When being part of a generation on which the flag of entrepreneurship seems to be constantly waving in the sea of young professionals looking to succeed in the business world, more often than not, we tend to drown in the uncertainty and confusion of the billion dollar question: “What to do?”
Whether it’s old money passed on to baby sharks, or the new world’s miracle of crowd-funding actually helping finance someone’s dream from scratch, no matter is more important in starting your own enterprise than knowing in detail what you are trying to accomplish, and most importantly, HOW exactly you are planning to get there.
The era of our parents: Steady job = stable economy.
Unlike us, our parents didn’t have to struggle with the philosophical dilemma of deciding whether or not their jobs had to be fulfilling and meaningful in order to make them happy. Their dreams, aspirations, skills and emotions had very little to do with what they were going to do for a living; a job was a job, and a paycheck was a paycheck. In a post-war era, the working class -and every other class, for that matter- was supposed to be content with getting a job in a factory or organization, a job that was good enough to allow the head of a family to provide with food, shelter and education.
The concept of a strong “nuclear family” was fed to the masses in order to portray the sort of lifestyle that was convenient for the western economies recovering from a long period of uncertainty in both a political and a financial way. The industrialization boom and the commercial expansion brought by a technologically enhanced globalization led to the birth of an organizational working standard that aided the sons of the Great Depression with the peace that a 9 to 5 deal offered. Capitalism was thriving all across the now “at peace” countries that fought for it, which meant that every wealthy-enough businessman or heir to an after-war fortune was able to start their own project(s).
At that time, a high-school education was good enough to get a job and start a family; said job was, not only good enough to provide food, shelter and education for a family of -ideally- four, but also to acquire the medium class status through the consumerism strategically programmed into the family’s mindset of the working class with the sole purpose of making them aspire for the same “luxury” appliances and products that they were hired to produce and sell. A satisfied working class is a productive working class. A productive working class equals a better profit for the organization. More productive organizations translate into better competition. Better competition means better wages. More acquisition power means more demand, and the cycle goes round and round. No need for entrepreneurship if the productive system makes everyone happy. It was only until globalization took a turn for the worst for local businesses that two generations started looking to self-employment as a more viable and sometimes forced option.
The curse of the trends: A stigma that haunts the young business developers.
Most of the times, newcomers have a well developed sense of entrepreneurship, a great deal of thirst for innovation, the necessary means, a lot of will, and even the starting budget, but all of that comes to little use when the frustration of trying to reinvent the wheel blinds us from what should be the most practical goal: making the already existing wheel better. Or what’s even easier, providing services for the wheel: accessorizing it, making it viral, creating the demand through massive marketing and taking advantage of the trend consumerism that shifts the global markets today.
The economic development and technological advancement of our region would significantly boost up if young minds would spend half the time they spend trying to come up with new ideas on actually analyzing ongoing trends, evaluating perpetual market needs and seizing the areas of opportunity of projects that were already launched by someone else.
It’s precisely the overexposure to this “new” wave of avid entrepreneurship which paradoxically restricts the possibility of creativity due to a high offer of fresh ideas from young minds, limiting what it originally means to nurture. Some might see this as an effective way of creating a healthy sense of competition, but most of the times it comes out as a collective sense of “creative paranoia” among young entrepreneurs. Between coming up with a new idea and going through the process of registering it by every authority necessary, business developers lose sight of what actually makes a project grow: effective marketing strategies and the management of adequate means of production.
Thinking “big” vs. Thinking convenient
Instead of striving for a mansion, buy an old apartment complex: revamp it, put it up for rent and make a profit that’ll eventually allow you to escalate your investment and get yourself a bigger mansion, without any mortgage debt and with the option to retire at a comfortable age.
As young college students and undergraduate entrepreneurs of our times struggle to decide between creating -or following- their dream and making a profit, they are constantly showered with unrealistic “goals” and false needs that pour through mainstream media and the never-ending cycle of trends dictated by the marketing monster that is “pop culture”. Instead of inspiring and educating with a real example of hard work, perseverance and innovation, false icons of the industry, showbiz “celebrities” and success stories blown out of proportion for advertising purposes are constantly frustrating a whole generation thanks to unattainable -and short sighted- expectations of an unreal shortcut to financial and emotional success.
The idea behind this fallacious concept of “success only through cheap wealth” has two very dark -and effective- purposes: A depressed youth that measures its self-esteem through a programmed sense of “unworthiness” is most likely to try to fill their existential void with products advertised by their “role models”; on the other hand, it’s easier and more profitable to create and advertise “success” stories, than actually funding them in real life and supporting a new educational system that teaches how to lead and not how to follow (or buy, which for this matter means the same).
Even though some countries are now leading a world-changing shift of educational standards and programs, there’s still much left to do, especially in countries that haven’t realized how much better their economies will develop if they stopped focusing on sustaining their GDP through a mind-numbing consumerism of their own people and actually started working to change the way education prepares the minds of their young. Schools should be teaching them how to build their own progressive thinking and interdisciplinary collaborative skills, parents should be nurturing abilities and supporting differences, instead of indoctrinating through the fear of uncertainty and generational misconceptions of what it means to be successful.
Branch out and diversify: Marrying a project only means heading for divorce.
Another very well-taught lesson portrayed through this new wave of trendy entrepreneurship is “go big or go home”. Initially, this now famous business mantra used to mean that, if you were to start a project, you should give it everything you got and really roll up your sleeves to make your dream come true, but it’s that previously mentioned dark capitalist mentality of our times that, through financial consumerism, aggressively whispers in the ear of an entire generation “ask for a big loan, put it all in your dreams and drown in credit for the rest of your life”. Yes, maybe you should consider a short-term, low-interest loan -if such a thing is actually possible- , but instead of placing a big bet on your lucky number, you must consider branching out and dividing your initial budget in three or four smaller but less risky projects. That way, if one of them turns out to be a bad decision, not everything is lost, and you still have the opportunity to analyze your situation and take whatever measures needed to stay afloat.
Consider the adversities: The triple R
Retreat, you’ve only truly lost a battle if you didn’t get out of it on time. Sobbing hopelessly while one of your ideas goes down the drain isn’t going to fix anything, neither is it going to make you feel better, teach you a lesson or set you off into your next project. It’s always hard to accept that something isn’t going to come out as expected, but instead of calling it a failure, we should praise it as a lesson learned and a valuable experience. It’s also really heroic to think that we have to absolutely stick by our dream and sink with the ship, but no captain will ever tell their story or get a new ship if they don’t hop on a lifeboat on time.
Reassess and Re-invest, the key lies on the teaching mistakes. Every single step we took, whether good or bad, brings an opportunity to make things differently, thus an opportunity to succeed. Even if almost everything is lost, we must take what we can and, if not bring the old project back to life, see what else can be done with what was left. If your car engine breaks down and there’s nothing you can do to repair it, you might not have the money to buy a new one, but you can sell whatever is left as spare parts and with the profit set a down payment for a motorcycle. It’s not the same and you might get wet if it rains, but it’ll get you moving.
The planning process is important, the execution of an idea is vital and the aftermath -whether the outcome is good or not- is crucial, but the most important part of entrepreneurship is realizing that you’re not supposed to follow into anybody else’s footsteps and that the race to professional success has only one judge and only one contestant: you.
Measure success only by your own progress and use the progress of others as inspiration, not as a comparison that either frustrates you or limits your creative process.
We are only as great as our best intentions, and only as bad as the times we give up.