A lot of budding entrepreneurs start their career in business college. They come out of high school with a vague idea of what they want – not to be part of The System or The Grind – but they’re not sure how to get started or what they don’t know they don’t know.
The smartest ones go out and get those answers, either on their own or through mentoring relationships, often both. Sometimes this involves college. And that’s where The Lie comes in. Sure, you’ve heard it, from well-meaning grandparents or guidance counselors or coaches. It goes something like this: “Just get into college, and you will figure out what you want and find success.”
While that can certainly be true, the “lie” here is more passive than active. It’s not in what is said, but in what is inferred … the ideas the piggyback on the well-meaning advice. Primarily, that the process of college in and of itself is how you ‘find yourself’. That’s simply not the case. You have to put the work in.
Part of the purpose of college is to learn what it takes to be successful. And, in that process, you get out what you put in. The reason some young CEOs and business pros come out of college “ready” for the Real World and others do not is fairly simple. The former group took an active role in their personal development, while the latter coasted, waiting for either epiphany or opportunity to come give them a big kiss, take their hand and lead them off down the Yellow Brick Road.
The reality is that success is a personal journey. You have to put The Work in … and that “work” is different for everyone. Comparing yourself to others won’t work. Looking to people who “figured out” how to “be successful” isn’t the right focus either. Job one for each person is to figure out what will make THEM successful. What’s vital to your life and your work and your success … then do those things. Don’t let other people and their journey distract you. Learn from their mistakes, stand on their shoulders, but don’t try to walk in their footsteps.
Business is a moving target. Circumstances, markets, and consumer tastes change. Some of these things you can control. Others, you just have to keep adjusting and figure out a way to make it work.
Recruit people into your life that will help you, not coddle you. Much is being made today about how “weak” and “spoon fed” and “protected” some college kids want to be. Now, understanding most of that’s dramatic exaggeration for headlines, there is an undercurrent of reality there for some people. When you surround yourself with people looking first to protect you, that’s not mentoring … that’s parenting. You need to have truth tellers in your life … and they need to be people worth listening to. Both of these metrics are equally important.
Bottom line, success is intentional. You have to be purposeful about how you achieve it. It won’t come to you … you have to go out and earn it.
Elie Hirschfeld is a NY real estate developer.