By Christopher Lochhead
I was 18 when I got thrown out of school for being stupid.
It turns out that if you get enough D’s and F’s, they tell you to stop coming.
(Later, when I found out that I’m dyslexic, my education made some sense to me.)
So, at the age of 18 with a few other options, I started my first business.
For me, like so many others, entrepreneurship was a way out — not just a “way up” in the world.
Also, like so many others, being an entrepreneur allowed me to bet on myself at a time when no one else would bet on me.
Not long ago, a young gal who is still in school asked me, “Should I start a business?”
It’s a question I get a lot, especially from young people.
Having faced this entrepreneurial decision many times, here’s my advice:
1. Ask yourself, am I ready to be an entrepreneur or should I go to school?
According to the Kauffman Foundation, adults without formal education are much less likely to be entrepreneurs than their educated counterparts.
The media makes it look cool today to say, “Fuck university, just start a company”.
That is NUTS. BAD ADVICE — coming from someone who didn’t go to college.
If you have the option to go to a good college, think twice before you drop out.
For most people, going to school pays off. Data shows that college graduates on average earned 56% more than high school grads in 2015.
Now, if you’re someone for whom a college education isn’t an option — like me — or if you’re staring down the school costs and don’t want to take on that much debt, I highly recommend checking out my buddy Isaac Morehouse’s point of view on how to “crash your career”.
While higher education is a path that works for many, there are lots of ways to design a legendary career.
With the advent of modern technology and the ever-growing alternatives to traditional education, there are lots of ways you can “become your own credential” — as Isaac says.
2. Am I a missionary or a mercenary?
My friend and author of “Superconsumers” Eddie Yoon makes this important distinction.
People on a mission persevere when others give up.
3. Am I possessed by a problem?
The most legendary entrepreneurs I know are possessed. They didn’t want to start a company, they had to start a company.
Legendary founders say, like The Big Lebowski, “This aggression will not stand, man!”
They are possessed with solving a problem that they themselves often are experiencing.
Having studied hundreds of the top entrepreneurs for my books, talked with countless of founders and VCs on my podcast, and worked in the tech startup world for over 30 years — it is very clear that the most legendary entrepreneurs are driven to solve a problem.
4. Can I design and build a new product, company AND category?
The most legendary entrepreneurs don’t just invent something to sell us.
They are not making products or services that just incrementally improve on whatever came before.
They want to achieve something exponential.
They don’t do better.
They are different.
They introduce the world to a new category of product or service.
They are exponentialists.
These people replace our current point of view on the world with a new point of view.
They make what came before seem outdated, clunky, inefficient, costly or painful.
They become the category queens who dominate the market category they designed by solving a giant problem that makes a big difference and by creating massive value where none existed before.
They “prosecute the magic triangle” and get
- and category
right. At the right time.
Ultimately, you have to realize that the failure rate of new businesses is stunning. 75% of venture capital-backed companies fail.
While being an entrepreneur seems cool, you must “get real” with yourself and answer these questions.
If the answer is no, that’s okay.
Keep learning. Your time will come.
If the answer is a GIANT YES, then get started on your entrepreneurial journey.
To quote Joey Ramone,
“Hey HO! Let’s GO!”