ninja.

It’s a lifestyle. As a founder, a creator of something new and precious, you are always building. You are building your relationships, personal branding, awareness, character and experience. These are things that don’t stop when you walk away from your office desk. You will live certain principles every waking moment of your entrepreneurial existence.

There is such a thing as balance. There’s a perception that to be successful you must stay hunched over work and only look up when absolutely necessary. This is far from the truth. Success comes from periods of continued learning, rest and action.

The constant risk is terrifying and thrilling. There is constant risk in entrepreneurship. The risk of failure. The risk of rejection. The risk of financial ruin. What many don’t mention is the risk of success. Up until this point, many of us have only imagined what that success will be like to live day-in and day-out. Thrive on the rush that is associated with risk. You don’t necessarily have to enjoy it, but learn to appreciate it.

It builds mental strength. Something wonderful happens somewhere along the entrepreneurial journey. It’s the realization of how psychologically strong you really are. Unexpected disasters and nuances of dealing with people, technology, and our own limitations can seem never-ending.  Yet after some adjusting, you discover that the things that at one time caused inconceivable amounts of stress no longer do. There’s a moment you decide (or realize) that nothing breaks your spirit.

It doesn’t have to be lonely, though it often will be. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to congregate with a variety of individuals and groups. Social media has made it increasingly easy to build relationships. Entrepreneurs find many kindred spirits when they take the time to attend events and be active in communities. It also helps the company grow and become better-rounded. After all, companies are a product of people and people require social interactions to maintain a healthy mental state.

Conformity is the enemy. It always has been and always will be. Embrace your multiple interests and quirks. Use them to your advantage. Even if some of your passions and strengths don’t appear to have anything in common with your startup, get creative. Allow your differences to set you apart in a way that highlights your value.

It’s revealing. Vaibhav Shah said, “Whenever you see a successful person you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.” Entrepreneurship gives you a glimpse of your soul. It reveals fears you never knew you had, strengths you never knew you possessed, and desires you never knew raged so fiercely in your heart.

It’s alive. This company you’re building from the ground up is alive. It was born. It will grow and it can weaken. It will mature and it will plateau. It will die without the right resources. It has a life force made up of the people who give it personality, purpose, and the power to innovate and change lives. It can be anything you want it to become and is a direct reflection of the people you put on the project.

Sometimes it’s best to part ways. One of the most difficult moments for new and seasoned entrepreneurs is when they have to let go of a client, employee, or partner. If someone is holding you back and bringing down the team because they want to go in a different direction, it’s best to say goodbye and wish them well. Not everyone is meant to work together, and you’ll both be more successful for recognizing it.

It’s a decision. Entrepreneurship comes in many forms. My journey started because I wanted to live a particular lifestyle. I wanted to test my personal limits and ideas. I wanted to meet and work with people I would never had access to by staying within the constraints of my current employment. Entrepreneurship starts with an idea. It’s when you take action to create and build something. It starts with defying conformity and deciding that you are ready to embark on a new lifestyle.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t start when you quit your day job, hire your first employee or sell your first product. Entrepreneurship starts when you decide it begins. (Tweet this quote.) 

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