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I Built Three Businesses Before I Graduated College – Here’s What I Learned

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My first experience with entrepreneurship involved dumpster diving. I was 10 years old and wanted to make some money. There was a warehouse that manufactured stickers close to where we lived, so what did I do? I hopped the fence and dove into the dumpster after the sheets of reject stickers that were smudged or uneven. These were skate and surf stickers with big name brands like T&C (Town & Country) and Vuarnet. I sold them for 25 cents a pop.

My classmates put them on their book covers, Trapper Keepers, and lockers. I used the profits to buy a bike (which, in hindsight, was definitely stolen) and start a paper route. At that point, I was flying. I never realized you could just do something and make money. My eyes were wide open, and by the time I finished college, I had started three businesses.

I want to briefly share a few nuggets about starting these three businesses. I’ll also detail the skills that served me well, what I wish I’d paid attention to back then, and some steps my fellow entrepreneurs can take to prepare themselves as they pursue their ambitions. My hope is that if you’re starting a business (or want to start one), you’ll learn something from my story.

How one business opportunity led to another

At age 13, I started working as a DJ and did that until I was 22. Using money from my sticker sales and paper route, my buddy and I bought some records and rented the tables from a guy named Dom-Unique. That first day spinning in the garage, we were both hooked.

Cesar, the guy who owned Funky Town Records (where we bought records) saw our ambition and took us on as his apprentices. We learned about DJing from watching him spin. When I went to Boston College, I was spinning at top nightclubs in Boston six days a week. My second business came from promoting the nightclubs where I was spinning.

How did I promote these nightclubs? AOL chat rooms, baby! I developed a reputation amongst the club owners as a guy who was blowing the numbers out, so one of the owners asked if I would build a website and chat room for his club. I taught myself HTML in a weekend and started FunkyWeb, which I sold in 1998 for a stock-only deal and with no help from lawyers. As a result, I made zero money. The lesson: use lawyers when selling a business!

The third business came from the second. I was approached to sell golf clubs online. We secured a sick domain, built the website, and launched it. In 2000, I helped sell the business using an iBank—and this time, we used lawyers to help! But then the tech bubble burst, and just like with FunkyWeb, the millions on paper didn’t translate to hard cash.

The skills that benefited me the most

As I reflect back on building these three businesses, several skills proved invaluable along the way. The first one is what professionals call “resourcefulness.” I called it “down to get dirty.” I was literally willing to dumpster dive to make money. I wasn’t afraid to roll up my sleeves and solve problems as I went. It’s the cart before the horse, no doubt, but it worked for me.

Something we’ll discuss later that served me well was getting into a flow state. Before each set, I had a ritual that would trigger flow state, which to me meant a deep state of concentration. I also used this ritual with homework and times when I’d sit down to work on my business. Being in a flow state is what allowed me to do so many things in parallel.

I also learned to spot and make what I would call “adjacent moves.” I went from DJing house parties to DJing school parties to DJing nightclubs. Same product, three different markets. After DJing for nightclubs, I started building websites for those clubs to promote them. Same customer base, new product. Then I moved from building websites for nightclubs to building a website for a golf company. Here again we have the same product, different market. 

“If you’re the type of person who has to fulfill your dreams, you’ve gotta be resourceful to make sure you can do it.” – Vin Diesel

The one skill I wish I’d had back then

As I think about my life now and the work I do, one important skill I wish I’d had as I was coming up through college was vision. Here’s what I mean by that: while I was DJing and building websites, I never put the two together. I couldn’t see the connection between what was happening online—Naptser was about to launch—and how it would impact DJs.

The reason I retired from DJing was because I saw no future in it. Had I seen what was coming, I could’ve combined my skills as a DJ and website developer to become a producer twenty years before I actually became one. Producing my own music, or remixing other people’s music, was sitting right there under my nose and I didn’t see it, so I retired instead.

Vision is a crucial skill for an entrepreneur. You can get by in the short-term if you’re resourceful and willing to hustle, but at some point you’re going to have to pivot. If you haven’t been reading the landscape as you go, you might not have anything to pivot to when that time comes.

How you can prepare for this journey

If you’re an entrepreneur yourself or you have aspirations of being one, I hope my story and the lesson I learned inspired you. As we close this article, I want to leave you with three steps you can take to set yourself up for success. 

There’s a tremendous amount of advice out there that detail tactics for starting a business, and great resources like Porter’s Five Forces and a SWOT analysis. You should absolutely dig into those, but that’s not where I’d start my journey.

Success with entrepreneurship begins with preparing yourself internally. You want to become the type of person who is capable of building a business before you go out and do it.

With that in mind, here are three steps I’d recommend:

1. Remove your ego from the equation

Your ego is selfish and gives terrible advice. As you begin to observe its running commentary, you can separate yourself from it and avoid making decisions from the ego. Trust your soul instead. You’ll make mistakes, it’s true. But you’ll be capable of rebounding quickly.

“Receive without pride, let go without attachment.” – Marcus Aurelius

2. Manage your energy effectively

When you “recharge” your batteries, you’re actually just restoring the natural energy in your body because, as the first law of thermodynamics tells us, energy cannot be created nor destroyed. 

How do we restore our energy? Through proper sleep and regular meditation. You should also hoard energy by preventing energy leaks. When your energy levels are where they should be, time becomes less of a constraint because you’re so effective.

3. Become adept at getting into a flow state

In that state of deep concentration, you’re able to accomplish far more than you otherwise would. Find what triggers flow for you, master that ritual, and use it often.

Have you tried starting a business or side hustle? How has that worked out for you? Share your stories and thoughts with us below!

Andy Seth spent his childhood living in a Los Angeles motel, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a wildly successful entrepreneur with a beautiful family and all the trappings of wealth. Despite having it all, Andy felt some emptiness inside. When he concluded that his old beliefs were standing in the way of the relationships, creativity, and self-realization he wanted, Andy set out to rewire his operating system. In doing so, he discovered newfound levels of creativity, gratitude, and love. Today, Andy devotes himself to meditation, pursuing his passions, and time with his family and friends. Visit him at www.andyseth.com.

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Success Advice

20 Ways You Can Become a Powerful Communicator

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Emile Steenveld Speaker and Coach

Some people seem to naturally know how to effectively communicate in a group setting. They can express themselves clearly and listen attentively without dominating the conversation.

Being a powerful communicator is important for several reasons, including building and maintaining relationships, achieving goals, resolving conflicts, improving productivity, leading and influencing others, advancing in your career, expressing yourself more confidently and authentically, and improving your mental and emotional well-being. Effective communication is an essential life skill that can benefit you in all aspects of your life.

But, don’t worry if you don’t naturally possess this skill, as effective communication is something that can be developed with practice, planning and preparation.
 

1.  Listen actively: Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the speaker and responding to what they are saying.

 

2. Use “I” statements: Speak from your own perspective and avoid placing blame or making accusations.

 

3. Avoid assumptions: Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling.

 

4. Be clear: Express your thoughts and feelings clearly and concisely by getting to the point and avoid using jargon or overly complex language.

 

5. Show empathy: Show that you understand and care about the other person’s feelings.

 

6. Offer valuable insights: When speaking in a group, provide a valuable takeaway or actionable item that people can walk away with.

 

7. Be an active listener: Listen attentively and respond accordingly, incorporating your points into the conversation.

 

8. Choose the right time: Pick the most opportune time to speak to ensure that you have the group’s attention and can deliver your message without interruption.

 

9. Be the unifying voice: Step in and unify the group’s thoughts to calm down the discussion and insert your point effectively.

 

10. Keep responses concise: Keep responses short and to the point to show respect for others’ time.

 

11. Avoid unnecessary comments: Avoid commenting on everything and only speak when you have something important to say.

 

12. Cut the fluff: Avoid being long-winded and get straight to the point.

 

13. Prepare ahead of time: Sort out your points and practice them before speaking in a group.

 

14. Smile and be positive: Smile and nod along as others speak, to build a positive relationship and be respected when it’s your turn to speak.

 

15. Take responsibility: Take responsibility for your own actions and feelings.

 

16. Ask questions: Ask questions to clarify any confusion or misunderstandings.

 

17. Avoid interrupting: Allow the other person to finish speaking without interruption.

 

18. Practice active listening: Repeat what the other person said to ensure you have understood correctly.

 

19. Use your body language too: Use nonverbal cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language to convey your message and build rapport.

 

20. Be aware of the tone of your voice: it should be calm and assertive, not aggressive or passive.

 

By keeping these tips in mind, you can improve your communication skills and become a more powerful communicator, which can help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a more fulfilling life.

I you want to learn how to become more confident in life then you can join my weekly mentorship calls and 40+ online workshops at AweBliss.com so you can master your life with more success.

 
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Success Advice

Dead Men Tell No Tales: How to Navigate a Mutiny as a Leader in 10 Steps

You’re the manager. You’re the supervisor. You’re the leader. But maybe your people don’t see it that way

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You’re the manager. You’re the supervisor. You’re the leader. But maybe your people don’t see it that way and perhaps that has created a divisive and adversarial working environment that makes it difficult for you to influence and inspire your team in a way that meets your vision. (more…)

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Success Advice

How to Think Like a CEO for Your Future Success

A blueprint for CEOs to draw a disciplined strategy

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Strategic thinking helps CEOs build successful businesses. It helps them establish everlasting enterprises. It is one of the key elements of decision-making. It is different from strategic leadership. It differentiates between leaders from managers.  (more…)

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How to Focus Your Mind on Your Goals in 2023 Constructively

In this world of distractions due to information overload, it has become a big challenge to focus our minds

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In this world of distractions due to information overload, it has become a big challenge to focus our minds on positive aspects and constructive activities. Sometimes we waste our precious time mentally and physically due to distractions arising out of technology. We must understand our priorities and learn how to focus on them religiously. (more…)

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