Changing my approach to entrepreneurship

For the last 17 years, I have had some kind of company or project. I have been self-employed for as long as I remember. Entrepreneurship has given me so so much and ever since I have been pretty young I have been 100% sure it’s the way I want to go in my life.

For the last many years I have been dunking myself for nothing having reached the results I wanted with entrepreneurship. After talking negatively to myself about it for too many years it has manifested itself in my mind and I have started considering myself a failure.

The dunking myself comes from a combination of having very big financial goals, very little patience, being more focused on the end goal than the process, taking advice from the wrong people, and comparing myself to people I don’t want to be like.

The problem with that little voice in your head telling you that you are a failure is that it’s super unhealthy and completely counterproductive. If I have to be super honest this has affected my overall happiness and my mood, which is some really crap when you have kids (and of course a partner).

For many, many years I have had energy towards doing multiple projects at a time, starting new projects, stopping stuff that doesn’t get traction and trying again. I have met so many people who said I had to focus… Often even without me asking for advice I have been told that I have to learn to focus. So for a long time, I have been thinking there was something wrong with me.

It’s so funny that it’s well-known that it can take many shots to get success with entrepreneurship and that MVP is a well-known method, but most look down on starting and stopping a lot of projects.

By intuicion this is the way I liked to work, but I haven’t allowed myself to work like that. So stupid.

To redefine my approach to entreneurship I decided to make a list of all projects I have ever done:

  1. Mobildiskotek Forza
    As a 17-year old I started my own DJ company and played at over 200 parties for big corporates, weddings and so on. Perfect job when you are young, learned a ton about people, learned to sell and handle customers.
  2. YoungInc
    A magazine about entrepreneurship that you could get for free at all high schools in Denmark. 50.000 copies. Got mentioned in the biggest newspapers in Denmark, we interviewed some of the most famous entrepreneurs in Denmark.
  3. Standout Design
    Web development company. Got 200 clients, but we were not good at project management. Got sold to another company but never really earned anything on it. Company still exists today.
  4. Unido
    Small online marketing agency mainly doing SEO. Got a lot of customers fast, but choked in project management. Got hustled by a fraudster who ended up with taking all the clients.
  5. BEDRE
    I self-published a self-help book (cringe!!). Sold over 1000, one company bought 100 copies for their employees and somehow I got on national TV twice to talk about it (hhahaha)
  6. Ateo
    Failed startup created with a famous Danish entrepreneur. Platform for booking meeting rooms. Learned you shouldn’t meet your idols.
  7. Workaway / Refuga
    Workations and adventures for entrepreneurs. Traveled with +500 entrepreneurs of 48 different nationalities. Got mentioned in Forbes, CNN, Bloomberg and many other. Traveled to North Korea, climbed Kilimanjaro and Elbrus and spent some insanely good time with awesome people. Met my best friends here.
  8. Radimet
    Denmarks biggest retailer of radon detectors and build a super super finetuned machine. Small company and no real growth, but a really nice little side-business. Got sold.
  9. Nikolaj.consulting
    Decided to freelance to earn money to build the next thing. With no marketing I got to almost $20.000/month profit and saved up a ton of money. It completely turned around my financial life. I had set myself a financial goal I had to reach and that point I wanted to stop freelancing. I’m super proud that I did exactly that (it’s very easy to continue freelancing when the money are good, but I like starting projects not freelancing)
  10. Interiorbeat
    This is what I’m doing now. Doing a platform where we collect furniture from a lot of retailers and become really good at deep categorization to give users the absolutely best overview in a very specific category. We are doing some really interesting things, but it’s a very big project that takes time.

When I made the list for the first time it changed my perspective right away. My dream has always been to have an interesting life and these 10 projects has given me just that. A lot of insanely unique, interesting experiences and the best relationships I could wish for. Besides that it has given me the skill to always survive as self-employed.

How the f*** can I have spent so many years dunking myself for bad results? I can be proud of these things!!

While I have been doing these things I have lived abroad for almost 6 years, traveled as a digital nomad, been completely location independent for 8 years, climbed big mountains, done 3 ironmans, 12 marathons, got two kids and I have enough money saved to take the next 5 years off.

I feel so stupid for considering this a failure, because I felt bad about not reaching a goal that I haven’t even defined. My projects has given me a dream life and unique experiences but because I didn’t get a LinkedIn-big-revenue-100-employees company I thought it was a failure

SO FUCKING STUPID.

Something else I realized when I did the list is that I have only taken 10 shots! That’s nothing. How can I even expect a big success with just 10 shots at it?

With my compounded experiences and learnings there is a big potential for doing more projects, side projects, trying stuff out. If 10 projects has given me all these things, what would it look like if I did 50 projects? What if I became even better and faster at trying projects and stopping stuff that didn’t work?

I know I thrive when having more than one project at a time. I know it takes a lot of shots to get a big success. So from now I’m going to change my perspective. I’m going to be proud of my experiences and I want to do more projects. And I want to listen less to people who I don’t want to be like.

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This post is very inspired by @dvassallo, @levelsio and all the amazing bootstrappers and people doing open startups on Twitter.

Originally published at Nikolaj Astrup.