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3 Essential Steps To Becoming An Entrepreneur
My MBA students at INSEAD often ask me what the fastest path is to learn about entrepreneurship. The fastest (and most painful way) is to start a company. I started my first company when I was 27 years old during my 2nd year at Harvard Business School. While I have zero regrets, I would have done a lot of things very differently knowing what I know today. I had to learn a lot of painful lessons before we eventually sold that company in 2001.
For me, the best way to learn about entrepreneurship is immersion:
a) Join a world-class startup. You can learn an immense amount working in a startup led by a seasoned entrepreneur who knows what he/she is doing. Work insane hours. Get your hands dirty. Juggle multiple roles. Experience the good, bad, and ugly sides of a startup. Study and observe how the entrepreneur makes decisions, how he/she leads, how he/she executes. Learn first-hand what it takes to build a company from scratch.
b) Find mentors. Find people who have already achieved what you want to do. Network and find mentors who are a few years ahead of you in life. Do them favors in return for knowledge.
c) Be resourceful. Read tons of books and autobiographies. Take courses. Do bootcamps. Go to conferences about entrepreneurship. Surround yourself with people who want to become entrepreneurs. Seek out professors of entrepreneurship. Go to venture capital conferences. Network with people from other world-class startups. Learn, grow, evolve.
By following a strategy of immersion prior to launching your first company, you will cut down on a lot of unnecessary errors and failures. Of the 7 billion people in this world, approximately 6% are entrepreneurs. With a 90-95% failure rate and the insane working hours 24/7/365, it is simply irrational to be an entrepreneur.
That being said, entrepreneurship is one of the greatest adventures in life; it is a truly magical feeling to change the world for the better in a way that reflects who you are. In many ways, entrepreneurs are artists and romantics. We believe in dreams. We believe in love. We believe in expressing our souls through our work. At the end of the day, we all die. Nothing remains, except for the impact we make on others. The knowledge that we left this Earth better off than how we found it is perhaps the immortality we seek.