Lessons From My First Year Being An Entrepreneur
- Written by Robbie Farlow
February 3rd marked the one year anniversary of my venture into the online fitness world—my one-year entrepreneurial birthday. There was no cake, no candles to blow out, and sadly, no clowns showed up to make balloon animals.
As I had done for the last 365 days, I left my warm bed–and the beautiful woman sleeping in it– groggily trotted off to the kitchen to slurp down the elixir of the gods, and sat down to begin my day.
It wasn’t until I saw the renewal email from my hosting service that I realized the significance of February 3rd.
Every year on my birthday, I take thirty minutes to reflect on the previous year. I reflect on what I’ve learned, whether I matured as a man and human being, and I ask myself, where do I go from here?
As a writer and coach, I’ve grown over the last year. Heading into my second year, I have more clarity about the direction of my business. What I learned in my first year are lessons that could never be taught in a book or college class.
Passion Doesn’t Mean Success
As a kid I was passionate about being a basketball player. From the time I was old enough to dribble, the only dream I had was to follow in the footsteps of his Airness and play for my favorite basketball team, The Tarheels of North Carolina. What I didn’t want, however, was to practice.
I thought my “passion” would lead to my success. If I love it enough, if I care about it enough, the world will let me have it, right? This is America after all, and we can be anything we want.
All I wanted was to lace up my Carolina Blue Air Jordans, never lose to Duke, win a national title as a Tarheel, and then get drafted in the NBA, where I’d make millions and get my shoe deal with Nike. Well, a man could dream.
The reality was that I despised drills that involved running, I would have rather played video games than shoot hoops in the rain. Honestly, the work that coaches said I needed to do, I didn’t want to do.
Passion is great, but passion without action is only a daydream; a distracting fantasy that removes us from the reality. Success comes to those who are willing to put in the work.
Execution is the Highway to Success
The first step is always the hardest no matter what it is. I wanna get out of debt. I wanna lose weight.
I want to exercise more. I want to work from home….in my pajamas.
At one point or another everyone has said one of the things above. Everyone has dreams. Dreams are great, but if you want to make them a reality you need to execute with action.
When I started my online business, I was still working in corporate America as my wife finished up grad school. I was also interning at a local gym in Richmond, Virginia which left me little time to write, edit podcast episodes, or create content. Instead of making excuses, I chose to implement a small easily achievable plan that I could execute each and every day.
The plan was simple, I don’t have to post something every day but I need dedicated time to write and create content. I set my alarm for 5 am, including weekends, so that I had time to write before most of the world woke up.
Excuses and a lack of executing are the kryptonite to dreams. Whether you’re trying to get out of debt, get in the best shape of your life, or start a business, creating small easily achievable goals you can accomplish from the start builds momentum.
“Success comes from taking the initiative and following up… persisting… eloquently expressing the depth of your love. What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?” – Tony Robbins
Choices Have to Be Made
At my core, I’m a hardcore gamer. I’ve played countless hours of video games in the first two and a half decades of my life
Video games like Zelda, Final Fantasy, or Knights of the Old Republic taught me the value of choice. These helped frame my mind in a way that I believe life is like an RPG. Every day I’m faced with choices that could help me level up or that could set me back.
As an entrepreneur, you’re faced with a ton of tough choices. Decisions that ultimately lead you to have to make sacrifices. If you want your passion to become more than a daydream, you must be willing to make sacrifices.
That means there will be times where you skip weekend outings or nights out with friends. Where instead of sleeping in you sacrifice an extra hour of sleep to get up and work. You may, like myself, even have to leave your Xbox or Playstation turned off because that extra distraction will prevent you from accomplishing your goal.
Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver in football history, understood the importance of sacrifice when he said this:
“Today I Will Do What Others Won’t, so Tomorrow I Can Accomplish What Others Can’t.”
On the flip side, however, thousands of entrepreneurs burn themselves out in the first year or two because they sacrifice too much and damage their health or relationships.
When you have a passion–a fire that burns in the deepest caverns of your soul–it’s easy to let this drive consume you. Your business becomes the only thing on your mind or the only thing you talk about with friends. If you’re like me, your work doesn’t feel like “work.”
I’m invigorated every day to see the success my coaching clients achieve. I love getting up and writing or chatting with the best fitness professionals in the world on my podcast, but as much as I hustled last year to get started, I never realized how out of balance my personal life was.
Forgetting birthdays or not speaking to my best friend for a couple months was bad, but the agony I felt in my soul when my wife told me she felt alone, forgotten, and insignificant rang my bell like a Ronda Rousey roundhouse kick.
Our time wasn’t really “our time” as I was too focused on responding to Tweets, emails, or worried about what I would write about next.
Sacrifices have to be made as an entrepreneur but finding balance, making sure you still have a personal life, is the hardest lesson I learned–something no college class, book, or video game ever prepared me for.
Often, we hear or talk about personal debt. Though there are differences between personal finance and business finance, the fact remains that debt can prevent you from accomplishing a lot. In my first year as an entrepreneur, I wasted money. There’s no doubt about that.
Do you need to pay for Vimeo Pro, spend money on Facebook ads, or buy a brand new state of the art laptop? What about a logo for your website or podcast? Should I pay for a site that will let me build landing pages? Should I use a free WordPress theme or pay someone to build my site from day one?
All of these are questions that at some point you may ask yourself as an entrepreneur. Do you need most of these things in your first year? Probably not, but we all make mistakes, right?
Time is the Only Non-Renewable Resource
The money you can make back. Motivation can be refilled. Mistakes can be corrected. Time is gone. No matter what you can’t get time back.
Discovering what provides the most value for your time in the first year as an entrepreneur is crucial, especially if you have a family. Whether you block off early hours in the morning as I did to get your business off the ground or stick to a strict schedule, how you spend your time is crucial.
Meaningless Facebook debates, Buzzfeed’s black hole of questionnaires, or the darkest depths of Reddit can be huge wastes of time.
When you didn’t have a passion you wanted to turn into a reality, you could justify spending hour after hour on social media. Yes, having a social presence is important, especially in today’s fast-paced interconnected world, but they can quickly suck up your time and time isn’t a renewable resource.
Networking is Key
They say that your network is your net worth. Most of the network I built up came from guests I had on my podcast. The rest of my network came from social media.
Social media is a double-edged sword. As I mentioned above, it can suck away much of your time, but it can also help you build relationships and grow your network.
Make a plan to spend sixty minutes a day, breaking it up into two thirty minute sessions (morning and evening) and join conversations or share content from people within your network.
Don’t expect the world to come to you. Be bold and let those you admire know that their content means something to you. Trust me; it can lead to great things.
Blow Out the Candles
What I learned over the last year can’t necessarily be quantified in a book or a college class. Gaining experience, getting in the trenches, “grinding” as they say, is the only real teacher in the world of entrepreneurship.
I could have done hundreds of things differently at first, but the lessons I learned in my first year have been invaluable to my career. My entrepreneurial education will never end, and I’m certain it the game only becomes more challenging as I progress.
Challenges excite the hardcore gamer inside of me and on February 3rd, 2017 I look forward to meditating on the lessons I learned in my second year as an entrepreneur.