How To Successfully Start Something New
Starting something new is easy, but doing so successfully is difficult.
In a world where it’s easier than ever to write a book, start a company, upload funny videos to social media and grow a following, and otherwise do “something” that’s interesting, there’s also more competition.
Everyone has access to the Internet as you do, and can benefit from the same opportunities, resources, and distribution channels you have access to, so it can be challenging to stand out.
Not only that, but the more successful you become, the more ability you’ll have to start even more new projects, and thus you may have “paralysis by analysis” if you don’t commit to swing a new project through to completion.
As a serial entrepreneur, I struggle with this just as much as anyone. I want to learn how to minimize the risk involved in taking on a new project, so I asked some of the world’s smartest and most talented Millennials, people who have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time…
Can you share any stories about how you got your “start” and what we can learn from your successes?
Many of these “tell all” stories became part of my book 3 Billion Under 30, and here are some of my favorite quotes and contributions.
Create A Career Around Your Passions
Karen Civil, one of the most influential talent managers in hip-hop, has built her brand, strengths, and lifestyle around the hobbies she loves most.
In her words:
“I am not your stereotypical young Haitian-American woman. I grew up in a predominantly urban community in New Jersey, loving the Backstreet Boys, shopping at Hot Topic (yes, I was into the grunge rock look) and Hollister Co. I went through many different transitions and phases in my life, all the while feeling comfortable and being myself, just like I am today.
Often, we place ourselves in boxes and allow others to dictate how we should live, think, and work. However, I’ve always approached life like, “You know what? I’m going to make the first move.” Instead of letting fear of failure rule my life, I decided to live outside my comfort zone and develop an unconventional career out of my hobbies. When I first started crafting my businesses, I didn’t have all the answers as to how I’d acquire wealth through my passions for music and digital media, but I respected the process of figuring it out along the way.
Because of my persistence and eagerness to learn, in the last decade, I’ve interned at HOT 97 and worked with various hip-hop artists, including Lil Wayne, Pusha T, YG, Jeezy, and Nipsey Hussle, among others. I created my first digital entertainment news platform, where I spent time building the Karen Civil brand. Throughout, I cultivated an array of skills by learning new things from those whom I admire and reading everything from XXL to Fast Company. I also hold a master’s degree from “Google University,” because the internet is brimming with knowledge waiting to be soaked up. I’m not a graduate of an Ivy League school nor do I have the precise educational background for the job as it’s traditionally defined, yet when Lil Wayne offered me my first major opportunity by hiring my digital marketing company, I showed up ready with ideas, relationships, and culture.”
Karen’s insights are fascinating, and my questions to YOU now would be:
- What are you passionate about?
- How can you create an interesting lifestyle or career about those interests?
Be True To Your Most Authentic Self
Coco and Breezy, co-founders of a designer eyewear company, DJs, and social media influencers, find strength in their own intuition as opposed to searching outside themselves for the answers.
As they described to me:
“We graduated our Minnesota high school early and with our future already laid out for us. After all, society tells us that going to college right after graduating high school is the thing you’re supposed to do, so it just seemed like an obvious next step. We enrolled at a school in Chicago, Illinois to study fashion marketing and merchandising.
With school on the horizon, we felt the urge to do something huge before starting our next chapter. And that was a trip to New York. We didn’t understand exactly how much that trip would change our lives, but the second we got home, we knew we had to go back.
- During their first trip to New York, and in their eventual return, Coco and Breezy brought their line of designer sunglasses with them and served as “walking advertisements” for their brand.
- When people learned of their story, they literally bought the sunglasses Coco and Breezy were each wearing, and not long after that, celebrities began sporting their sunglasses. In a matter of months, and in the few years following, Coco and Breezy have been supported by a celebrity clientele including style icons like Rihanna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Kelly Osbourne, Ciara, Serena Williams, etc.
“Doubt will always hold back your endeavors from reaching their full potential. During that first trip to New York, before all of this really took off, we couldn’t know how big it would be. But we were always ambitious and optimistic. We never doubted what we could do. The power of that belief in what we were capable of achieving propelled us to where we are now, and it will continue to propel us in the future.”
- How different would their lives have been if they didn’t pursue their passions and stick to what made them special?
Share Your Ideas With Others
Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, is famous for advocating the importance of open-source software and, more importantly, the notion that we should share our ideas with others in order to foster collaboration and innovation.
As he sums it up:
“Internet connects us all. We have the ability to communicate like never before. We can use the collective intelligence, the collective passion, the collective talents of humanity — wherever it might be in any country in the world — to create things that can be so much better than what we could make if we only worked with people we knew or that happened to live in the same city as us.
It is because of this that open-source is the most powerful idea I’ve been exposed to in my lifetime. I’ve committed myself personally and all the businesses I have an influence on to use as much open-source and produce as much open-source software and ideas as possible. When you default to trust and openness, you can create a strong brand and service that people will want to give to. Not only that but even if people decide to rip us off (which is done every day with proprietary software and systems), they’ll share their improvements, and both of us will improve and have an opportunity in the marketplace to be successful.
We benefit from being able to access talent from around the world, and not only does this allow WordPress to improve over time, but even at my company Automattic, we are able to hire people from around the world and allow them to work remotely as long as they have a good Wi-Fi connection and work well with others…Now we employ over five hundred highly talented and diverse people and generate nine figures of revenue per year, with retention rates beyond what I’ve heard of for any other tech company. This is how open-source works.
The uniqueness of our human experience when combined with others, which is what open-source essentially does over and over again, will create the greatest products of our generation. The things that will survive over decades, and not just years, will be created in this fashion because they’re not just products. They are movements.
I don’t know what WordPress will look like twenty or thirty years from now, but I know that whatever the product looks like will have been shaped by people all over the world united by a common philosophy based on open-source ideal. They will be passionate about creating something bigger than themselves, not just for a paycheck but for an impact.”
- How can you benefit from collaborating with others?
- In what ways can you “open-source” your work?
Build A Tribe That Can Support You
Jeff Rosenthal, co-founder of Summit, an organization best known for hosting innovative gatherings that unite the leaders of today and tomorrow, and is the co-director of the Summit Action Investment Fund (which has invested in the likes of Uber, Warby Parker, Change.org).
In 3 Billion Under 30, Jeff writes about “How And Why To Curate Community”. He also shares the story about how he started Summit.
“We started Summit almost nine years ago because we wanted to build a peer group of entrepreneurs building interesting projects. We began cold-calling, messaging, and reaching out to other young entrepreneurs who we had read or heard about.
We ended up with nineteen people for our first gathering, a ski trip in Park City, Utah. On that trip, there were folks like Blake Mycoskie from TOMS Shoes, Dustin Moskovitz, who cofounded Facebook, David de Rothschild the explorer, Scott Harrison from charity: water, Garrett Camp before he cofounded Uber, and others who formed this incredible collection of people, all of whom we met in the first six months of being in business.
Since we had contacted all these people through personal reach out, all of them began to invite their friends to our second event, and within nine months of operation, we were creating events on behalf of the Obama administration for the White House, helping them curate the nation’s top entrepreneurial leaders.”
- What types of people do you need to surround yourself with in order to increase your chances of success?
- How can you create a tribe of people who can benefit from meeting each other, as opposed to building your own network, but not introducing your new friends to one another in the process?
- What other value can you provide to people you reach out to so that they will want to help you in return?
If You Can’t See Opportunity, Start Looking for It
Mohamed Zeyara is a YouTuber with millions of social media followers, and is also a doctor and humanitarian. He is mostly known for his inspiring stories from the Gaza Strip, where he grew up, and works to uplift society through helping others in as many ways as possible.
When he returned to Toronto, Canada, where he started life before moving to the Gaza Strip, and to where he returned as a young adult, he “stopped existing only in survival mode and started living” since he didn’t have to worry about war as he did in Gaza.
As for his motivation to raise millions for charity, grow a loyal online fan base, and become a doctor after moving back to Canada, Mohamed shares:
“Motivation did not come from just the hardship or the experience of Gaza. Motivation kicked in when I realized the opportunity I had when I came to Toronto. You see, in Gaza, the most fun we were able to have was by going to the beach. Even when we went to the beach, there were times when we would run away from military boats with their machine guns pointing at us. Half the universities in Gaza are destroyed. Most of the population of 1.8 million people is depressed, suffers from PTSD, or both. There was nothing to do in Gaza but survive. Even if one had the opportunity to “go to college,” what was next? Stay in Gaza and dodge bullets for a living?
When I landed in Toronto, I stopped existing only in survival mode and started living. I began appreciating the small aspects of life. Most of the youth today do not realize the special privilege of simply attending a school and receiving an education. Our youth, especially those in developed countries, have so many opportunities and resources to help their fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering daily, like I did many times while growing up. If you cannot see any opportunity in front of you, then go and find it!
I not only learned how to find opportunities, I also learned why I went through all my struggles while growing up. If I had not experienced my hard life in Gaza, then who knows where I would have been today. Maybe God put me through all of that just to push me to make a difference and provide water for the hundreds of thousands of locals in Mali, that thankfully live better lives today. If that was the case, even if making a single local person happy would cost me going through my difficult experiences all over again, I would be more than happy to do so.”
- What problems do you see in your community that you work to solve?
- How will others benefit from you starting something new?
- Can you make a positive impact?
What if you could achieve exponential success and have world-changing impact in record time?
I’ve created a cheat sheet for helping you build a successful business fast, skyrocket your social media following, or otherwise (truly) change the world.