From time to time, students and aspiring entrepreneurs ask me for very general advice. With the caveat that I'm relatively early in my own career, and still trying to figure things out myself, here are some of the things I wish I understood when I was starting out.
Time is your only finite resource and you never know exactly how much of it you have. The only thing you can know for sure is that you have less time remaining today than you did yesterday. Plan accordingly and invest your time in wealth creation.
There are 5 types of wealth:
1. Financial (money)
2. Social (relationships)
3. Physical (health)
4. Mental (health)
5. Time (freedom)
Status is often confused with wealth. This is a trap. Don't waste time and money chasing status. Instead, create wealth by investing in income producing assets with compounding returns.
Take the time to understand compound interest and exponential growth. The earlier you understand these concepts, the more opportunity you have to benefit from applying them.
Read a lot. Reading is the most efficient means of knowledge transfer we currently have available. In a few hours you can absorb lessons and insights that may have taken the author decades to acquire.
Learn to write well. This is a fundamental skill that directly impacts your ability to sell, to manage distributed teams, and to share ideas. Good writers can convey an enormous amount of information with very few words. Just ask Hemingway
Ask why often, and listen to the answers. Don't be afraid to look stupid. The only way to insure you look stupid is by pretending to know something when you don't. Recognizing what you don't know, and having the courage to admit it, puts you in a position to learn. Beware the Dunning- Kruger
Don't be stupid. As legendary investor Charlie Munger points out "It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent. There must be some wisdom in the folk saying: 'It's the strong swimmers who drown.'"
Be patient. As Blaise Pascal, the 17th century mathematician, wrote: "All of humanities problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."
Play iterated games. All returns in life whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.
Don't go all-in (a lot of people will tell you the opposite). This could be better phrased as "don't bet the farm." When playing iterated games, the longer you play, the more likely you are to achieve a positive outcome. If you bet it all and lose, you don't get to play again.
Play long term games with long term people. Don't partner with cynics and pessimists. Their beliefs are self-fulfilling. Choose partners with high intelligence, high energy, and above all else, high integrity.
As Jim Barksdale
famously said: "there are only two ways to make money: bundling and unbundling." The internet is driving both. As more services move online look for opportunities to bundle or unbundle.
You are not good at multi-tasking and you never will be. The human brain is physically incapable of focusing on two things at once. When you think you are multi-tasking, you are actually switching tasks rapidly which degrades performance and prevents you from reaching a flow state
To decrease the temptation to multi-task, ruthlessly automate or outsource any task that does not require your specific knowledge to complete or that you do not enjoy doing.
Learn to recognize common types of cognitive bias in yourself and others. Confirmation bias, recency bias, and survivorship bias are particularly dangerous for entrepreneurs. Learn techniques like the lean startup methodology that can help you avoid making bad decisions.
Most advice is garbage (including mine). Your job is to listen to everything and then decide what to ignore. Sturgeon's law: "90% of everything is crap" certainly applies here.