4 Pieces of Entrepreneurship Advice to My 23-Year-Old Self

Reflections on 6 years of self-employment

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The first thing you learn as an entrepreneur is that nothing — absolutely nothing — ever works out the way you think it will.

In 2014, I set up a website to offer translating services, and about two minutes later, I became a habit coach helping people with their alcohol consumption.

I’ll never forget the first dollar I made online. $7.50, sent via PayPal. It’s been almost six years since then, and in that time, I’ve made $400,000 more. No boss. No employees. No expenses. Just a laptop and an internet connection.

It’s hard to believe at times, and every day, I find new reasons to be grateful my life functions the way it does. Looking back, I wouldn’t change much, but I would make myself aware of certain lessons earlier. I’d save myself some time.

As I’m approaching 30, here are four things I’d tell my 23-year-old, newly minted entrepreneur self. Maybe, they’ll save you some of the time I had to spend to get them.

1. You’re late. Start now.

No one is coming to save you — but no one will have to if you save yourself.

The privilege to explore your passions without real-world consequences is wonderful. Everyone should have it until they’re a teenager. But at some point, the lack of reality stops helping — and starts hurting.

College students in their late 20s are often frustrated and desperate for any career direction whatsoever. The lack of money and real work weighs on them. They would be better off starting anywhere than continuing to let the river of life carry them wherever it pleases.

Don’t wait. The timing will never be perfect. No single gig will have all the answers. The only way to reach the top of the mountain is to point at it as exactly as you can — and then start walking.

You’ll take many detours, but at least you’ll finally be on your way.

2. If you don’t focus, you will never be successful.

Focus isn’t always the answer, but if you don’t focus at some point, you’ll never make it to where you really want to go.

Maybe, you’ll need a year to dabble in all kinds of jobs, to understand the basics of entrepreneurship, and to separate what you want from what you only thought you wanted. Maybe, you’ll need three.

But once you know — and trust me, one day, you’ll know — you must focus on the thing that you love. The thing that you’re good at. The thing that pays, that never gets boring, and that can transform your hiking boots into a rocket ship.

You won’t know how long it lasts, how long it’ll take, and how far it can go, but if you don’t commit to it, you’ll never find out — and you’ll never get the feeling that drove you to begin this journey in the first place.

3. If you don’t diversify, you will never feel safe.

There’s focus, and there’s dependence. You always want to be focused on something, but you never want to depend on any one thing you’re focused on.

This sounds like a paradox, but it’s not. Warren Buffett calls it focused diversification. He picks a few stocks he really believes in and thus spreads his risk — but not too much to lose out on outsized rewards.

Once your first project works, switch into maintenance mode. Diversify. You don’t need ten sources of income — in fact, starting ten simultaneously will make sure they don’t add up — but having two instead of one or three instead of two will let you sleep a lot easier every night.

Entrepreneurship is like a fan. Sometimes, you have to expand it to keep getting air, and sometimes, you have to fold it together to move more air in one direction.

Make sure you don’t stress about money so you can go all-in on what matters.

4. True success is when you stop playing the game.

There’ll always be a new thing to build, a new platform to try, a new business to start. Something shiny and attractive. You’ll never stop longing for the shiny and attractive.

The grass is always greener on the other side. This is life’s biggest trap.

Worse, as you get better, opportunities get bigger. You know you can make it. You know you can make $3k, $6k, $10k per month from that new thing, if only you stick with it.

But that’s the problem: You have to stick with it. And you don’t have the time nor the energy — nor the desire — to stick with all these things. You want the result, not the process.

But you’ve already found something for which you alsolove the process. Stick with that thing. It’ll never get old. It’s what you’re made for. It’s what you were born to do. So keep doing it! This is where your true purpose lies.

Once you can easily cover your rent, the occasional treat and vacation, and don’t have to look at grocery prices, success is not more. Success is getting better at what matters to you. It’s commitment to your craft, your mission, and to making an impact.

Every day, you’ll have to remember that. You’ll have to slap yourself on the wrist and say: “No! Not another idea! Stop it!” This is as challenging as it is to get up and running in the first place. The challenge will never disappear, but completing it every day will make for a satisfying, meaningful career.


Nothing in entrepreneurship will work out the way you think it will — but a lot of things will work out eventually.

It’s okay to not have all the answers as long as you keep asking questions. Wherever your journey will take you, you’ll learn to love it along the way.

-Nik

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