How to Start a Career In Your 30s


I stood huddled in the bathroom stall, texting furiously. My hands were shaking and my breathing shallow as I tried to screw up my courage to just walk out of the bathroom.

Outside the crowd grew, and I could hear the music kicking in. Everyone was arriving, ready for an exciting night. Me? I was stuck in the bathroom, too afraid to join the party, too proud to leave.

I really wish I could say this is a story about high school, but I would be lying.

This happened almost 2 years ago. I was 30 years old, and petrified of my first “networking event.” (It would be months before I even heard that term.)

In my defense, I had spent my 20s bearing and raising children. I always felt a vague dissatisfaction with my choice to stay home with my kids, but I hadn’t done anything about it. Now, thanks to a family friend, I was arriving at this “networking event” with a half-baked idea and the chance to “meet people.”

Obviously, I was terrified.

My story, like everyone’s, is unique, but in today’s fast paced world, reinvention is common. And jumping into any new venture, environment, or group can be difficult. I often still feel like I’m navigating unfamiliar terrain, but here are a few things I’ve learned since that first horrific night.

Network, Network, Network

And network some more.

I don’t mean the type of networking that has gotten a bad rap. Handing out business cards indiscriminately at every event isn’t the way to build a lasting network.

I mean a strong, deep network of people who know you and believe you’re capable of reaching your goals. It takes time to build a real network, but putting in the effort will be invaluable.

I recently witnessed the power of a deep network when a friend lost his job. The experience could’ve been a huge blow, both personally and financially. But, because he’s put in years of getting to know people and consistently doing good work, he hasn’t missed a paycheck. Dozens of people jumped at the chance to help him.

A strong network will help you flesh out ideas, guide your thinking, and create opportunities you could never imagine, much less create, on your own.

That night in the bathroom stall, I had no network. I knew one person at the event, and him not very well at the time. Now, 2 years later, when I’m feeling stuck on something, I have a long list of people who are willing to help me get unstuck. And, I still seek every opportunity to find and build genuine relationships with new people.

Shut Up and Listen

When you’re new to an industry, you don’t know anything. You might have some assumptions and theories and you may have spent hours researching on the Internet, but trust me, you’re mostly ignorant.

For a period of time, the best strategy is to shut up and listen to every conversation you can. This applies to virtual conversations on social media as well as in-person conversations with experts.

It’s tempting to want to jump into conversations before we’re ready, to prove that we can keep up. More often, though, listening closely to the debates and arguments that pop up will teach you more than you could ever learn from the Internet.

Along those lines, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

That night, I walked into a startup event and heard the terms “VC,” “angel,” and “the cloud,” for the first time. (Do “angels” live on “the cloud,” by chance??) A Google search cleared up some of my confusion, but I finally had to pull my friend aside and get some clarity on a few of the terms.

If you don’t want to look stupid (my problem), find that one person you can trust with your stupidity. The more questions you ask, the quicker you learn. People like to be trusted with questions, and asking them shows your respect and confidence in that person.

And like my friend assured me then, before long you’ll be the one people see as the expert.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

This is one of my favorite pieces of advice, but I think it’s often misunderstood.

I don’t mean fake knowledge or expertise you don’t have. That’s a good way to lose the trust and confidence of the people around you.

Rather, I mean fake the confidence you don’t have until you have it.

You may know that you don’t know anything about your new field, but the people you’re meeting don’t know that. And even more likely, they don’t care very much. Act like your success is inevitable and before long, it will be.

I finally left the bathroom stall that night, by the way. Many of the people in that room became my first mentors and some of my best friends. Two years later, I’ve met more people and done more things than I ever thought possible while hiding in the bathroom, including selling my first company.

And, I think ultimately, that’s my most important piece of advice for someone looking to forge a new career in their 30s (or any time):

Quit hiding and get started.

When to Quit Your Startup

serious startups

Everyone on the Serious Startups panel has had to make the decision to quit before. And we’re all involved in ventures now that we sometimes wonder if we should walk away from.

Kane, David, and I have slightly different thoughts on how you know when to quit your startup. Check out the video and let us know what you think @seriousstartups.

It’s Time to Rethink the Idea of Startups


It’s time we take a serious look at what a “startup” actually is. We have to stop chasing unicorns as investors and the concept of acquisition by Google or Facebook as the foundation of value as founders.

Stop Saying Startup & Start Saying Tech Enabled Small Business – Paul Singh

The Coming Tech Bubble

According to venture capital investor Bill Gurley, the average MONTHLY burn rate of startups in Silicon Valley is $4 million per month. That’s the burn rate!

The vast majority of entrepreneurs would dream of having $500k one time, let alone $48 million a year, all while not making a dime in profit.

This is leading to the next 1999-like tech bubble explosion, but we could be having a massive growth in technology as the cost to build MVP’s is going down dramatically. Unfortunately, because of the investor need to chase unicorns, tons of great ideas get ignored. There are so many amazing B2B ideas out there that never get built because they are only a $10-50 million business.

It’s only a matter of time before this catches up to us and institutional investors realize so much private equity capital has been wasted. The second the IPO’s dry up, that money is gone.

Bringing Back Traditional Business Logic

As humans we seem unable to learn from our mistakes. In this context we’re only 15 years from the last one, so there is literally no excuse. It’s time both investors and entrepreneurs snap back to reality and think about creating companies with a legitimate chance of success, even if it’s on a smaller scale.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never started a business without a plan to make money from day one. If that wasn’t in play, there was no point in taking the risk.

If I didn’t have a customer acquisition plan ready to go from day one, I didn’t move forward.

If there isn’t a reasonable chance of profit quickly, I didn’t move forward.

So much of this baseline logic seems to be applied to the extreme in some areas and completely ignored in others.

Creating Some Pipe Dreams & Crushing Others

It is completely realistic to build out MVP’s of most startup ideas for less than $100k these days. Don’t believe me? Call just about any development shop and ask them. I’ve owned one and know this is true. The cost is going down by the day.

Demand for B2C apps is going down dramatically while going up in B2B.

So why is it that we are constantly hearing about the latest funding of a startup that needs 100 million users to make money, but ideas that need 3,000 to be worth $50 million can’t raise $500k for scale.

This is leading to so many entrepreneurs completely ignoring a great idea just because it doesn’t have crazy sex appeal to Techcrunch or the Valley. On the flip side, people with proof of concept and initial customer base who just need small investment to grow quickly are quite frankly wasting time trying to raise chump change in comparison.

Let’s Change The Argument

If great B2B ideas are going unfunded, it might be time to reconsider the system of business loans for startups.

Since brick and mortar business models can get loans from the bank, SBA, and other lending institutions, why is it almost impossible to get these same type of loans for technology companies?

Our economy is primarily based on soft assets not hard, just ask the Federal Reserve and Wall Street.

So why do not all the same principles of business apply? Office space, employees, customers, revenue, taxes, insurance etc.

Banks look at assets, personal credit, business model etc. Very often it’s time in business, but others it’s not.

Let’s look at the idea of collateral. If you put up say $10k personally toward building a working software platform that costs $100k, is that not collateral?

Repossessing the code has value. Putting working software on the market will lead to purchase. Perhaps at a small or big loss, but that applies to lines of credit and many other options available to traditional businesses. It’s ultimately no more risky than the new bakery down the street.

Tech startups often fail because of the people involved, not because it was a bad idea. This is true in any business.

If we just re-framed the argument from “startup” to “tech enabled small business,” showed the true value of the assets being created, and allowed personal responsibility to be applied, not only would burn rates go down, the potential economic growth is amazing.

Let’s face it, when you’re responsible for the money, suddenly every dime being spent matters and efficiency and focus to turn a profit goes up.

How I Manage Projects for Killer Results

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As an entrepreneur and a consultant, I’m pretty much always working on a set of critical deadlines for one of my businesses, or the business of one of my clients. I don’t treat them in the same way. In fact, I often treat my clients’ businesses better than I treat mine. That’s not the best admission, but it’s a classic indication of the proverbial “cobbler’s kids have no shoes.”

If I can put in extra effort to drive something home for a client I’m going to do that. The good part is that I’m pretty much always treating my business partners in my own startups like they are my clients, so it all comes out in the wash. At the same time I’d always advise my coaching and mentoring clients to apply the “oxygen mask principle” to themselves, which is to say act like you are on a crashing plane and put your own mask on first so you can help others.

Excessive preambles aside, there are some common principles that I institute in every project that have become my go-to practices. Having developed these patterns I’ve created a blueprint that works for me, operates efficiently, and gets good to better results.

  1. Get out of email. There is no way you can manage a team with email. It’s nearly impossible to even manage a one-to-one project with two people. It doesn’t work. There are tons of reasons based on tons of research.
  2. Repeat rule #1 until it gets annoying. Seriously, just stop. This is 2014 and there are lots of better ways.
  3. Decide on one collaboration system and stick to it. I don’t care what this is. Use Basecamp, use Google Docs, use Podio, or use Asana (my personal favorite). Whatever you do, share the project with everyone and require your team to use it. No email about the project, ever. It all goes in the tool. Stay in the loop by staying in the tool. Fall out of the loop at your own peril. If you are merciless about this the team will fall in line and they will love you for it. Working on shitty projects sucks. No one wants that. Good management feels good to everyone involved. Tie it to getting paid if you have to. My teams know I bring them great projects and I pay them well and this is how I do it. No questions asked. We don’t even talk about it anymore. We literally just kick off projects without a discussion because I start an Asana project and then we start billing.
  4. Did I mention email ruins project effectiveness? Go ahead and try. If you don’t believe me by this point you shouldn’t be reading this article. It’s going to take you a lot longer to do your work and you shouldn’t be screwing around on LinkedIn.
  5. Run the project like you care. Communicate with each person with care and trust until trust has been damaged. If trust has been damaged try to repair it. If you can’t repair it, end the relationship. No harm, no foul. This is project-based interviewing. If you do what needs to be done you’ll get more work. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s pretty easy. Over time you’ll end up with a killer team that will do whatever you need done because they care about you and they trust you.
  6. Document processes the first time and then outsource them. You don’t need your top people doing menial crap for high payment while getting increasingly bored. Every process should be boiled down to its basic components, turned into a workflow, and outsourced on Elance or Odesk. Build business machines and run them. Pay your contractors well for the little pieces they do. Care about them, too. They will love you and come back for more projects. It’s just like #5 yet not on your core team.
  7. Email still sucks.

Resumes are dead. Interviews are largely ineffectual. Linked-In is good. Portfolios are useful.

But projects are the real future of hiring, especially knowledge working hiring. No matter how wonderful your references or how well you do on those too-clever-by-half Microsoft/Google brainteasers, serious firms will increasingly ask serious candidates to do serious work in order to get a serious job offer.

I dog on the HBR sometimes, too, but this article is spot on. It works. Do it. If you manage your project like I’m suggesting and you use your projects to build an awesome team through experience, you will see remarkably better results and you will bill more money or see more success from your startups. #winning

6 Things Holding Back Today’s Biotech Entrepreneurs

monetary value

High-risk, high-reward endeavors are intimidating.

The risk frightens most people away, so the rewards find few individuals and organizations. When you consider both the financial rewards and the personal fulfillment of an endeavor, however, the risks become worthwhile and the rewards more deeply satisfying.

The biotech industry is booming with stories of massive success. In 2013, spending by biotech companies on R&D grew at a faster rate than revenue for the first time since the global financial crisis began. What’s more, nearly all of that growth stemmed from 17 U.S.-based companies with annual revenues of more than $500 million.

Onyx Pharmaceuticals was recently sold for $10.4 billion, and Third Rock Ventures hasn’t slowed down since its inception. IPOs in biotech are exceeding expectations.

But money alone isn’t what makes this field so great. Rather, it’s the challenge of piecing together knowledge to work through puzzles that could change lives. Solving these puzzles could mean people live richer lives, loved ones postpone their goodbyes, and trauma victims fully recover faster.

If you look beyond the dollar signs, you can see the healing your solutions bring. However, to find these rewards, you must overcome several common obstacles of the biotech field.

The Hurdles Ahead

Every company that’s made it big has had to overcome substantial barriers. These obstacles exist for almost every biotech entrepreneur, and they include:

1. Side effects. Technology startups might select products that have potential risks or side effects, which the developer won’t know about until later. Health risks or other problems related to the base science can pop up unexpectedly and derail an entire project.

2. Mental pressure. The high chance of failure makes a biotech endeavor feel like walking a tightrope. It doesn’t help that biotech startups have a longer investment and operation cycle than normal companies. For an average company, drug development will take 10 to 15 years from R&D to FDA approval.

Additionally, biotech companies have a separate metric for measuring value because the company can profit from products that are approved to sell on the market. During the long journey of drug development, each milestone is a multiplier to the current evaluated value of the project. It’s like a relay race, with each team member carrying an intangible asset.

3. Initial funding. Startup costs are high with a very long ROI. General tech startups have easy access to the Internet and electronics that allow them to create whatever they want. Entrepreneurs in biotech, however, must have access to labs, research, and specialized employees to get through multiple stages of development and manufacturing.

4. Regulation. Regulation for many new technologies is still in its infancy, so approval may take longer. The FDA regulates all products made by biotech companies, which is a slow and cumbersome process — even if regulations for your particular application already exist.

5. General knowledge. You must have some basic knowledge of the given technology to make critical decisions like path, claim, and indication. Biotech entrepreneurs don’t necessarily have to be scientists, but they do need to know enough about their technology (and all the processes that accompany development and clinical trials) to make their product viable to investors. You must understand how the system works to avoid unnecessary high costs.

6. Timing. You have to understand patent duration and the effective time of comparable intellectual property to ensure that your products are patented and protected. This may lead to more costs for lawyers and licensing.

For example, when you set up a clinical trial, your enrollment site must meet the patient enrollment on time. Otherwise, it slows down progress for all your departments. Biotech entrepreneurs must make the critical decision to set up a backup site and immediately initiate it before that scenario makes too much of a difference.

The road to success in the biotech field is not an easy one. It’s daunting, and the risk of failure is certainly high — but the rewards are incredible. If you jump all the hurdles, you can tap into all areas of knowledge and take on meaningful challenges that can transform lives all over the world.

Kevin Xu is the CEO of MEBO International, a California- and Beijing-based intellectual property management company specializing in applied health systems.

Entrepreneur, You May Be Crazy But You’re Not Alone




A lot of people say that entrepreneurs are crazy. We give everything we have to build a business, including our health, money, time and relationships.

And, for what? Most businesses fail, and many of the ones that “succeed” never reach their full potential.

Yet, if you’re anything like me, that fact motivates instead of scares you. That’s the crazy part. If you’re a lifelong entrepreneur, you look at long odds, grin and say, “Damn right I can beat those.”

Because entrepreneurship saves us.

If you’re wired to be an entrepreneur, you just can’t help it. The act of building something from scratch, of seeing your vision come to life is your driving force. You live and die by every swing of the entrepreneurial pendulum.

And it’s not just the successes. The obstacles and failures drive you, too. That moment when you have to tell yourself to go one more round, when you have grit your teeth and give it everything–that’s when you feel most alive

The ability to create is what sets mankind apart from animals. Throughout the centuries great artists and creators have all been seen as a little unstable, but the beauty they put into the world was worth it. Or, at least, they were so driven to create they had no choice.

In 21st century America, many entrepreneurs are the modern day artists. Which is scary because

Entrepreneurship also kills us.

There’s a reason there’s a constant debate over work/life balance in entrepreneurial circles. It’s because we’re all so obsessed with what we’re doing, we can’t stop. We don’t eat well. We don’t sleep. We don’t nurture deep relationships that make a real difference in our lives.

And, in extreme cases, we think death is better than failure.

There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. That’s why so many great artists and writers suffered so much internal pain. Entrepreneurs, unfortunately, are no different.

I wish I had an answer to the problem. I wish I knew how to pull back, how to care less about what I’m building.

I wish I knew the answer to work/life balance and had guarantees that it would all be worth it in the end. That the things I’m choosing to live for will really matter–to me or anyone else one day.

But I don’t, and neither do you.

Instead, we can take comfort in the fact that we’re not alone, at least. You aren’t the only who feels like the crazy entrepreneur, and if you make smart bets and wise risks, it’ll be worth it in the end. Let’s face it. Without people like us, shit wouldn’t get built.

So keep building.

But also get some sleep.

Gary Vaynerchuk talks JAB, JAB, JAB, Right Hook!


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What does it take to be an Entrepreneur? Join us as Gary shares his Entrepreneurial mindset and an inside glance at his journey to becoming a successful Entrepreneur.

Gary Vaynerchuk is first and foremost a storytelling Entrepreneur. He is also a New York Times Best-selling Author, and his digital consulting agency, VaynerMedia, works with Fortune 500 companies to develop digital and social media strategies and content. Business Week selected him as one of the top 20 people every Entrepreneur should follow, and CNN voted him one of the top 25 tech investors on Twitter. He lives in New York City where he avidly roots for the New York Jets.


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Serial Entrepreneurs: Short Term Failure Doesn’t Matter in the Context of Forever

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Since 1996 I’ve been a contributor to several teen leadership development organizations, my favorite of which are the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). I’ve designed and run RYLA programs for more than 2,000 teens in New Jersey and Tennessee.

I credit most of my early managerial skills to these programs. I had to figure out how to build and scale real teams, none of whom got paid a dime, and all of whom were rabidly passionate about what we were doing, namely, changing the lives of teens who came from some of the richest and poorest zip codes in the country (together in the same room).

Credit: RYLA Maui. What’s cool about this, and really any other RYLA photo is it could be from any of our programs across the world. All of the pictures are the same awesomeness.

Having been immersed in experiential learning programs for some 17 years now, there’s one major lesson I’ve gathered. It happens to be an important lesson for serial entrepreneurs as well.

As soon as you decide your timeline is forever then there’s really no way you can screw up that badly.

At RYLA that meant the other organizers and I looking at each other and committing to be in it indefinitely. As soon as we decided we were going to do these programs for the rest of our lives then making incremental changes each year, even if they seemed major, allowed us to test and review, debrief and change again.

Over time we iterated the program and it got better. Sometimes we came full circle. We got excellent by testing out things that might be not excellent. Some of them were amazing. Some of them were abject disasters. Looking back it had lean startup all over it, except the distance between iterations was a year.

The key was always asking, “How can we do it better?” We even had t-shirts printed with this acronym: HCWDIB?

Imagine then the amazing position of a serial entrepreneur who right now commits to lean startup principles AND at the same time commits to being an entrepreneur forever. If no startup is your first, middle or final AND you iterate quickly using all the amazing technology tools available today, how can you possibly go wrong? You will make it. To do so you will have to keep these points in mind:

  • Don’t bet too much on any one iteration.
  • Take a break when you need it (maybe make some consulting money or *gasp* get a job).
  • Take care of yourself. Work out, eat right, do walking meetings.
  • Nurture your network above all else. It’s the only thing you take with you between iterations.
  • Learn, learn, learn. Read, read, read.
  • Keep notes about each effort and laugh at how crappy you were last year.
That’s what’s worked for me through several disgusting failures and several more break-even hobby-like projects. I have not “exited” nor have I “made it.” I don’t care because I’m in it forever and I will at some point.

Get Up! I Didn’t Hear No Bell!


One of my favorite scenes in Rocky V, really the only good scene in the movie, is when Rocky is in a street fight with Tommy Gunn and just getting his butt kicked. Barely conscious, he has a powerful flashback of all his hard fights, and Mickey comes to him in a vision.

Now Get Up One More Round…Fight This Guy Hard…I Didn’t Hear No Bell!

As an entrepreneur, you face tough opponents on a daily basis. It could be keeping the lights on, dealing with difficult clients, losing a major deal, or having a complicated employee situation. It often feels like you’re getting hit daily with jab, jab, uppercut, body blow.

Everyone who has been in business for any length of time knows how this feels. We have all had experiences where we’ve been knocked down and it feels like the lights are going dim.

Now watch the scene so the rest of this makes sense.

Leadership Requires Toughness

Just like a physical fight, business requires toughness – both physical and mental – and the will to win. If you don’t have your heart and soul in what you’ve set out to accomplish and people are trusting you to achieve, then when those tough times come, you are the guy or girl with a glass jaw.

Innovation Requires Agility

Just like a physical fight, innovation requires agility and reflexes. You have to be able to see opportunity and seize it, while also being able to anticipate pivots and counter-punch the competition. We often become so blinded by the big picture and long term goals that we forget to pay attention to the here and now. Avoiding pitfalls, objections, and the status quo demands being able to sidestep and get in a few jabs until you’re ready to deliver the knockout punch.

Entrepreneurship Requires Stamina

Just like a physical fight, being an entrepreneur requires stamina. Achieving success requires you to have toughness, agility, and great reflexes. Since all those traits require stamina, you better prepare yourself physically and mentally for the long road before you.

Have Rocky Style Training

Of course in the Rocky movies the insane training he does is compressed into two minutes. In life and business, you need to be training on a daily basis to keep up with the hard times that are coming.

There will be more than a few times when it seems like there is no point in going on. It would be easier to just give up. If you haven’t taken the time to push yourself when the times are good, then when you enter the ring and punches are being thrown, you might as well throw in the towel.

Prepare To Go One More Round

My encouragement to you is to surround yourself with people who have already fought the good fight. Learn from them. Go find yourself a Mickey. Use all of the amazing resources at our fingertips with mastermind groups, online forums, books, training videos.

Being an innovator requires leadership abilities and entrepreneurship requires amazing toughness. Train like you know the fight’s about to get tough.

Success is falling nine times and getting up ten. – Jon Bon Jovi

Prepare yourself for the hard times. Because they will come. Business is a knock down, drag out fight and you will find yourself on the canvas. When that happens, just do what I do. Watch that simple scene and let it speak to you in a very powerful way…then say:

Hey Life…I Didn’t Hear No Bell…One More Round!

17: Pat Riley Talks Startup Accelerators & How The Game Is Changing

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Patrick Riley currently oversees the Global Accelerator Network which is an affiliation of short-term mentorship-driven accelerators started by TechStars. He started his career working for W.L. Gore and Associates and moved into the leadership of the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. Patrick left the Red Cross to manage the west coast sales and operations for a venture backed healthcare technology company. Following his passion to support start-up companies around the world, Patrick moved into his current role at the Global Accelerator Network. Outside of work, he recently finished his MBA at the University of Colorado and enjoys spending time with his wife, bike riding, traveling, and skiing around Colorado.

14: Coach Burt Explains How To Be A Winning Entrepreneur

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MICHEAL J. BURT represents the new age leader: the Zebra and the Cheetah. Part coach, part entrepreneur, and all leader, Coach Burt is the go-to guy for entrepreneurs who want to become people of interest, salespeople who want to be superstars, and managers who want to be coaches. He is a former championship coach and the author of nine books. His radio show, Change Your Life Radio, can be heard globally on (WLAC). Follow Coach Burt at His client list ranges from small entrepreneurial firms to multi-billion dollar companies such as Dell, INC., State Farm Insurance, National Health Care, Vanderbilt University, TRICOR, FirstBank, and many others.

7 Truths About All Self-Made Entrepreneurs


Entrepreneurs are a rare breed. It takes a heterogeneous mix of confidence, risk tolerance, self-discipline, determination and competitiveness to start a business and see it through to success.

Entrepreneurs can come from myriad backgrounds and financial and personal support structures, but I most admire entrepreneurs who are self-made. They weren’t handed a business or a trust fund; they took an idea — or their talent for a trade or specialized profession — and set forth to build something. When you don’t come from money and don’t have a fallback plan, the risk, work ethos and single-mindedness needed to be a successful entrepreneur create a business-builder without equal.

That said, I’ve created a list of seven common themes that are true for every self-made entrepreneur.

1. There are only three things you need to start a business — a small amount of capital, a strong work ethic and persistence.

In a perfect world, it would be free to start a business. But it does cost money to file for an EIN and be recognized as a business entity on the state and federal level. You will also likely need capital for upfront infrastructure costs like Web development and accounting software. But aside from this, which should be fairly easily self-financed or put on a zero-interest 12 month credit card, all you really need is a serious dose of self-confidence and a never-say-die attitude. You will want to quit and you will feel like a failure. But success lies beyond these feelings of fear and anxiety. Always remember, failure only exists when you stop trying.

2. To be self-made means to rise from the ground floor. Even the most successful self-made entrepreneurs once walked in your shoes.

Every successful entrepreneur who ever lived started with nothing more than an idea. Remember this when you’re down and feel like the end is near. Use it as motivation to explore new ways of doing things, forge new partnerships or do something crazy. Self-made entrepreneurs are built to tolerate and withstand great risk. Hundreds if not thousands of people have already walked in your shoes. Channel this idea. Success lies ahead.

3. It’s very rare to be first-to-market at anything. We will all have competitors and few ideas are truly original.

“There are no original ideas. There are only original people.” –Barbara Grizutti Harrison

Everyone wants to be innovative — to come up with an idea that will change the world, disrupt an industry or set you apart as an “entrepreneurial genius.” But the truth is that few ideas a unique or new. Some of the most successful tech businesses, for example, are just iterative improvements on successful ventures that have come before.

Don’t get caught up market saturation or competition. No matter what you do in life, you will face stiff competition. Use your closest competition. Evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and improve your business positioning, brand message, and pricing and marketing strategy to get an edge.

At the end of the day, customers are a fickle bunch. If your business does it better, faster, cheaper or smarter than your rivals, you’re bound to find success.

4. Doubt will haunt you until you’ve reached “success.” Learn to get used to it.

Whether they let on or not, all entrepreneurs have high levels of anxiety about their business — even if they’re on the pathway to success. Running and building a business of any size in any industry requires a huge amount of responsibility and attention to detail. And things will go wrong. Frequently. You’ll second guess yourself (sometimes on a daily basis) and you’ll always fear you’re on the edge of failure. The sooner you accept this reality, the sooner you’ll learn to cope.

5. The first big milestones were equally challenging for all of your competitors.

Getting your first sale will be a big day. But there will be many days that pass as you ramp up your business and prepare to bring home the bacon. If you launch your business and have a slow start, worry not.

Very few businesses charge out of the gate at full speed. Growing a business can be a slow and painful process and you will need patience and persistence to weather your early setbacks. Remember, every great businessman had to start from somewhere. And for most, that somewhere was the same place you’re starting from now. 

6. The emotional and financial pressures you feel have been felt by every entrepreneur before you.

Just as you will have to get used to living with doubt and fear of failure, you will also need to adapt to the daily, weekly, and monthly financial pressures of being your own boss. As an entrepreneur, you have chosen to break away from the security of a bi-weekly paycheck for the chance at something more. Fortunately, you can find solace in the fact that every self-made man or woman who came before you had the same emotional and financial pressures bearing down on them. If they could do it, so can you.

7. In a fledgling business, learn to rely on no one but yourself for 90 percent of the work.

If you’re an independent-minded person, there is a good chance you’re used to doing most of the work yourself. As an entrepreneur, being a master-of-all-trades is in the first line of the job description. Working as part of a team is a valuable skill and one you’ll surely need as your business grows and you begin to scale, but in the early stages of every business you’ll need to rely on yourself for 90-100 percent of the work. While you’ll be burning the midnight oil most days of the week (and weekend), the satisfaction you will feel after finding success will be without equal.

This post originally appeared on the author’s LinkedIn column here.

Brendan Mangus is Principal Consultant at Colorwheel Media Consulting, a new breed of tech consultants specializing in helping early and mid-stage startups refine their product, define and grow their market and community and execute their outreach and go-to-market strategy. Prior to starting his consulting practice, he spent more than a decade providing marketing, branding and public relations counsel for a variety of clients.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

10 Lies You’re Probably Telling Yourself

Promise?Oh, the lies that entrepreneurs tell themselves. Even when all signs point to the contrary, it can be very easy to make up excuses for why your business isn’t succeeding. Here are some of the worst lies that entrepreneurs tell themselves, and the (sometimes) hard truths:

  1. The money will come eventually. You think that if your idea is top notch, if the product/service you’re offering solves a real problem, or if you have true passion and drive, that your company will succeed and eventually start making some real money. This is a fallacy. It’s easy when you’re busy growing your company to buy into this lie, but incredibly dangerous. It may be true that there is a pot of gold further down the road, but you can’t just count on it being there. You must plan for it.
  2. If I price low enough, I can attract more business. This may be true in some sense. You may bring in more business if your prices are lower than your competition’s. But if your pricing isn’t covering your costs and allowing for the kind of margin you need to make a profit to at least live on, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. You need to figure out your gross profit (how much you need to cover fixed costs — from salary to materials to marketing). Based on this figure, you can calculate your gross profit margin and figure out how much you need to make in sales.
  3. If something isn’t working, I can always change direction. Pivoting is an essential startup business practice. Knowing when to change direction, tweaking your offerings, and repositioning yourself in the marketplace are all good things. But this isn’t a magic bullet. You can’t just shift with the wind and expect things to work out. You need to base a direction change on number-driven data that guides and supports your plan. Before you change direction, you need to map out what steps you will take.
  4. All I need to succeed is more volume. Quantity is a good marker for business success, but it’s not the only one. Increasing volume can lead to scaling issues. Instead of pursuing more customers, think about what other tactics you could take. How could you increase your dollar per customer? How can you save on costs per product? How can you increase customer satisfaction to ensure customer loyalty and increase the customer value over time? These metrics are just as important as volume.
  5. I will only hire the best. Of course you want top-notch employees, but you may need to redefine who that is. Find out what positions can be outsourced to save on astronomical staffing costs. Top team members are expensive. Sometimes they are worth that cost, but remember that you can also hire for potential, rather than experience. Under-staffing is a good choice for many bootstrapped startups.
  6. My time is best spent focusing on my industry. Not exactly. Of course you want to be on top of what’s going on in your industry, but if you want to see the big picture, get fresh perspectives, and make valuable connections, you need to look outside of your niche. Business partners outside of your area are sometimes the most valuable contacts you can have.
  7. I’ve tried X and it doesn’t work so I’m done with it. Just because you’ve tried something before, doesn’t mean you can’t tweak it and try again. Sometimes small changes can have a big impact. For example, a colleague of mine who was VP of Marketing for a huge company had had little success with affiliate marketing. He was thinking of shutting down this marketing channel but, instead, decided to put some real money and time behind it. He hired someone solely responsible for managing the program. This one change made for astronomical increases in revenue for the company.
  8. X has always worked for me in the past, so if I just keep doing it, I will be successful. Just because you’ve always done something a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way, the most efficient way, or the most cost-effective way. As an entrepreneur, you need to keep an open mind and always look for better solutions. Even if your way was the best way at some point, times change, markets change, economic conditions change, and the competitive landscape changes. Business is dynamic. You need to be too.
  9. My passion for my company won’t allow me to fail. Wrong. Without determination and persistence — and a real love for what you’re doing — you won’t be able to see this thing through to the finish line. But passion, in and of itself, isn’t enough. You need to execute. A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes.
  10. My product/service is so great that my business can’t fail. We’d like to believe this fallacy, but unfortunately it’s not true. A great idea is important. If there’s a real market for your idea, then you’re already a couple of steps ahead in the game. But it’s not enough.

A dash of optimism is a good entrepreneurial characteristic. You’re going to face a lot of setbacks, so the ability to put on some rose-colored glasses to improve the view is understandable. But when you begin to repeat the same lies and make them your mantra, you’re preventing clarity, masking opportunities, and getting in the way of your growth. When you stop lying to yourself, you can start anew. That’s where real change lies: that’s the future of your company.

David Ehrenberg is the founder and CEO of Early Growth Financial Services, an outsourced financial services firm that provides early-stage companies with day-to-day transactional accounting, CFO service, tax, and valuation services and support. He’s a financial expert and startup mentor whose passion is helping businesses focus on what they do best. Follow David @EarlyGrowthFS.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.