People Mean Well (Mostly)
I’ve received a lot of career advice in my life. I’ve also given a lot of advice. (some better than others) Even though I’ve been working for almost 20 years now, I know I still have so a lot to learn and I am always asking people what their best and worst career advice was.
On Saturday I was at a birthday party (Happy Birthday Mom!) and I have younger nephews and nieces who are all trying to do their own thing and create their own independent lifestyles. It’s something we are seeing more and more of today, and a trend that I think will continue to grow. I speak to them about what they’re doing and what they want to do, and offer some advice, based on my own experiences, both good and bad.
And you know what…they usually smile, nod their heads and ignore everything I’m saying. You know how I know? Because I recognize the look. It’s one I’ve worn many times. When you’re young you think you know it all. The truth is, you know nothing, which maybe, in a way, is knowing it all.
They don’t know how hard something is, so they just do it. They don;t know the odds are against them, so they just do it. At this stage in my life, when I take on a new project, I go in knowing the challenges and battles to expect. Is that better? I don’t know. Experience counts for something but once bitten, twice shy. I would love to feel again, how it was to have never been bitten.
Here is what I’ve received so far:
Best advice: “Build an mvp, get some users, show me traction, and then we’ll discuss that check.” This is what a VC out in San Francisco told me when I went to raise money for a startup. The world today is full of so much BS and I’m sure we all have seen it and heard it. People like to talk big, they like to bet others people’s money and they like to remove risk. But here’s the thing, when you step up, you stand out. Having an idea is not good enough, in life, at work or in business. You have to take the next step, and only then can you start earning your dues.
Worst advice: “You have nothing to lose.” What does this even mean? For me, this was said when I was being offered a position in a startup that was offering commission only. When someone tells you, you have nothing to lose, you have a lot to lose. Your time (which is incredibly valuable), your network, other opportunities you might pass on. There are times when you do things because you have to, but you always have something to lose.
So when I was young and ignored people, how did it work out? My company went from zero to 40M in revenue in 5 years, and I felt smart, and yeah, even a smug at times, because I had done things my own way and look where it got me. Of course, you know, when I went from 40M to zero in 3 years, all of a sudden some of the warnings and advice I had gottnen started to make A LOT of sense. There’s no easy answer here. Sometime you listen. Sometimes you don’t. You’re always learning. I’m always learning.
Now if someone can just invest a startup that makes me feel like I’ve never been bitten…
Thanks for joining me on this journey. It wouldn’t be the same without you.