Thursday 31 Jul 2014

What I Wish I’d Known at 22

As I was going through my Google Reader account this morning,  I came across this interesting post by Under 30 CEO on 8 Things I Wish I Knew I knew When I was 22, and it got me thinking: I recently turned 23 and I have been all passionate, driven, highly intelligent and extremely focused in all that I do (I’m not blowing my horn or anything :) ), but I am yet to achieve most of the goals and objectives that I had set to achieve by 23. It got me wondering ‘What was I doing wrong?

Well, the post by Under 30 CEO opened my eyes to where I might have gone wrong.

1. I had a wrong perception of the real world

At 22, I thought I was all prepared for the real world. I got an apartment and moved in, by myself. My campus grades were, on average, high and I had a good job, didn’t pay much, but I thought it was good enough. A month after moving, I realised that I was all wrong. I’d always find myself falling short of my monthly budget, and kept having to go back to my parents for help. I was ill-prepared for the real world. I thought I knew it all and didn’t need anyone’s advice or help. That, as it became evident, was a big mistake

2. I was too busy to realise that I was doing nothing

Like any focused 22 year old guy, I prided myself on the “stuff” I did. Balancing my job, school and side hustles, I felt extremely productive. But on sitting back and reflecting on what I’ve accomplished, it amounted to very little. I now know a key ingredient in the recipe for success: “Make haste slow.”

3. Structured complicated strategies

Are you the type of person who strives to stand out from the crowd? Preferring to take the road traveled just to be different? Picture this: you are sitting for an exam and you are given two questions. One looks easy, and you know that the rest of the class would go for it; the other appears to be complicated and requires a lot of thinking. Both have the same marks and, to impress the examiner, you decide to go for the complicated question. There’s a high likelihood that you might not do as well as you might have done if you had taken the easier question. On my part, I had crafted a lifetime of reseller agreements, highly complex employment incentives, partnerships, and intricate business plans,but most of them were not successful. Success came from simple plans, defined roles and clear expectations. For every added layer of complication, I had exponentially increased my chances of failure.

4. Treat everyone well

This means you should:

A) Give people the benefit of  doubt;
B) Be transparent;
C) Never trod on someone to step up;
D) Refrain from talking crap to, and about anyone.

You will only see the surface layer of peoples’ lives. Beneath that layer lies heartache, anxiety and baggage that causes some unfortunate actions from time-to-time. I understood that when I asked someone, “How’s life?” I’d almost always get the answer “things are good.” That doesn’t mean all is good.

5. Specialization will take your further

When I was growing up, we had this fundi who used to do most of the repair work in our house; from fix leaking taps, to mending broken doors. He claimed that he could do it all. Unfortunately, his workmanship was pretty shady; the first time we’d pay him to fix the tap, then a week would go by and the tap would be broken again. We would call him back and he’d be forced to fix if for free.

The assumption that you can do everything is a joke that everyone gets but you. You’re not good at everything. In fact, you’re not good at most things. You’re probably excellent at one or two things, at most. By specializing, you’ll gain credibility, focus and the right kind of business. You’ll become a go-to resource, instead of always having to hunt and kill.

6. When its not working for you, QUIT!

Have you met that guy who took a loan to buy a matatu? The matatu doesn’t bring in much; in fact it becomes a liability, since he is forced to dig into his own pocket to keep it on the road and service the loan. In the long run, it becomes like a second wife which he has to maintain on a daily basis. His pride and the thought that others would view him as a failure if he abandons the matatu business force him hold on to this dead-end investment. What he thought would make him rich is actually dragging him into poverty. Seth Godin says it perfectly.  ” Life is not about gutting out of every situation.’ It’s about identifying opportunity, and a lack thereof. If your pride is all that is standing in the way of quitting, quit. The right people won’t care and the wrong people don’t matter. If you know you’re on the right path, persevere though the pain. It will be worth it.

7. Strive to make a profit

A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large – Henry Ford.

Fast growth is exciting. Creating large and growing revenues feels great. But none of it matters if you can’t turn a profit. Profits create stability and durability. Profits keep people paid and allow for focus. If your intentions are not to immediately create profits, ask yourself why.

8. Service based businesses suck for young entrepreneurs.

You’ll struggle with the same challenges of scalability, client whims and a constant squeeze on margins. But, you’ll also have the added problem of perceived, or actual, expertise. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to become excellent at a service. Intelligence and a robust education don’t make you an expert. Unlike products, services are judged on their history of success. As a young entrepreneur, you won’t have a history of success. That makes it tough to convince people to buy your service. I’d highly recommend that young entrepreneurs make products first, then develop service-based businesses later (if they so choose).

© 2012

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