Are You "Sucking The Marrow" Out Of Corporate Life?
I recently came upon a fantastic Medium post from Yazin Akkawi titled What Most Entrepreneurs Don’t Understand About What it Takes to be Successful. If you want to understand what the life of a young, naive (his words) entrepreneur is like, make sure to read it.
In the post, Akkawi lays out what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur. While he makes it clear there is no single formula for success, he says having over-confidence and blind ignorance in chasing an ambitious goal is evident in every successful entrepreneur.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as brave as Yazin (who went on to have success in starting his own digital agency) to pull the ripcord on their corporate career at 22-years-old. The reality is, college graduates are saddled with more debt, than any time in history.
The average college graduate has over $17,000 in student-loan debt, resulting in payments of close to $300 a month. That's a significant part of a recent graduate's paycheck. Thus, the reason why so many graduates are forced to take the path of corporate life after graduation.
So, if you're an aspiring entrepreneur and feel like you're "stuck" in a Corporate America until you can pay off some debt, look at the time as an opportunity, not a burden.
Like Robin William's character encouraged, when quoting Henry David Thoreau in Dead Poets Society, to "suck the marrow out of life," I encourage you to do the same with "corporate life" before making the leap into entrepreneurship. Here's how and why...
Change your mindset
Be patient. There is no expiration date on becoming an entrepreneur. Focus on learning. Always. Become a sponge in every business interaction. Find context in every part of your corporate career for however long it lasts.
Treat your first entry-level corporate job as a paid post-college education. Treat every meeting like a post-graduate class. Sit-up straight and pay attention. It's another learning opportunity!
Study how your boss and other executives run a meeting. Observe body language. Look into people's eyes. Ask to sit in on as many meetings as you can. Listen to how a seasoned executive negotiates. Watch how they manage difficult situations. Watch how they celebrate failure and success.
Work long hours. Do everything. Get into the weeds on every part of the company's business. Understand what your greatest value is to them is. Learn new skills. Come to meetings prepared. Accept every project. Dig in. Ask questions.
Go home feeling mentally sore every night...
...because the results won't be obvious at first
[Since the Oscars are tonight, I'll reference two movies in one post to illustrate my points.]
My favorite part of the original Karate Kid is how Mr. Miyagi conditions Daniel for defensive karate without his foreknowledge of it. It is beautiful scene so I've included it.
This is what your corporate experience, if you put forth the effort and repetitions, will do for you as an entrepreneur.
It happened for me.
When I founded Ultimate Hoops in my early 30s, I was feeling at times like Daniel in Karate Kid. Flustered, sore, confused, unsure how my corporate experience in New York was going to serve me in starting a business.
Had I simply wasted the majority of my 20s working in Corporate America without gaining any transferable knowledge for entrepreneurship?
But like Daniel, when start-up challenges arose, I was able to "wax on, wax off" multiple issues through the knowledge I gained working at Turner and Discovery. I found myself quoting and using terms of former bosses and executives in my past. The repitious grind of creating hundreds of advertising sales packages in my 20s served me when creating sponsorship opportunities for Ultimate Hoops.
As an example, when a gym facility gave me their "final" court rental offer to host Ultimate Hoops games, I countered with a negotiating tactic I heard in an executive meeting I had no business being in when I was young sales assistant. I secured an hourly rental rate at $20 less than their final offer.
Where was this knowledge coming from? From all the Mr. Miyagi's of my past.
"Look at eye. Always look at eye."
So instead of sulking into the office this week, strap on your cloth headband like Daniel and start sucking the marrow out of corporate life.
It will serve you well as an entrepreneur one day, Danielson.