Starting a business? Here’s 12 lessons to put you on the right track

I pressed publish.

Over the next few days, I got 400 views for my first post on Dream Set Achieve. It stayed as my most popular post for the next 6 months. Strange how things turn out…

Here I am, a year later. Another 30 odd posts down the line. And lots of learning along the way.

Are you thinking of starting an online business? Or just a blog? And you’re wondering what awaits you further down the line?

To celebrate one year of Dream Set Achieve (started in June 2015), I’m sharing the main lessons I learned in the past year.

Use these lessons anyway you like. Learn from my mistakes to accelerate your future results. I hope it will keep you focused on the right stuff and make you 10 times more effective.

Let’s cut to the chase. Here are my 12 biggest takeaways from one year of DSA.

1. Patience

Building a business and generating revenue takes time.

When you’re online, you benefit from a wide reach and a light infrastructure. A digitized business is cheaper to run. And it generally grows more quickly, thanks to social network and viral content.

But that doesn’t mean it happens overnight.

Well, when it takes off, it can happen very fast. But to get to the take off point, to get everything in place and all the parameters aligned at the right time, you need patience and dedication.

I naively thought it would happen really fast. I had wrong expectations caused by survivorship bias (see takeaway #2).

I’ve now learned to be patient. To persevere and be consistent. I keep planting seeds and let them grow.

Momentum builds up, until it goes BOOM!

2. Survivorship bias

When you look around, you keep seeing entrepreneurs having amazing results. Success stories are popping up everywhere. Everyone is becoming a millionaire in 18 months…

But not you…

Then, you start wondering: what’s wrong with me? What am I missing?

I’ve got news for you. You’ve fallen victim to the survivorship bias.

Here’s the thing. People who’ve failed tend to keep quiet. But the truth is: 90% of startups fail in their first 18 months.

What you see are the outliers. You keep hearing about their success and their amazing methods that have led them where they are today. The rest is kept quiet.

I realized I had to keep things in perspective. Also, I learned a lot from other people’s mistakes and failures, as well as my own. In fact, we mostly learn through our failures.

So my takeaway is to keep the right balance between learning from successful methods and different failures, so I can avoid them.

3. Vision

Creating your vision is crucial. This is where it all starts.

It might be a bit fuzzy at the beginning. You’ll refine it over time as you explore and find your footing. But I’ve found my first vision was pretty accurate.

My passion has grown as I went along, but it hasn’t changed at its core.

Start with your vision, and let it guide you.

4. Failure

I love exploring.

And I found out that exploring and trying things out was key. Most of the time, you’ll fail. You’ll start with high expectations, then reality will hit you, hard.

I’ve written blog posts that I thought would be hits. And… they fell completely flat.

Recently, I’ve invested a lot of effort in running a giveaway (over 30 hours). Based on experiences from others, I was optimistic and set an ambitious target. It turned out to be a disaster…

To survive, you’ve got to change your relationship with failure. It’s not easy and it won’t happen overnight. Chances are, you’ll learn the hard way. Failure will either make you or break you.

But you need to keep going and view failure as experience. Failure is the quickest way to learn. Keep trying and take calculated risks to move forward. Fail forward, as some say.

As you deal with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, you’ll build a thick skin.

5. Time and Money

Failure also means you’ll be loosing money. This is another relationship you need to change.

It’s taken me a while to change the way I look at money.

At first, I was afraid to spend any money. I was just scared to loose it. Little by little, I moved away from fear, towards taking calculated risks.

Consider that money is abundant. You can always make up your loss later. Right now, it’s an investment and the best place to invest it is in yourself and your business.

Time is another matter. Time is limited. You only have a fixed amount of it and the clock it ticking.

So be sparse with it. Protect it.

Use money to take shortcuts and save time.

6. Marketing

We all want to create content and products, let our creativity shine.

The truth is, if you want to grow your influence, that’s not enough.

Marketing, networking and promotion are key to getting noticed and growing. Even if you’re building the best products and writing epic blog posts, you’re not going to grow if you no one sees them.

It’s been a crushing realization for me in the past year. I wish it was different, but it’s the sad truth.

Don’t get me wrong, quality material is important to get others to read and share it.

But without marketing, you’re gonna go nowhere. So you should get started from day one.

7. Enjoy

The journey is full of ups and downs.

Running your own business is at the same time captivating and emotional. It’s a roller-coaster you get used to.

This is how I work through it: each time I face a problem or I feel down, I list solutions to solve the problem or my bad mood. Focusing on solutions helps me a lot to shift my mood and stay productive, walking in the right direction.

So, learn to embrace the suck and enjoy the journey. Often things won’t go the way you planned them (for better or worse).

8. Grow

To stay on top of your game, you need to keep learning. You’ve go to work towards mastery.

Most people will settle after a while. If you keep going and strive to reach exceptional skill levels, you’ll stand out as more unique and valuable.

Of course, that doesn’t happen over night. It takes time. You need to be patient (see takeaway #1).

And to stay focused. I’ve dabbled into a few things over the last year, but have now understood I need more focus on a couple of skills.

Build up on what you’ve learned. That’s how you can get exponential results. Again, run experiments, measure everything and adjust your plan accordingly.

Don’t underestimate the importance of your own growth.

9. Differentiate

Niching down is the best way to differentiate, I’ve found.

Once you’re going after a market, be very specific, laser focused on a small area of expertise.

To differentiate even further, I’ve found that going after the hard stuff works well. Why?

Because most people avoid the really hard stuff. So, when you go for it, it lowers the amount of competition around you.

I found that when I dig deeper into neuroscience, technology and strategic thinking, most people won’t want to go there.

10. Produce

We’re all consumers of content. We read blog posts, watch online videos and TV, read books, play games. We love it.

But when you’re building a business, you need to shift your perspective and become a producer first, consumer second.

Consistently producing content isn’t easy. Oh yeah, when you’ve got hundreds of thousands of people reading your content and commenting on it, it might be great. But when it feels like you’re publishing to a black hole, and you get no feedback or comments, it’s another story…

After a few weeks and month, it becomes a real grind. But that’s part of the “fun” of the journey, so I got used to it. The most effective way to become a producer is to put routines in place, so you produce content every week.

Over time, you’ll get more reactions and comments. And knowing that you’re helping people will make it all the more worthwhile.

11. De-clutter

The Internet is magic. Having all this information at your fingertips is brilliant. But it can also be a curse.

The curse of information overload. Information is addictive. And it quickly overwhelms you.

Fighting back is hard. I’m still fighting every day. You need to be disciplined and learn to de-clutter.

Each time I’m thinking of starting something, I ask myself: “Is this more important than what I’m already doing? Will it bring me better results? If so, what should I drop or delegate to free up time?”

A new activity will bear fruits only if you give it the focus it deserves. Otherwise, it’s not worth pursuing. That’s why I de-clutter.

12. KISS

As Einstein said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

I love simplicity. Not only does it make you more focused and efficient, it also helps you communicate your ideas.

My moto is to keep things as simple as possible. As they say: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Keep your mind and vision clear, simplify everything systematically.

Here’s To Another Year!

The journey doesn’t stop here. Let’s see what the future holds.

I’ll see you around next year for more takeaways…
 
Have you started your business or blog already? Then, what have been your biggest takeaways? And if you’re about to embark on the entrepreneurship journey, which of the 12 takeaways will be the most useful to you? Share your stories below.
 

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