Learning through the decades


By James Alisch, Managing Director WOW 1 DAY PAINTING

It's a really exciting time to start your own business. According to new research, there are currently 24 million American entrepreneurs, and this trend is set to continue.

The even better news? When it comes to age, entrepreneurship knows no bounds. It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 80 - if you've got a great idea, and you're inspired and passionate, there are tools, lessons, and resources out there to help make you a success.

Having spent over half of my life working as an entrepreneur, or in and around entrepreneurial environments, there are lessons I have learned that, looking back, I wouldn't hesitate to pass onto my younger self - a notion to which I'm sure many of you can relate. Here's hoping that our younger selves would listen.

What I would tell my 20 year old self

Say it with me James: "Though you think you may have all the answers, you actually know very little." Now that's out of the way, let's look at the many ways you will start to learn.

First, embrace your passion and your desire to prove yourself. Run with both of these things. It is your tenacity and your relentless pursuit of the goal that will ensure you are successful. In the absence of skill and experience, effort matters.

Second, understand that vulnerability is an inherent part of starting a business. There will be times (many, many times) when you will likely be overwhelmed. Combat this by working with people who will support, but also challenge you to meet your goals. Heed the advice of those who embody the principles of strong leadership: communication, confidence, and commitment.

Finally, say it with me again - you will have no clue what you are doing when you first start out. Embrace this, and take every opportunity to learn. Above all else learn.

Oh and remember - the word 'entitled' should be stricken from your vocabulary. Now get to work!

What I would tell my 30 year old self

Now that you know something about running a business, you may start to think you know a great deal about people and leadership. This is incorrect. In fact, the timing for real learning - given the accumulation of business battle scars from your 20s - couldn't be better.  Purposefully look for ways you can become a better leader. Get better at the soft skills of business: conflict management, communication, priority management and coaching. Continue to make it a priority to expose yourself to people much smarter than you (this is not difficult to do), and people who are great leaders.

Finally, remember that vulnerability that made you work so hard in your 20s? Rediscover it by looking for chances to push yourself out of your comfort and safe zones. It is okay to be out of your depth, and falling down is okay, as long as you keep getting up and moving forward.  Yes it hurts and yes it can be  expensive, but pain and cost are transitory, and will result in added value in the long term.

What I tell my 40 year old self

I heard a wise man once say, "In your 40's, make your bet." Take all that you have learned, every bruise and bump, win and loss, and start to develop a plan on how you can use these things to contribute in a meaningful way.

Ask yourself, "Where are my gifts, and where am I great?" How can you connect with others over that which makes you exceptional? Answer these questions and see how you can improve not only yourself, but more importantly the success of others.

Pursue growth, support others, and define your leadership way.

What are the lessons you would tell yourself through the decades? Please leave a comment and share!