The Best Startup Advice You’ll Ever Receive
Over the past several months, we’ve noticed a theme among the questions people ask of our Product Hunt LIVE guests—some of the most inspiring and accomplished entrepreneurs, investors, creatives, and entertainers around. Many want to know: What advice would you give your former self? And what is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
We decided to compile some of the answers. It’s interesting to see what themes emerged, but also how unique each person’s “best advice” was. Read on for career and life advice gems from some of the most successful people around.
Brit Morin: Start something you’re genuinely passionate about.
I think the most important thing is to make sure the business you want to start is something you are *personally* passionate about, not just a big business idea. You have to fight and grind every single day, and you’ll be less likely to give up during the hard times if it’s something you deeply care about. I tell people all the time that if Brit + Co died tomorrow, I’d still be doing many of the same things. This is a business I can see myself running for the rest of my life. — Brit Morin, Founder & CEO of Brit + Co.
Doug Menuez: Align your passion with how you make a living.
Align your passion with how you make a living. In the end it’s all about what you are willing to do to accomplish your dreams, to use your potential. Life is too short to not stop and figure out what you care about and go do that. That’s also the secret to happiness :). But it’s really hard of course and can take years to get there, if ever. — Doug Menuez, Documentary photographer/Filmmaker
Ben Casnocha: What you decide to do with your life will change over time
When it comes to the question “What should I do with my life?,” you often hear three different common pieces of advice. Some say, “Play to your strengths.” In other words, figure out what you’re good at, and go do that. Some say, “Follow your passion.” In other words, figure out what you like to do, and build a life around that. And then others say, “Figure out what the market needs and go do that.” This is the “tiger mom” approach (i.e. There’s a nursing shortage in California? Go become a nurse.).
What’s problematic is that each of these common pieces of advice, when taken on their own, is insufficient. What if your passion is playing the violin or something else that’s awfully hard to monetize? Or what if you’re not passionate about what you’re good at? And if you just pursue a career based on what the market needs, you may not be able to do it for very long because you may not enjoy it.
This is why in The Start-up of You, we talk about developing a competitive advantage by intersecting all three considerations: your assets (strengths), aspirations (values, passions, etc), and the market realities. Fit those three puzzle pieces together to arrive at a smart “Plan A” for your career. How can you leverage your strengths to achieve some of your aspirations while navigating the realities around you? You’ll necessarily have to trade off on some things along the way. For example, I love writing and am decent at it, but it’s so hard to monetize writing ability on its own; so I integrated that skill/strength into an arena where the market realities are more favorable (business).
Finally, the answers to any of these questions will change. Your assets change. Your aspirations change. The market changes. You always have to iterate on your plans to account for these changes. There’s no one right, permanent answer to the question. — Ben Casnocha, Co-author of The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age
Molly Graham: Listen to what your gut says. Trust it.
Wait for the moment when your gut or your heart makes itself VERY clear about hard decisions. The other thing…you should ALWAYS follow wonderful people that you want to learn from more than almost anything else in your career. I have been so lucky to get to learn from many, many amazing people. — Molly Graham, COO, Quip
James Altucher: Think about what you were interested in as a kid.
There’s never that “one thing” you are supposed to be doing. Don’t forget—the average multi-millionaire (and this is from tax data) has seven different sources of income, at least. But one start is to think about all of the things you were interested in from the ages of 6–18. How does that translate into the modern day today? If you loved writing, maybe self-publish a book. If you loved stocks, think about finance. If you loved computers, think about coding—and so on. I find our passions at the age of 10 tend to age gracefully with us and grow with the times, but we often forget them in law school, says. — James Altucher, Entrepreneur, Podcaster, and Bestselling Author.
Daniel Pink: Advice for college students (and all of us)
- Try all kinds of new stuff. Don’t get locked into thinking you have to do certain things. Take courses in subjects you’ve never heard of. Join groups that push you out of your comfort zone.
- The secret to college is relationships. Seriously. Curriculum and the formal stuff are useful only as mechanisms for forging connections to others. So chat up people at the dining hall. Go to your professors office hours. — Daniel Pink, Author of Drive, A Whole New Mind, and To Sell is Human
Kimmy Scotti: Don’t worry so much!
I think I would have told myself ten years ago to just worry less. I was so focused on my work/company/etc. that I didn’t stop to look around and realize how fun it all was in the process. Now I am more present—at the end of a busy day, even when it’s a really, really hard one, I’m super grateful for the work I get to do. — Kimmy Scotti, General Partner at Formation 8
Andrew Chen: Find your superpower
Learn to be T-shaped; be good at a bunch of stuff, but then have a clear superpower where you’re world class. To be world class at something, you’ll have to work on a single thing night and day for years. Spend time writing and reflecting—more than reading, and more than reading tweets. It’s good to blend your work and your hobbies; that says you enjoy your work enough to do it all the time. Don’t sell your time for a living. — Andrew Chen, Supply Growth, Uber
Ken Norton: Write your resume 10 years from now
Jonathan Rosenberg, former SVP of Product at Google, used to ask all the product managers on his team to write their resumes in 10 years. Where do you want to be? I was skeptical until I did it. I realized pretty quickly that my resume in 10 years didn’t say “CEO.” I didn’t want to be a CEO. But I hadn’t explicitly stated that, and in many ways the PM career path defaults to the CEO career path. Knowing I wanted something different helped me be more deliberate about my career decisions and communicating my goals to others. — Ken Norton, Partner, Google Ventures
Kathryn Minshew: “No” is often just the starting point
The best piece of advice I ever received was that “no” is often just the starting point, and most careers worth having involve a fair amount of determination, grit, and just general “try try again”-ing. That’s been true ten times over at The Muse, and I’m so glad I learned it early! — Kathryn Minshew, Founder & CEO, The Muse
Jeff Atwood: Whatever you want to do, start yesterday
Whatever you want to do, start yesterday. Start earlier. Start NOW. The sooner you start, the sooner you can reap the benefits or figure out that it isn’t going to work. And you won’t need to wonder “what if” because you did it already. There is nothing more painful than the “what ifs” you carry around inside your head. So act on them! Now! DO IT! JUST DO IT! — Jeff Atwood, Co-founder of StackExchange and Discourse
For more advice from some of the world’s best leaders, join a future live chat and ask a question in those that are upcoming. You can find the full schedule here: