As my 28th birthday passes, and my 10 year high school reunion is around the corner, I’m starting to reflect on where I am now and how far I still have to go to realize my dreams. While I’m certainly in a good position, I wonder, why am I not living the life I want to live yet? Where did I go wrong?
When I was 18 I knew the lifestyle I wanted to lead, but took the wrong advice that lead to long and unnecessary detours. Only over the last 3 years or so, I fully accepted who I am and what I have to do.
But when I came out of the fog it was like starting all over again. So I want to share this advice with the hope that it shortens the learning curve for some younger folks out there.
Follow Your Inner Voice (Trust Your Gut / Know Yourself)
Most of the time that inner voice inside your head, your gut, knows what’s best for you. You have to learn to trust it.
Your parents, friends, teachers, and coaches may all have good intentions when trying to guide you but only you know what’s truly right for you.
By the time I was 18 I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, specifically an online marketer. I wanted the “good life” and I knew that a 9-5 job wouldn’t provide me with the lifestyle or income that I was seeking. Plus I didn’t want to be taking orders from someone else – I wanted to be my own boss and control my time.
However, at the time everyone around me was getting ready to go to college. All my teachers and counselors kept pushing us towards college. Its like high school was nothing more than a sales funnel for college. Plus, my parents kept telling me I should go to college to become an accountant, which I resisted for a long time.
Despite a few attempts to start my online ventures, including affiliate marketing and an online clothes store, I ultimately folded and went to college. Being 18, I began to believe that everyone knew better, and I was just crazy.
I failed to listen to my inner voice.
You Don’t Need College to Become a Success
I originally had no plans on going to college and believed it was not essential to my [business] success. Today, I know I was right.
When I enrolled in college I put all my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur aside and focused on school. Since I was a commuter I needed money for a car, gas, insurance, food, and pocket cash. So I had to work a part-time job, sometimes two, while I was going to school. I had no time for entrepreneurial endeavors.
I missed out on the perfect opportunity to take MAJOR entrepreneurial risks. At that age it is still acceptable to live with your parents so costs are low, successful people are much more prone to taking a young kid with guts under their wing, and you can have plenty of time to fail your way to success.
The funny part was in the back of my mind I kept thinking “if I’m not taking actions towards building a business, how will I ever make the money I want” but was deluded and believed I needed to finish school first.
Today, while yes I am a CPA, a majority of my success has stemmed from self-education. so much information on the internet and how-to courses that can teach you how to make a profitable business right out of high school, or even while you’re still there, it makes college unnecessary for those with the entrepreneurial spirit.
Only Take Advice From Someone Who is Where You Want To Be (Find a Mentor)
Like I mentioned above, I knew I didn’t need college succeed, but I took advice from people I thought knew better than me. But the problem was they weren’t where I wanted to be. They we’re just giving advice based on what they did, or thought was the right path.
Now I realize that its best to only take advice from someone who has already achieved what you’re looking to achieve, or is in a position you want to be in. Because they traveled the path you want to be on already, their advice is highly relevant to you and where you’re looking to go.
Which brings me to another point, paid coaching and mentoring programs can be worth every penny. That is, if you know what you’re looking to achieve, you’re willing to be coached, and ready to take action. And of course you carefully selected a coach or mentor that has actually walked the walk, and doesn’t just talk the talk.
No Such Thing as an Overnight Success (Have a Long-term Outlook)
When I started my online ventures, I was looking for a get rich quick scheme. I was met with some success, I think I made a few hundred dollars, but nothing close to a full-time income. When it didn’t happen overnight, I thought I had failed so I folded and went to college. (That was in 2009/2010, these days with Instagram, its harder to resist the fallacy of overnight success)
Looking back, this was more of a temporary defeat than a failure. If I had a long-term outlook, the goal of creating an online business that could provide a full-time income would have been completed many times over by now.
Businesses aren’t built in a day, in order to be successful you have to remain focused on your goal, take action every day, and be committed for the long term. In addition, you can’t give up at the first sign of trouble. You must have the grit to persevere through all the “no’s” and setbacks that you will undoubtedly face. That is how to become successful.
Also, don’t be a shiny object chaser. When trying to reach your goal, don’t get distracted by trying chase after the next best thing. Stay focused.
Get Out and Explore
I grew up on Long Island in New York where real estate is so expensive that it isn’t uncommon to see people living with their parents until their late 20’s or even into their 30’s (cringe).
I finally moved out at 25. Since I never went away to college, I lived in the same town, with the same people, for 25 years.
My advice is to move out as soon as you can. Take a few years to get focused and on your feet, but move out in your early 20’s. You will be able to break out of your parent’s way of living and start figuring things out on your own. This will motivate you to go after your goals and live the life you really want sooner.
Also, move out of the area you grew up in. Get out of your comfort zone and meet new people that have a different way of doing things. It will help you grow. Being around the same people to long will keep you stagnant, especially if they’re not growing themselves.
Get Your Priorities in Line
Once you know what you have to focus on, make that your priority. That means that your goal comes over everything else, besides health. Especially hanging out with friends, partying, TV, and whatever other distractions come up.
When I was 18, I prioritized hanging out and partying over building a successful business and other important aspects of life. This lead to a lot of wasted time and missed opportunities. On top of that, all that drinking and late night partying takes a toll on your mental and physical health. You become tired, lazy and won’t be as effective during the time that your are working towards your goals.
Aside from making your goal a priority, you should certainly make your health a priority…This is something I failed to do until recently. I thought I could eat, drink, and sleep whenever and whatever I wanted to. I was totally wrong. Unhealthy eating and sleeping habits will cause you to be unfocused and less productive.
It is important to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get the proper amount of sleep. Doing this will keep your body and mind sharp, and you will have more energy to think clearly and put in the required work to reach your goals.
Focus on Earning, Not Just Saving
Early on in my self-education journey I came across books like The Millionaire Next Door that had the premise of saving your way to wealth by being conservative and frugal. While it is important to live below your means in order to have money invest in assets, once you minimize your expenses and get in the habit of saving, you have to focus on earning more.
I ended up prioritizing saving over spending the money on potential business opportunities. This was a big mistake. In many cases, it takes money to make money, and sometimes you need to take risks. That means laying money on the line, or leaving a steady pay check at a stable job for a business endeavor that may fail.
The bottom line is don’t spend your money on toys like cars, watches, etc., instead save your money to invest and focus on earning more, even if that means taking a financial risk. Better to risk $7,200 on a business opportunity rather than on lease payments on a Mercedes.
The Best Learning Comes From Doing
For a while I thought if I read as much as I could I would be come successful. I also thought I needed to see the whole picture to get started.
While yes, reading is important to learning new concepts, expanding your mind, and advancing skills, it doesn’t compare to the type of learning you get from actually taking action and gaining experience. When you actually start doing, you learn and advance much faster. As you advance you solve the problems that come up along the way. Books won’t always help you foresee these problems, you have to experience them for yourself.
However, books can help you solve the problem once you get there. For example, you start a business and realize you need help writing attention grabbing ads. At that point you can pick up a book on copy writing and apply it directly to the ads you’re trying to create. If you were to have read that book before you realized you needed an ad, you may have had nothing to apply that knowledge to. That time would have been better spent taking action.
Thats why now I’m always reading something, but doing more, a lot more. Books now help me solve problems as they arise, but I realize they’re just a means to an end and not the end in itself.
These are some of the life lessons I learned over the last 10 years that I wish I realized sooner, or someone pointed out to me. I hope this helps someone avoid unnecessary detours, and realize their dreams sooner.