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Want to Be an Entrepreneur? Stop Reading and Start Doing

Want to Be an Entrepreneur? Stop Reading and Start Doing

The most common question I get from people interested in startups and entrepreneurship, is this:

I have an idea for a startup… what do I do now?

and while this post isn’t meant to provide a full answer to that question, it is meant to tell you something you should not do that may seem like a good idea.

The number one thing you shouldn’t do once you have an idea for a start-up is nothing. You’ll meet tons of people like this in life, who go around saying “Oh I have this great idea for a company, I just haven’t started on it yet.” They’re what you’d call “wantrepreneurs” who are also likely afraid to tell you what their idea is “because you might steal it” (tell everyone your idea, no one has enough time/energy to steal it and no one cares about it as much as you do).

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The second worst thing you can do once you have an idea is only slightly better than doing nothing, and I call it getting stuck in the “Start-up Nonfiction Vortex.”

Getting trapped in it is easy. We’ve been brought up in a system (institutional education) that values collecting as much information as possible before applying it. That’s why you take four years of college covering a huge number of areas before entering the workforce, instead of entering and figuring it out as you go.

Since we’ve been raised to believe we need to collect tons of information before getting started, we become paralyzed in the face of starting a company, which leads to the belief that we need to do one of two things:

  1. Get a four-year degree in business/entrepreneurship
  2. Read a ton of books

Since spending four years “preparing” seems a lot more daunting than reading some books, it’s natural to choose the later. But in reality they’re both mistakes–the real solution is:

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3. Get started

But more on that later.

The Start-Up Nonfiction Vortex

There are a ton of books out there about starting a business. A huge publishing/authoring business has been built around “wantrepreneurs” reading everything they can get their hands on instead of starting their business. And I have to admit I was one of them. I decided I wanted to start a company last May, and between May and September, I read 39 books all related to entrepreneurship and start-ups.

It might start by going to Amazon and searching for “start a business” or “be an entrepreneur.” Every book you read will lead to new insights into things you never knew before, and the reaction after each will be “whoa, I never knew about this, I better keep reading to make sure there’s nothing else I don’t know.” To quote a friend of mine, when you’re an entrepreneur it’s “like ignorance squared, because you don’t know what you don’t know” so the safest route feels like learning everything.

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It’s a trap though. Without specific things to apply the knowledge to, it will largely be forgotten. We tend to remember random information very poorly when we haven’t applied it or used it in our daily lives, and if you’re reading books while waiting to start your business you’re likely not doing anything with it. This creates two problems:

  1. If you’re taking notes, you don’t actually know what you should be taking notes on
  2. You’re going to have to read it again later when it’s actually relevant

 

Escaping the Vortex

The first startup/entrepreneurial endeavor you try will probably fail. And don’t worry, that’s good news. It means you have nothing to fear, nothing to be ashamed of, and no reason not to start. If you’re an at least decently achieving student or worker then you’re probably unaccustomed to the idea of failure being okay, but in the start-up world it is because even when you fail, you still learned a lot.

That’s why you don’t need the non-fiction vortex. If you simply pick an idea, get some friends, and get started you’ll learn ten times as much in 1/10 the time you would have reading. Since we started our company three months ago, I’ve learned magnitudes more than I did in reading all of those books, and even for the books that did turn out to be useful, I didn’t realize at the time which parts were actually valuable and have had to go back and re-read them.

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Does that mean you shouldn’t read at all? No, of course you should, but I think you could get away with just reading “The Startup Owner’s Manual.” Read it once for a high-level view on what you should think about, then go back and read through it as you apply it to your business. Draw on other books as you run into problems that you need solutions for.

But most importantly–get started. So many people miss out on great opportunities because they’re afraid to take that risk. Don’t fall into the trap of delaying it until you’re “ready” or spending all of your time reading to make it as safe as possible. Just stop reading and start doing. You don’t need to look before you leap.

More by this author

Nat Eliason

Nat is the founder of the marketing agency Growth Machine. He shares lifetyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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