Most Important Lessons I learned From Being An Entrepreneur For Over A Decade (Part 1)


By Mike Sygula / Truth Theory

For the last 11 years, I have been running online companies including the one that this article is published on –  During this time I learned a lot of valuable things. I had my ups and downs, some success, and a lot of failures. I reached millions of people with my message and had some periods when I would generate 6 figure revenues without any support from investors or business loans.

In this series of articles, I want to share with you some of the more important things I learned during my journey. These ideas and tips can be applied to any type of business, not only internet-type companies. The information you will find here will bring value to aspiring entrepreneurs but also to those that already are running their own companies. 

Most of you will fail

I will start with some bad news. Most businesses fail. We often hear just the glorious stories. The media is bombarding us with success stories of people like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. However, most companies fail and the rest barely survive with a very small number that actually succeeds exceptionally. Media rarely mentions that +90% of cases where a founder had a mental breakdown, ended up bankrupt, or in debt. This is reality and you need to take this into account if you want to start your own company. It is extremely unlikely that something will become an instant success. In some very rare cases, this might be true, but typically when you learn more details, you find out that someone actually worked very hard for 10 years prior to that “overnight success”. Therefore you need to consider if you are really up for it and you want to sacrifice the next few years of your life, sometimes even more. 

Forget about weekends off, going out with friends, holidays, watching movies in the evenings, etc.  If you think you can build a company and have the same lifestyle as your friends who have regular jobs it is unlikely to happen. You will need to sacrifice a lot, this often means most of your pleasures, sometimes even family or relationships. 

Running a business is all about solving problems in a creative way 

I think this part is the most important. Honestly, the whole idea about running companies is to solve problems in creative ways and find the best talent and make them stay with you and do their best. Elon Musk said, “Drug dealers know more about running a business than 95% of college professors.” I couldn’t agree more. At the university, you might learn to write essays or learn about some stories of other companies but overall you will learn a lot more when you get your hands dirty. You will get to work and start coming up with ideas to make things move and keep solving the problems. 

You probably will learn more as well from books, business podcasts, and other people that you will hire than from university degrees. Once you start working on your startup, you basically have to constantly make decisions and these can be good or bad. Your success will depend on the quality of the decisions you make. Your thinking can be focused on short-term results or long-term big bets for example. 

Let me share with you an example of how I solved a problem using creative thinking. In the beginning, when I started with online publications around 10 years ago I needed content. I didn’t have the ability to create a lot of content myself and I had no money to pay for writers. I figured out that I could republish some content from other sites so I reached out to some of the blogs and some would allow me to use their stories when I linked back to them. I would also get some contributing writers who would write for free just so they could feature some of their other work on my websites and in return they could also promote some of their links to ebooks or their websites. Ideally, you want to avoid republishing content when you are a publisher so as soon as I was making money I started hiring writers to create original content. This is just some random example. I had no money but I needed content so I found some creative ways to get regular content for free. 

Speed and time management

In my life, I met some extremely successful people. I’m talking about guys on Forbes’ lists, Hollywood executives, celebrities with millions of followers. I noticed something important, especially around business guys. They just really pay a lot of attention to their time management. It almost looks like every single day is a race to finish as many tasks as quickly as possible. They often measure how long it takes them to do each task. Every day you have a “to-do list”, you might have one big thing to accomplish and a few smaller ones for example. You don’t know how long each task might take, sometimes a small task can take you 30 minutes, sometimes 3h. But it is easy to lose yourself in time and take longer than required. It often happens with new projects, engineers, designers, artists, etc. You can take forever to improve something but is it worth it? Time is so crucial as we all have 24h every day. It is up to you how you structure your time to accomplish as much as you can. 

Facebook’s early motto was “move fast, break things” Sometimes it is better to make an even “worse” decision than to take too long to make a “good one”. We often analyze things too much too long and the results often can be worse than if we would just make a choice. Let me give you an example. Someone in my family really wanted to buy a property. This person was saving money for years to finally purchase something. Because it was such a big decision and she had to work for that money for so many years, she would just keep thinking about buying or not buying, which option makes more sense, etc. Then she would get busy with other things in life and not have time to look at the properties for some time, etc. This took years and over this period properties went up so much that her money actually lost value by a lot. If she would for example buy even not the best property but earlier, that property would actually be worth a lot more a few years later when she finally made her decision. Even the bad choice would actually turn out to be not that bad later on. I hope you know what I mean. 

Prioritizing things

You might think you work hard but sometimes being smart will get you better results. Let’s take my example. Every day I can do loads of different things. I can focus on posting on social media, I can focus on the content, I can focus on reading emails that people send… I can focus on creating a new project, looking for a different advertising partner. 

It is endless, but what I need to do is to figure out which thing is of the highest priority out of all that chaos and “cancel all the noise” meaning not get my head occupied by other pitiful tasks. You might think you work your ass off but what kind of results does it bring? Let me give you an example. I know someone who is putting a lot of work every day to post on social media, and it really doesn’t do a lot. It is good to keep in touch with the current audience but overall, due to how algorithms work currently, it is so hard to build a following organically without some super unique, exceptional content. This person will put months of her life or more and the results will be mediocre. On another hand, she could minimize this aspect or outsource it to someone and focus those few months on creating something unique that will stand out like a book, or an ebook or a course, or some workshop or other major project. And this bigger project could actually stand out so much that it would have more viral potential and she could get a lot more followers out of just releasing that work and many more benefits than just posting every day on social media.

Ideas are worthless, it is all about execution

One of the big myths is that if you have a good idea you can be successful. People have ideas all the time, executing them is the key. Think about it like this. An idea is just a seed, but what you do with this seed will determine how big and healthy your plant will grow. If you put your seed in the concrete you probably won’t have a plant at all. If you plant it in the desert maybe it won’t grow at all. You need to take care of it, have conditions, water, sunlight, the right soil, etc. There have been many attempts to create social networks for example, before Facebook. None had any major success. Each idea is made of thousands of smaller ideas that can be good or bad. Let’s use a different analogy. Think about a dish. Let’s say a pizza, you screw up a few details and the whole dish doesn’t taste well anymore. Most stuff can be ok, but those few details will impact the whole taste of the pizza. Let’s say you just put some mushrooms that are old, or you keep it too long in the oven and the whole thing isn’t tasty anymore. The idea is just a general thing, but how you will execute every detail of it will determine your success. There are shitty ideas executed well and good ideas executed poorly.




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