Starting a Business is Harder than Graduating from College, Here’s Why…
Being an entrepreneur and starting a business is harder than being a student and graduating from college.
Agree or disagree?
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Here's why starting a business is harder than graduating from college.
From the first day we start school, there's always a plan to follow.
When we're younger, the plan is to show up, be on time, and don't talk in class. As we get older, more things are added to the plan, and it becomes more complex, but the plan is still clear. Go to school, take your test, do what you're told, graduate.
If we choose to go to college, there's even a more detailed plan. Before we show up for the first day, during freshmen orientation, we have to choose the plan for our life. If we choose one plan and have the discipline and time management to stick with it, we become doctors. We get the BMW, we get the big house, we're saddled with debt.
If we choose the other path, we're destined for life as an Uber driver.
And we have to choose when we're 18 years old.
There's even a plan for every class we're told we need to take. On the first day, we're handed a syllabus with a schedule and a list of books to read.
When you want to graduate from college, there's always a plan.
In business, there is no plan. As General Eisenhower said, “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” And every day in business we're in contact with the enemy (although if you see your customers as “the enemy” you're already doing entrepreneurship wrong).
Up until the time we decide to start a business, we've spent our entire lives being told where to go, what to do, when to be there, and how we should decide if we're “successful” or not. Someone else has given us a plan to follow.
In business, there's no “right way.” Sure, there are business models we could follow, but they're not exact, and they don't always apply to us.
Starting a business is harder than graduating from college because in college you're given a Plan to follow.
If not having a plan wasn't enough, when starting a business, there's no teacher. When you're trying to graduate from college, every day in every class, there's a teacher or professor there to act as your guide.
Standing at the front of the classroom or lecture hall every time you walk in is a Guide who has gone before you. They've learned the process, they followed their plan, and now they're there to guide you as you follow yours.
When we start our businesses, we don’t have a guide. And, when we do, they're “virtual” and teach us through their books, podcasts, TED talks, or from stages at conferences.
While we're studying and working on our plan to graduate from college, we have dozens of Guides. When starting our businesses, for some reason, we think we don't need help, so we decide to go it alone. Entrepreneurs don't have Guides keeping us on track, helping us stay focused and moving forward.
Starting a business is harder than graduating from college because, in college, we have Guides to teach us at every turn.
When I was in kindergarten, we didn't graduate. We just went on to the next grade. We didn't need to celebrate the fact that we were able to survive without being around our parents all day every day.
Anyway, at every point along the Plan, our Guides have led us to a predetermined Goal. Every class has a start and end time. Every semester starts and ends on specific dates. Each year has a clear beginning and a scheduled ending.
And then, when we've followed the Plan to its completion and our goal is achieved, we graduate before starting another Plan to be led my other Guides. Graduation, whether it's from kindergarten or from college, is a clearly defined goal. We have a clearly defined minimum requirement (getting a D or better), and we have a clearly defined date by which we have to complete the work.
When we're starting our business, we often don't have clearly defined goals. That is, we don’t someone telling us what we need to do and when we need to have it done.
To graduate from college, we know we have to have 120 credit hours, we need to have at least a grade of 70 in every class, and we have 4 years to do it all so we can graduate on a specific day, at a specific time, on a specific stage.
As entrepreneurs, we don’t have someone to measure our progress and tell us what to do next. We don't have specific revenue goals. We don't have a date by when things need to be done. When starting a business, we MIGHT have a yearly goal, but we don’t have smaller goals to mark our progress along the way.
Starting a business is harder than graduating from college because, as entrepreneurs, we don't have clear goals. And when we do, they're so big we find them intimidating and unattainable.
In school, during every class, we're surrounded by other people who are following the same Plan as us. If not the exact same plan, it's a similar one, and our path's cross for a season.
Everyone following the same Plan is grouped then divided into smaller classes. These classes are led by our Guides. And in these classes we find community. We make friends and form study groups. We hang out on the weekends, we work on projects with each other, we live together, we go on vacations with one another, and the line between friend and colleague is blurred.
In college, we don't see our peers as competition, we see them as friends, and we build a community of allies.
In business, we tend to see everyone as competition. We see only winners and losers. If they win, you lose, and vice versa.
Entrepreneurs have a tendency to isolate themselves. They don't want to share their Plans, they don't want to work with Guides, and they don't want to talk about their goals (if they have them). Paranoia runs rampant with business owners; they ask people to sign non-disclosure agreements, and they'd never talk about their vision for the future lest someone steal their ideas.
And because of this obsession with secrecy, entrepreneurs don't form communities. They don't make friends, they don't create study groups, and they don't do business with friends.
They live two lives, the one they live Monday through Friday, and the one they live on the weekends. They have two personalities, the stern, focused one that keeps their head down at work, and the fun-loving, life-living one that comes out after 5 pm.
In school, we're surrounded by other people following their own Plan toward their own Goals. We have a community we can work with, compete against, and have fun with.
Starting a business is harder than graduating from college because, as entrepreneurs, we don't have a community of allies who we can go to for support and encouragement.
But What If We Did…?
What if you did have a Plan to follow, someone to Guide you along the way and help you create clear Goals? What if you had a Community to encourage you, keep you accountable and focused on your Goals?
To be successful in business, you need the same things (and more) that you need to be successful in school. You need a Plan. You need a Guide. You need a Goal and Community. If you're missing any one of those things, your chances of success are greatly diminished.
Create Your Plan
Before you do anything, you need to have a plan. I wouldn't suggest you waste time outlining every meeting and moment for the next six months, but you at least need to know what direction you're headed in. You need a roadmap to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
To help, I wrote a book called Exit Strategy, and in Part 3, you'll find The Roadmap – all of the things I wish I'd done when I was trying to leave my job and start my business. You can grab Exit Strategy for free here, or you can pick it up on Amazon here.
Find Your Guide
To help you stay motivated and moving forward, to help you develop your plan and focus on your goals, you'll need a Guide. I started my blog in 2012 and started my business in 2014. In the years since I've helped hundreds of clients move their businesses forward, and I'd be honored to be a part of your journey as well.
Join Your Community
Successful people surround themselves with other successful people who're also following their dreams and doing amazing work in the world. If you want to change the world and pursue your vision of what's possible, you should spend time with people who also want to change the world and who have a vision of the future.
There's a growing community of entrepreneurs on Facebook who want to be empowered and equipped with the mindset and tools to be successful in today's business environment. It's 100% free, but you have to get invited.
Starting a business is harder than graduating from college. But, for some reason, many aspiring entrepreneurs think they don't need to put as much time, effort, energy, or work into it.