How Entrepreneurs get Started

2017 January, 29

The Importance of Focus, Decisions, and 'Grit'.

This is a summary of the original talk. You can view the original video here.

Entrepreneurship can be exciting, exhilarating, scary, terrifying, fun, and stressful, often all at once.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak an event in Barcelona, which was centered around Entrepreneurship. Since so much advice for entrepreneurs is about how to grow a business or be successful, I thought it would be important to take a step back and explain how to take the first step, and get started as an entrepreneur.

The three steps I have found that are necessary to start any Entrepreneurial venture are Focus, Decisions, and 'Grit'.

Because of my ADHD, I often struggled with staying on task as a child. As a result, I ended up starting many things, but finishing few.

Throughout high school and college, I have worked on staying focused, and have made a lot of progress. This has mainly been by writing monthly and weekly goals, then developing daily to-do lists that bring me closer to those goals. Then I make certain that I am spending time on things that I value and enjoy. But I have to choose what goals and tasks to write down and focus on, which brings me to the second skill.

The ability to make decisions is incredibly important. We live in a world where we can be anything, if we really wanted to. We could do anything if we truly spent enough time practicing and training, and yet we can't do everything, we simply lack enough time. If you try to do many things you will divide your attention such that nothing will get done.

And so one must choose. Out of everything you want to do or be, what one thing do you most want to be right now. Now go do that. Fortunately, we don't have to make the decision of what we want to do versus not do. We can cheat. You can instead choose what you want to do now, and what you want to do later.

Over time, you can reinvent yourself again and again, and over the course of your long life you can have been many different things to different people. Just not all at once. I was in a situation about a year ago where I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I had too many options. So I sat down, wrote out everything I wanted and what the cost and benefit of each choice was, and picked one. Was it the best choice, maybe not, but now, a year later, I have a prototype for a Secure Online Voting system, something that would never have happened without deciding to start and focus.

After you decide, however, you still need to follow through. You still need to put in time and energy to achieve your goals, and this takes grit. Now what is grit? The best definition I've been able to find is a mix of motivation and discipline.

Motivation is the inspiration and burst of energy that is the cause behind so many new gym memberships in January. However motivation comes in bursts, it fades, which is why many of the new gym goers are laying on the couch eating chocolates in time for February. To fill in the gaps between bursts of motivation, we need discipline.

I used to suck at discipline. I started Tae-Kwon-Do when I was 5, and about a year and a half later, at Green Belt, my instructor stood me up in front of the class and said:"I cannot count the number of times I told this kid, as a white belt, to sit still. Pay attention, focus, sit still. In the past month, however, I have done that exactly zero times"

I've had to keep working on my discipline since, but my point is that discipline is a skill that, with external and internal reminders, can be built. One must simply remain conscious of their actions, and remind themselves to stay on task.

So there you have it. If you are planning on starting an Entrepreneurial Venture, or just looking at where you want to go next in life, remember these three skills. Focus on your goals, Decide on a single path to walk, and build your Grit, constantly motivating yourself and remaining disciplined.