Diary Of An Under 30 CEO: Entrepreneurship Lessons I Wish I Knew At 20

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VENTURES AFRICA – Now that I consider myself to be old enough when I hit my 30th birthday, it has been a bittersweet moment of growth. On one hand I’m glad I made it to the promised land of the wise heads (or so I think) but on the other hand, my head is gradually rising above the many frustrations of learning the ropes of entrepreneurship. There are many things I wish I knew in my 20s, when I first ventured out, some of which I am going to share below:

Don’t listen to those who think there is a shortcut to wealth - There is no shortcut. You might as well get that out of your head right now. Wealth is created when you provide something interesting of value, unique to people who demand it either faster or cheaper than the current providers. Until then, you will be trading hours for money and you’ll always think you’re underpaid. “Find a need and fill it” is the old mantra and it is still quoted because it’s true. In today’s world it should read “Create a need that only you can fill well quickly.” Then you’ll be on your way to wealth. The lesson learned: figure out where there are unmet needs and figure out a way to fill those needs by turning them into opportunities in form of a product or service that people will happily pay good money for.

Learn how to negotiate a better deal on everything - Having read several books on negotiation just a little too late, I’ve recognized how many people duped me. Learning these skills would have saved me thousands. The lesson learned: prepare by educating yourself and always be willing to walk away because “The doors of wisdom are never shut.” Benjamin Franklin

Money doesn’t spoil, it keeps. Start investing early - I don’t know about you but if I look around me, how much stuff do I have to show for the money I made in high school or in my early 20s? Not much. If I had invested half of what I made during those years in a fund I wouldn’t need to raise any funds for any of my startups, I’m still kicking myself. Invest early but I guess that is well reflected in this great quote: “Winning is not everything but making the effort to win is.” Vince Lombardi

Stay far, far away from any Multi Level Marketing – “Business” that requires you to sponsor new distributors. They are all scams. You are not “CEO of your own distribution network”–you are a commission-based salesperson relying on the liquidation of your social capital (i.e. alienating your friends and family) to make any money at all…and 99.5 percent of people in MLM’s lose money, as has been shown again and again in numerous studies. The only profit you can ever make is by turning what would be called “customers” into “distributors” and then taking the money from the 99.995% that lose money in the organization and giving it to the 0.005% at the top (the people who started the whole “business” in the first place). Stay away no matter how glossy the brochure looks and how enticing the holiday package sounds.

I can say that the only thing I clearly learned from my MLM days was the introduction to Self help gurus but like Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

Education is very important so stay in school. Don’t quit - Sure you’re bored now, but wait until you’re in a dead end job that you can’t stand but you’re afraid to lose. The power of self-discipline can never be underestimated especially in business world when you have to employ people.

Finishing your degree will open up many more opportunities than you currently realize. Arrive on time, do your homework, study, and treat your learning process as if you were at a real job because these are the skills that you will need once you have started your business and are on your way to making your millions (in your dreams) but then again like Eleanor Roosevelt said “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

I hope you will take these experiences to heart and please don’t be like me. I wish you prosperity, good health and wealth but most of all I will finish with this verse “I have come to realize that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln. Be happy.