4 Ways That Entrepreneurship Is Like Hitting a Major League Fastball

4 Ways That Entrepreneurship Is Like Hitting a Major League Fastball

Entrepreneurship Sports

Major league baseball and entrepreneurship.  Two major building blocks of American culture and two things you don’t usually think of as being comparable.  After working  with many first or second time startup founders, I’ve begun to compare their success to hitting a baseball in the major leagues.

In the time it takes a human to blink, .4 seconds, a 95 MPH fastball will travel 60 feet, 6 inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.  The batter has to determine the rotation of the ball and velocity in the first 12 feet.  From 12 to 30 feet, .14 seconds, the batter must decide if the pitch is hittable.  This leaves him approximately .2 seconds, near the limit of human reaction time, to swing the bat.  A variance of a fraction of a second or a fraction of an inch can be the difference between a hit and a called strike, foul ball or grounding out.  In addition, an errant pitch can cause serious injury if it hits the batter.

Many sports pundits have stated that hitting major league pitching (90 + mph fast balls) is possibly the most difficult feat in all of sports.  I can attest to that.  In high school and in college I stepped into the batter’s box against pitchers who eventually had long pro careers.  Their fastballs were clocked at 87-90 mph at the time.  The ball was coming so fast that I had to guess at what pitch was coming so I could start my swing soon enough to even have a chance of hitting the ball.  I didn’t guess right very often.  So what does this have to do with entrepreneurship?

  1. Major league batters expect a hit every time they go to the plate – Every young entrepreneur aspires to hit it out of the park their first time at bat. Like baseball players, it takes that kind of bold, confident mindset to even have a chance of success.  That belief, despite the odds, is what gives both major league batters and entrepreneurs the courage and confidence to be successful.  One can have this belief when they have spent many hours practicing their craft and developing their skills.  Successful knowledge acquisition and skill development can give you great confidence in being successful, even against seemingly insurmountable odds.
  1. Even when a batter fails, he learns something – Good batters learn something about the pitcher, even when they strike out, that increases their odds of success the next time up to bat. Entrepreneurs must do the same.  Even in defeat, young entrepreneurs should learn more about product development, customer acquisition, fund raising, team building, and much more, in preparation for their next venture.  Every failure, big and small, is an opportunity to learn.  If you are going to fail, make it count for something.
  1. A baseball game lasts nine long innings – Major league games play out incrementally, with many twists, turns, strategy alterations and momentum changes. Sounds a lot like the saga of a startup company.  Homeruns are great but most of the time games are won with of singles, doubles and clutch plays.  Batters usually get 4-5 times at bat during a game.  Perseverance, patience, and taking advantage of opportunities are keys for success for both entrepreneurs and major league batters.  Strike out three times and then hit a game winning homerun and you’re a hero.
  1. The odds of success aren’t good – In the pros, a batting average over .300 in a long career can land you in the Hall of Fame. Ty Cobb, pictured with this blog and arguably the greatest hitter ever, had a lifetime batting average of .366 over a 24-year career.  What if you failed 7 out of every 10 times you tried something?  In baseball, only the best hitters in the game get a hit 3 out of 10 times at bat.   In addition, if you hit the ball only 1 out of 4 times at bat, play great defense, make clutch plays, and have a long career, you can still make the Hall of Fame.  Entrepreneurship is similar.   You will lose far more than you win.  What if your first three or four startup attempts aren’t successful?  As we used to say when we were behind in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs, “it only takes one”.

Would you consider yourself financially successful if you started 10 businesses over a 40-year period, failed at 3 of them but didn’t lose too much money, had mediocre lifestyle businesses with 4 of them, and liquidity events with the other 3 that yielded a net income of $7-10M?  I would.  In addition, what if that journey provided you the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people, travel the world, help others, and bring your family and friends along for the ride?  Now that’s a successful life.

THE TAKEAWAY – Young Entrepreneurs – Expect to hit a homerun your first time at bat as a startup founder, but don’t be too disappointed when it doesn’t happen.  Remember, businesses fail, but people only fail when they quit.  Learn from the failure, nurture your contacts and mentors, continue to improve your technical and soft skills, and keep looking for that next GREAT IDEA.  Entrepreneurship is a journey, not an event.  Keep swinging.

3 Education Strategies for Young Entrepreneurs

3 Education Strategies for Young Entrepreneurs

Education

When our entrepreneurial son Joshua was 15 years old we were talking about engineering school.  When he was 18 we all agreed that going to college was not the best route for him despite relatively high ACT scores, a high grade point, being the Vice President of his class at Catholic High in Little Rock, AR, and having multiple college scholarship offers.  If you’d have told me when he was 15 that he wouldn’t go to college right out of high school, I’d have said you were crazy.  However, having researched college programs around the country and having some knowledge of the inner workings of our education system for high school and college, I believe there are some strategies that young entrepreneurs should consider.

  1. Set your priorities – When Joshua was in high school, we made business pursuits a priority equal to his formal education. His grades suffered a bit but we were willing to accept that for him to pursue his entrepreneurial goals.  Follow the traditional path of high school and college, but recognize that most entrepreneurial knowledge and skills development happens outside a classroom.  Striking the right balance is challenging but it can be done.  Be prepared for most people around you, especially educators and parents who believe in the traditional path for their kids, to not understand your choices.  Traditional classrooms may be a good place to convey knowledge, but knowledge without application is limited to talking about concepts not putting them into action.
  1. Go to college but focus on building your product/company – The college part of this balancing act is to attend part-time, to select an area of study that will be less challenging in which to get a degree, or to accept mediocre grades that will still permit achieving a degree. The part-time approach allows you to make progress toward a degree but at a slower pace.  The strategies of majoring in a less challenging field of study or accepting lower grades just to get a college degree is a recognition that the real skills and knowledge acquired outside the classroom are of equal or greater value as a college degree.  This is a bit of a hedging strategy in which one gains real world entrepreneurial experience while also meeting the requirement by most employers that requires a college degree.  Use online sources to maximize your schedule flexibility.
  1. Delay college – Focus 100% on building a product and growing a company. The is the reverse of the traditional path whereby getting real world experience comes prior to formal education.  Many colleges now offer a gap year to allow students who have been accepted to attend to delay their entry into college.  While I like this concept, the timeline is controlled by the university.  Building a company doesn’t follow a schedule.  If college is your first priority, but you want to get a little real world experience before you go, work in someone else’s startup.  If you are serious about your own startup, give yourself a time constraint for achieving a certain level of success.  If those milestones are not met, then consider your other options.  You can always go to college and you will likely be a more mature, focused student.

Joshua has chosen strategy #3.  He’s been out of high school for two years and has not taken any college classes.  The company made no progress for nine months due to involvement in a trademark legal dispute. Given that challenge, Joshua could have started college or taken classes.  Instead, he used that time to design hardware complimentary to the company software and to investigate other market opportunities.  If his entrepreneurial pursuits are successful, I’m not sure he will ever pursue a college degree.  I do know this, if and when he does pursue more formal education, he will do it on his own terms.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Make formal education work for you.  If you are serious about entrepreneurship, develop a strategy, set priorities and timelines, maximize your schedule flexibility with online courses, and make it work.  If you pursue a degree, it may take you longer than your classmates from high school.  So what!!  Don’t let that make you feel like you are behind.  Your real world experience will win out in the the end.  Besides, if any of them eventually start a business they will likely be in their late 30’s.  You may have built several successful companies by then.

3 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Need to Test Their Limits

3 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Need to Test Their Limits

Inspiration Parenting Startup Grind

This past Father’s Day I received a card from our entrepreneur son, Joshua, with a hand written note inside.  It was a very nice, heart felt note and in part of it he thanked me for challenging him.  I’ve told him on more than one occasion that if he could survive me, he’d be OK.  When he was younger, he didn’t appreciate what that meant as much as he does now.  When he was 17 the ARK Challenge business accelerator tested his limits . . . and he stood up to the challenge.  Fourteen hour days, a high level of competition, countless deadlines, multiple failures, and constant learning.  Why is it important that entrepreneurs routinely test their limits?

  1. We must routinely test our mental toughness, our physical endurance and our ability to perform under pressure. – We will be tested to our limits many times in our quest for success.  We will have to deal with the stress of running out of money, product issues with a deadline looming, firing people (sometimes even our co-founders), and our loved ones needing our attention when we cannot give it.  Will better planning, strong leadership, and hiring the right people help us avoid stress and tough decisions?  Yes, but we have no control over many factors that can cause our company to spin wildly out of control and create challenges.  It’s all about being prepared to handle whatever comes our way.
  2. We should test our limits in controlled environments –  I test my mental toughness and physical endurance five times per week in the gym.  I try to embrace the stress of deadlines and finalizing deals.  I also have quiet time and practice my faith as a form of meditation.  I do it because I need to know that I have the mental toughness, physical endurance, and confidence to deal with any challenge.  As entrepreneurs we also must be self-aware and assess our own performance in pressure packed, challenging situations.
  3. Gather data on our own performance – While we may not be able to do it in the heat of the moment, we need to assess what happened after the fact and ask ourselves and others how we performed.  We have to be brutally honest in these assessments to identify what we did well and where we need work.  Once identified, we can pinpoint strategies for improvement and to make us better prepared.  Knowing we are prepared to handle whatever comes will give us the confidence to embrace stress and challenges.

THE TAKE AWAY:  The Boy and Girl Scouts got it right with their moto of BE PREPARED.  It takes all we have to be successful entrepreneurs.  With the odds of success already stacked against us, we must do everything we can, that is moral and legal, to gain an advantage.  Most things we can do are pretty basic and just as important in our daily routine as our most important meetings or product deadlines.  Even if you don’t like doing it, push yourself to be organized, plan ahead, exercise, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, practice quiet meditation, and be thankful for your many gifts and opportunities every day.  A positive attitude and confidence may be our best tools for dealing with adversity.

3 Keys to Independence for Young Entrepreneurs

3 Keys to Independence for Young Entrepreneurs

Failure Independence

As we celebrate our country’s independence, I can’t help but consider the challenges faced by independent, young entrepreneurs.  I have quipped that “we raise our kids to be independent and then we don’t like it when they make their own decisions”.  This is never more true than with energetic, driven young entrepreneurs.

Gwen, my spouse of 33 years, and I raised our teen tech CEO, Joshua, to be independent.  Our job was to prepare him for life in a world that can be very challenging if you don’t know how to assess situations, make decisions and do things on your own.  I believe we succeeded.  Sometimes I think we may have done too good a job.

Some of the pitfalls of being independent and being a young entrepreneur with a natural sense of invincibility are as follows:

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know – This can give young entrepreneurs tremendous courage since they typically are totally oblivious to the possibility of failure. It can also put founders in some pretty serious situations with limited options, all of which are bad.  Be honest about what you know, and don’t know, and seek help to fill the gaps.  Surrounding themselves with people smarter than they are is a common characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.
  2. Independence doesn’t mean never depending on anyone else or sharing with others – This can really have some downside since entrepreneurs seldom know everything necessary and must depend on others to succeed. Also, entrepreneurship is a challenge both mentally and physically.  Entrepreneurs need others that they can trust will listen to what is going on with them and provide some unbiased insight and unconditional support.
  3. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – In fact, it is a sign of intelligence and courage when we have done all we can do to figure it out on their own and then turn to others to help us complete the mission.  It is a good thing when our sense of mission is more important that being independent or being right.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Like countries, young entrepreneurs must teach themselves how to do many things and be responsible and accountable for their actions.  However, this does not mean that one should go it alone.  Just the opposite is true. With countries, alliances and friendships matter.  Young entrepreneurs need others around them to fill their gaps in knowledge and skill, guide them, mentor them, and be a sounding board and willing listener for their ideas.

4 Things We Don’t See Prior to Success

4 Things We Don’t See Prior to Success

Preparation skills Startup Grind

When I see successful athletes, entertainers, artists or entrepreneurs I often think how easy they make it look to be successful.  They are so good at what they do that it can make the rest of us think that with just a little effort we too can make a one handed catch in the end zone, hit a 400-foot homerun or a three point shot to win the game, or achieve fame and wealth as an entrepreneur.  However, what we don’t see that led up to this level of achievement is important to understanding how they can do what they do.

  1. It starts with natural gifts – Early in their lives most of these high achievers figured out special gifts and talents they were born with. While it was not always obvious what those gifts were, they somehow figured out that they were faster or stronger than most of the other kids in the neighborhood, they could pick out tunes on a piano by ear, or that engineering projects or seeing things through an entrepreneurial lens came easy for them.
  1. Passion – Being naturally good at something is great, but if you don’t have the passion to make it “the thing you must do”, you aren’t likely to become world class at it. Are you willing to use almost all your free time to pursue it?  Would you do it all day if someone didn’t stop you?  Can you do it over and over and never tire of it?  Do you feel incomplete if you don’t do it?  That is exactly how many successful people feel about what they do.
  1. Perseverance – I’ve written about Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours Rule several times in this blog and I believe it is a key element in great success. The concept states that it takes a person 10,000 hours to master a set of skills.  That’s approximately 20 hours per week, 52 weeks per year for 10 years.  There are plenty of examples of how this played out with folks like Bill Gates, a host of professional athletes and others.  The point is that natural gifts and passion are great, but the perseverance required to push yourself to get better, to work on a project, finish a painting, or expose your body to intense physical training even when you don’t really want to or don’t think you can, is absolutely necessary to success.  Our entrepreneurial son Joshua (Battle Map) likes this quote from Lionel Messi, a world class soccer player, “I start early, and I stay late, day after day, year after year, it took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success”.  Natural gifts and passion are inherent, but perseverance can be taught and is driven by heart.
  1. Support – I don’t know of any truly successful athlete, artist or entrepreneur who didn’t have great support from some source. Parents, coaches, teachers, and mentors all play a role in the lives of successful people.  Sometimes it’s a network of support and sometimes it’s just one person who has a profound influence.  This support must be there because there will be many obstacles along the path to success.  Without strong support, any of these obstacles, including injury, death of a loved one or friend, poverty, self-doubt, drugs or alcohol, can stop all progress toward the ultimate goal.

Young entrepreneurs, if you can combine these elements, people may one day say about you, “she’s an overnight success”, “man, he’s got it easy”, and “I wish I had her life”.  What most people will never understand, because you make it look so easy, is what it takes to get there.

THE TAKEAWAY – Finding your gifts and passion is a bit of a scavenger hunt.  You have to try many things and be open to the clues that indicate your gifts and passion. Once discovered, we must identify those who can support us and then do whatever it takes to get to better each day, each year until we achieve success.

Entrepreneurial Lessons from a Non-Entrepreneurial Father

Entrepreneurial Lessons from a Non-Entrepreneurial Father

Inspiration Mentorship Parenting

My father wasn’t an entrepreneur.  He was raised during the Great Depression, never attended college, worked in a foundry, sold candy, had a thirty-year career as a civil servant at a military installation, served as our small town’s first mayor and continued his mostly unpaid service in that position for sixteen of the next twenty years.  He has an elementary school, a community service award and the snack bar at a water park named after him.  How many people can say they have a bar named after them!  So what could this guy teach me about entrepreneurship?

The answer is “plenty”, although I didn’t know it at the time.  Despite never starting or running his own business, his work ethic, ability to engage and motivate people, willingness to try new things and risk failure (if you think starting a business is tough, try incorporating and running a city), team building, never ending thirst for knowledge, problem solving ability, and focus on the customer (citizens) were all entrepreneurial traits.  Dad was old school.  I don’t recall him ever actually trying to teach me any of these things.  He taught by doing and providing examples.  The rest was up to me.  We have a fancy name for this now – experiential, project based learning.  What my dad would have called “gettin’ stuff done”.

In addition to these traits, my dad was married to my mom for forty-five years and raised us three kids with her.  He never left the house without giving her a kiss and I can’t recall him ever missing an event, mostly sports related, that I was involved in.  He treated people that worked for him with respect.  He didn’t take himself too seriously and was known to dress in a bathing suit or a dress with makeup and wig (womanless beauty pageant) for a school or church charity event.  So let’s add ability to pick a great co-founder, loyalty, work-life balance, respect for others, community service, and a sense of humor to the list of entrepreneurial traits.

My dad helped found a city, but not a startup.  He scaled some fish, but never a company.  He made plenty of deals, but not with investors.  He taught me most everything I needed to know to run a startup and help others do so successfully, without ever doing it himself.  I only hope that I can have a similar impact on Joshua, our young entrepreneur. It is not lost on me that my dad’s legacy lives on in me and hopefully in our kids.  What a blessing it was to have my dad in my life.  He was my role model and mentor and I think of him every day, and especially on Father’s Day.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY DAD!!  Love you.

THE TAKEAWAY:  For all you young entrepreneurs who, like me, had a father in your life that has helped you develop your skills and knowledge, even if indirectly, I urge you to make sure they know what a positive impact they’ve had on you and how thankful you are for them.  For those of you who were blessed with strong mothers who served as both mother and father, do something very special for her on Father’s Day as well.  These moms deserve two holidays!

3 Reasons Why Silence is Key to Good Communication

3 Reasons Why Silence is Key to Good Communication

Silence

My wife is an elementary school teacher.  One of her duties is to monitor the kids while they are in the cafeteria having their lunch.  Toward the end of the lunch period, the students are asked to stop talking and prepare to leave the cafeteria.  This quiet period is referred to as “silent chew”.  I chuckle every time I hear this term because it sounds like a cool name for an Asian assassin action figure.   During one of these quiet periods, a little boy continued to talk to his friend across the table.  When Gwen asked him why he continued to talk even though they had been asked not to, he replied “It’s been in there all morning and I just have to let it out”.  I think this is how many of us feel about getting our message out.  I’ve always heard that the reason we don’t remember the names of folks we’ve just been introduced to is that we are too focused on how our name is pronounced when we are introduced to them.

Silence can be a challenge for young entrepreneurs.  They want to talk about how great their new product is and also prove to everyone that that are smarter than everyone in the room about the product and how their company will achieve success.  First of all, if you are a young entrepreneur and you are usually the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room much of the time.  No matter how knowledgeable you think you are about what you are doing, you can always learn more.  The first step to learning more is gathering information.  One of the best ways to do that is listening.  Here is why silence in communication matters:

  1. If we are talking, we aren’t listening – Hearing and listening are two different things. Listening is a more complex process and requires not just receiving the sound but also analyzing, pattern matching and storing it.  It is extremely difficult to talk and listen effectively at the same time.  So if you are always talking about your product and trying to build your credibility by showing how much you know, you are not listening to comments that may be invaluable to you as an entrepreneur.
  1. Use our silence to focus on listening rather than thinking about our own message – Some of us have gotten really good at appearing to listen when we are actually just thinking about what we are going to say next.  I’ve known young entrepreneurs who had their key messages in their head and were determined to get them all out regardless of the flow of the conversation.  They were like a radio that was constantly on transmit.  We don’t learn much from one way communication.
  1. We are designed to listen more that we speak – Two ears, two eyes, one mouth. When we are listening and observing we are gathering valuable data.  If we follow the intent of how our bodies are designed, we should listen and observe far more that we speak.  Turns out our parents were right when they told us we had “two ears and one mouth for a reason”.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Silence can, in fact, be golden, as long as you are using that silence to listen and learn or find a moments peace.

3 Lessons Learned From a Young Entrepreneur’s First Pitch

3 Lessons Learned From a Young Entrepreneur’s First Pitch

Communication Pitch Preparation

When Joshua, our young entrepreneur, was 17 years old he had an opportunity to pitch his product idea to two experienced entrepreneurs who had just left a successful company to start their own development and digital marketing firm.  These guys were well known and respected in their field.  Initially, they agreed to speak with Joshua as a favor to me to help us decide whether Joshua’s app idea was viable and worth pursuing.  Joshua sent them some information on his product and business plan, and they all three eventually ended up around our kitchen table to discuss it.  They quickly realized that Joshua had done his homework.  He knew the market, the customer segments, how to implement and market the product, and he thoroughly understood the technology that would deliver the features that customers wanted.  He was prepared, and because he was, he earned their respect and got their attention with his pitch.

So what can young entrepreneurs learn from his experience?

  1. Know the product – Joshua spent hundreds of hours researching phone technology, app features, and UX/UI design before this meeting. He had the original idea when he was 15 but didn’t have the coding experience to do it himself.  As part of his pitch, he had simulated screen shots, a list of features that he knew, based on his coding and phone technology research, could be developed, and some customer data to help validate whether this was something potential customers would be interested in.
  1. Know the market – Joshua’s idea was an app that combined the features of console based first person shooter games and outdoor games like paintball and airsoft. This was a hybrid product that didn’t exactly fit in either existing market.  Instead, if successful, it could create a whole new market that combined the most popular features of games in the two existing markets.  Essentially, he had to research both markets and understand everything there was to know about crossover gamers who were active in both console and outdoor gaming.  Further, he needed to understand what it would take for gamers who played only in one market to cross over to the other.
  1. Know how to communicate your idea – Having a good idea is not enough. Lots of good ideas never see the light of day because their originators can’t create a compelling story that explains in simple terms what their product does, why it matters, and also gets customers excited about it.  Knowing your audience and hours and hours of practice are the keys to making this work.

Ultimately, the two guys Joshua pitched around our kitchen table, Joe Saumweber and Michael Paladino, the cofounders of RevUnit, liked his product idea.  They were impressed that he already knew the answers to tough questions about the product, market, and development plan.  Their confidence in Joshua’s ability to make this work grew as the conversation continued.  So much so that they eventually agreed to become cofounders in Innovis Labs and build the product with Joshua.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Despite the apparent overnight successes in startup land, there is no substitute for the hard work it takes to be successful.  Thousands of hours of research on product development, market research, pitch practice, etc . . . .  Turns out that the old saying about luck being the result of when preparation meets opportunity is actually true.  Opportunity is often serendipitous and you can’t always create it.  However, there is no excuse for not being prepared and that is completely up to us.

4 Advantages Young Entrepreneurs Have

4 Advantages Young Entrepreneurs Have

Signs of Entrepreneurship skills

I was inspired this week by an article that identified “5 Advantages Young Entrepreneurs Have Over Older Counterparts”.  Here is my take on the subject.

  1. Less Responsibility – The article points out that a young entrepreneur is less likely to have the family, children, and bills that may cause their older counterparts to think twice about starting a business. I call this “golden handcuffs”.  A marriage, kids, nice home and newer cars are all great but those things, especially the material benefits of success, can make cowards of us all.  That’s a lot to lose if things go south.  While those responsibilities are manageable when launching a startup, family and friends certainly need to be on-board, supportive and aware of the challenges ahead.  It’s one thing for me to have to eat beans and ramen noodles for weeks on end to keep expenses down, but it’s quite another to ask your family to do that.  Also, as we learned with Joshua, our entrepreneurial son, starting a company while still in high school is a bit like having two full-time jobs.  Some tough decisions have to be made about the priorities of school, business, extracurricular activities and relationships.
  1. Naivety & Risk Taking – The author states that not knowing best practices, conventional boundaries, and industry standards is freeing for young entrepreneurs. Not knowing what you don’t know can cause one to be a more creative problem solver and not be bound by conventional thinking.  However, acknowledging what you don’t know is important in decision-making and problem solving.  Naivety needs to be accompanied by an appropriate amount of risk management.  This sounds counter intuitive but failing big early in the development process may keep some young entrepreneurs from continuing to try.  Test – Learn – Repeat.
  1. More Time – The premise here is that young entrepreneurs have more time to learn and get better. I couldn’t agree more with this and I’ve written about this previously in other posts.  While starting to learn early is an advantage, being purposeful about what you are learning is critical.  Trying a bunch of things at random can be interesting, fun and educational but learning with a purpose is far more efficient.  First you have to identify the knowledge, skills and experience you need and then set out to achieve those objectives in a somewhat intentional manner.  Like most things, it takes years of constant effort to master a skill set.
  1. Willingness – I certainly agree with the author’s idea that a willingness to learn and try new things is necessary to become a successful entrepreneur. He provides an example of working for startups for little or no pay just to learn how it all worked.  Building an entrepreneurial skill set requires a combination of knowledge, applied learning and experience.  A successful entrepreneur must have an insatiable thirst for learning.  It takes hundreds of hours of research, countless meetings and interviews with advisers, temporary jobs (some of them not fun), and the drive to push through failure and learn from it.

THE TAKEAWAY –  Youthful exuberance, unconstrained creativity, boundless energy and a naive few of risk are all advantages of young entrepreneurs over their older counterparts.  However, these qualities must be coupled with just the right amount of purposefulness, thirst for knowledge, strength to fail and learn from it, and the willingness to do the hard things in order to become a successful entrepreneur.

4 Things That Baby Chics and Young Entrepreneurs Have in Common

4 Things That Baby Chics and Young Entrepreneurs Have in Common

Failure Inspiration Parenting

I’m a process oriented guy by nature. I believe that there are actually only a few basic processes in the world and that we simply use those basic processes in a multitude of applications from scientific discovery, to solving engineering challenges, to developing employees.  Unless you grew up on a farm with chickens, one of the processes that you may not know much about is the early stage of life for a baby chicken.  I find it interesting that the process of a baby chic escaping its shell is similar to the development process for  young entrepreneurs.

According to a host of forums and information sources on hatching chics (yes, there are discussion forums for such topics) chicks are fully capable of breaking out of their shells with the egg tooth on the top of their beaks… it is what they were designed for!  There is no owner’s manual or set of instructions.  They’re wired to survive.  Humans are wired for survival as well.  As if survival and growth for all humans isn’t challenging enough, the path for young entrepreneurs can be even more challenging.

What can we learn from the similarities of the first hours of life for baby chics and the early years of life for young entrepreneurs?

  1. The Process Takes Time – While it can take chics from hours to all day to hatch, it takes young entrepreneurs years to develop. The comparison is a bit like the concept of dog years.  For the novice chicken farmer these hours can seem like an eternity and can be filled with concern about the chic’s survival.  Similarly, for young entrepreneurs and their parents, gaining the skills and knowledge to be an entrepreneur takes years of persistent effort.
  1. Be Patient and Only Help When Necessary – For the chicken farmer, patience and the discipline to not help the baby chic break out of their shell unless it is absolutely necessary are key to the chic’s survival. While there are techniques for helping the chic break out of its own shell, helping the chic too much will undermine the intent of the natural process.  It is the same with young entrepreneurs.  They must be given the time and freedom to figure things out on their own.  Like the baby chics, they were born with the capacity to be independent but we have to give them the opportunity.  Like the chicken farmer, we can help soften the shell just a little so they can peck their way out.  However, if we peel away the shell for them, they will not survive long term.
  1. The Struggle is Necessary for Near Term Survival – In the hatching process, baby chics gradually build lung capacity and physical strength. Both of which are required for the chic to endure the long hours and effort it takes to peck its way out of the shell.  Young entrepreneurs also need to struggle through many small challenges early in their development.  Dealing with these struggles early on will force them to build their knowledge and skills to solve problems and give them confidence in their ability to handle diversity.
  1. The Struggle is Necessary for Long Term Survival – The ability of baby chics to survive the hatching process is a key to their long term survival. As challenging as the hatching process was for them, the challenges of survival outside the shell are far greater.  The life of an entrepreneur is similar.  Building knowledge, skill and confidence early on will prepare the young entrepreneur for the greater challenges ahead.  These challenges are not limited to business but also include relationships, physical and mental health, and living a balanced life.

THE TAKEAWAY – The saying that “nothing worth doing in life is easy” was never truer than when describing the entrepreneurial life.  It is simultaneously incredibly challenging and amazingly rewarding.  It must be earned by years of knowledge acquisition, skills development, doing and learning, and sprinkled with periodic disappointment and failure.  If it were easy, anyone could do it, and entrepreneurs aren’t just anyone.