What it takes to succeed as a young founder in a manner that makes a difference and attracts people to your vision.
We millennials have a lot to learn when it comes to understanding success in business, and, perhaps, even in life. We shoot our mouths off with one too many swear words, and we're arrogant, to say the least. Even with these flaws, we can still become leaders and change the world.
Here are the seven keys to success that millennial founders don't yet get, but must:
1. Who you are becomes your business's identity.
How you are evaluated in the business world has nothing to do with your business. Your business is an extension of your personal identity and how far you've grown and will continue to grow. People are drawn to your business because of you, not because of what your business does.
If your business is full of lazy cheats who steal ideas, then it's a direct reflection of you -- not a reflection on you. A reflection of you. You're what's wrong with your business. Get out of your own way, and let the business grow by addressing some of your own weaknesses. Make little steps each day to be a better person and to give more than anyone else.
Try that a few months, and then give me a holler. I reckon you'll be well on the road to startup success, and you'll have investors knocking at your door wanting to throw money at you. You can thank me later.
2. How many followers you have doesn't matter.
Ever met a millennial entrepreneur who starts a conversation with, "This is my startup, and we have X number of followers." We have to understand that followers are a meaningless metric. If we really want to talk digital shop, then engagement is a better measurement.
Followers can be bought and sold like porn, only cheaper; it's nothing special. Your followers don't define you or your startup: you do. Instead of talking about followers, try elevating the conversation: Articulate the difference your startup wants to make. Explain how your youth is going to help revolutionize a niche that needs a revamp.
Use powerful emotive words that make the hairs on people's backs stand to attention. Talk with a sense of purpose and confidence about the problems you hope to solve in the world. Let your youth be an advantage rather than a disadvantage. Get comfortable being the dumbest person in the room, and don't be afraid to admit when you have no idea what someone is talking about. Bottom line: leave the follower talk at home in your bedroom with your telescope and neatly stacked text books.
3. The number of tailored shirts you own is pointless.
So on Wednesday you were wearing your $200 tailored pink checkered shirt. Today you are wearing your orange stripy tailored shirt with that Ralph Lauren Blazer you bought at the airport in LA last week. Guess what? I didn't notice how many different types of shirts you own and neither did anyone else. We all had a thousand other, more important thoughts floating around our minds.
Dress sharp (absolutely). But know that the number of things or brands of things you own is meaningless. No one's taking note with a paper checklist, black ballpoint pen and clipboard, while you add more shirts to your closet.
4. Where you went to school doesn't create success.
The Ivy League school you went to is not a draw card. It doesn't make you the smartest kid in the room or the guy that everyone wants to hang around. If you have gone to one of those fancy schools, then you probably paid to go there, and it's nothing more than a transaction between an individual (you) and a business (the university). The skills you get in these schools matter, to be sure, but the name doesn't.
Give me a broke hustler who had to beg to earn their first dollar, any day of the week. You'll find that the most successful millennial entrepreneurs had nothing when they started. They worked their butt off with nothing more than an inkling of a thought about what success could be like. This thought probably became clearer as they continued to take action.
Pretty soon, the online world found out about their business, and now they have a line out the door of people that want to work for them, because they inspire others with their story of tough love and going to a very uninteresting school. That's the kind of millennial entrepreneur you should strive to be.
There's no point trying to be the other kind that uses brand names, like Ivy League schools, as a passport into the circle of success. Value must be created.
5. We don't care about your luxury car.
So if you went and bought a luxury car because you thought that would make you look successful, then you're wrong. The brand of car you have is pointless, and there is no reason even to bring it up. Drive it if you must, but don't use it as a means to demonstrate your success. You're probably still a punk kid just like me, and besides, the car payment was due yesterday, so let's stop pretending. I want you to be real. I want you to forget about the superficial.
6. It's how you hustle.
It's more than how you hustle that matters; it's the way you hustle. If you beat people over the head with the business you have created, no one's going to listen. It's all in the way you do it. The best way to do it is by being humble and listening an awful lot. Pretend you know nothing (which you'll soon learn is true) and surround yourself with those smart people who built a business decades before you and now go to Africa every year to build schools for little human beings who have less money than you have in the coin compartment of your car.
Be prepared to work continuously, but match it with a reason. Maybe it's a beautiful man or woman who you spoil to death and take on wild adventures to break up all the hours you spend hustling. Don't hustle in what you do but with why you do it. Take that why and deliver it with passion and enthusiasm. That's the heart of authentic hustle.
7. You're not entitled to jack-#@*!
The biggest problem we millennial entrepreneurs have is that we think we're entitled to something. Just because we were born at a time when technology rules the world, that doesn't mean that we're entitled to anything at all. You get what you give -- so you better start giving something.
If you think that the world is going to give to you first and then you can give back when you feel like it, you're dead wrong! If this is the way you think, then you're going to end up being one of those fake-preneurs who raises a million dollars in the first year and then is found sitting on the edge of the sidewalk a year later, wondering what the hell happened to the business that was poised to be the next Uber.