Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg & more on becoming a successful entrepreneur
Being an entrepreneur is like having a baby: No one sees the pain, nausea, and sleepless nights it took to create your thriving business, but everyone is smitten with the results.
And consider yourself lucky if it only takes nine months to give life to your enterprise. Many entrepreneurs invest years — or even decades.
Do you have what it takes? Find out by taking a cue from some of the greats.
Quality #1: You Believe in Something Bigger
“There are a lot of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is. It’s to change the world.”—Phil Libin, co-founder, Evernote
Translation: When entrepreneurs stare down long hours, constant failure, and countless people saying “no,” it’s important for them to have a drive that’s bigger than personal or financial gain. What’s your why? If you don’t know the answer, you’re not ready.
Quality #2: You’re Strong Enough to Ignore Good Advice
“Whenever you get yourself into a position where you have to make some big shift in direction, people are going to point to the downside risks of that decision. If you’re stagnant and you don’t make those changes, you’re guaranteed to fail and not catch up.”—Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
Translation: Entrepreneurs must be willing to think and act independently. If the idea of making big leaps doesn’t exhilarate you, dust off your résumé and go work for The Man.
Quality #3: When in Doubt, You Take Action
“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”—Nolan Bushnell, founder, Atari Inc.
Translation: Being a dynamic problem-solver has no benefit if you can’t put your ideas into action. On the walls of Facebook’s headquarters is the mantra “Done is better than perfect.” Action is better than inaction. Create momentum and iterate along the way.
Quality #4: You’re Focused to a Fault
“Don’t tell anyone your idea until you have invested enough of yourself that you’re not going to turn back. That conception moment is the most vulnerable – one negative comment could knock you off course.”—Sara Blakely, founder, Spanx
Translation: Successful entrepreneurs don’t let themselves become sidetracked by what others think. World-changing ideas aren’t created by committee. Leverage your goals to stay motivated, and tune out the noise.
Quality #5: You Always Fail Forward
“If something is important enough, you should try, even if the probable outcome is failure.”—Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO, Tesla Inc.
Translation: Without short-term failures, there would be no long-term successes. To become a successful entrepreneur, you need to move past those errors — ultimately, this is what will set you apart. When things get tough, remind yourself that Harry Potter was rejected by publishers for years, Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round as a backup, and Tesla — a $40 billion company today — started building electric cars in 2003, but didn’t sell one until 2008.
Quality #6: You Surround Yourself With a Team of Rivals
“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.”—Reid Hoffman, cofounder, LinkedIn
Translation: It’s easy to build a brain trust of “yes” people. But successful entrepreneurs don’t hire for fit; they hire for growth. It’s important to bring on team members who improve your business every day, not those who just slot in. As Musk has said, “Really pay attention to negative feedback and solicit it, particularly from friends. Hardly anyone does that, and it’s incredibly helpful.”
Quality #7: You’re Willing to Wait. And Wait. And Wait
“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”—Biz Stone, cofounder, Twitter
Translation: True overnight success stories are rare, and when they do occur, those businesses often don’t have staying power. The months and years you dedicate to building a strong foundation and overcoming your growing pains will pay off if you remain patient. Those who put in the time evolve from entrepreneurs to founders.