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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.

Success Advice

5 Smart Goals to Make This Year Your Most Successful Ever

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Setting goals at the start of the year means you will know exactly what you need to do throughout the year to be successful. By setting goals, it forces you to build a plan about how you intend to achieve those goals. By having a plan in place, you will wake up every morning with a clear idea of what it is you need to do each day. Just by writing down your goals, there is a 42% greater chance you will achieve those goals than if they just stayed in your head. It may seem like a small thing but actually creating goals every year and then writing them down significantly improves your chances of success. (more…)

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7 Ways to Face Adversity Using the Power of Extreme Ownership

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Adversity is an inevitable part of our lives, and it is an important and defining factor of our personal story. The stories we build for ourselves in the face of adversity will either empower or discourage us emotionally, help us move forward or remain stuck in the past, allow us to grow or to decline. (more…)

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Why Your Confidence Needs to Match Your Competence

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Even if you produce amazing results at your job or in other areas of your life, others may still not see you as being competent if you lack the confidence to back it up. If you are good at your job, exuding confidence will ensure others also recognize your competence in your area of expertise. And research backs this up. (more…)

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5 Things You Can Learn From The 5am Club by Robin Sharma

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It has been said by Robin Sharma, “5 AM is the time of least distraction, highest human glory, and greatest peace.” This also happens to be the central idea or the core value he has discussed in his book, ‘The 5 Am Club.’ Speaking of early mornings, at what time do you wake up? Are you annoyed by the fact that you wake up on the edge of time and then rush to work in haste? 

The life lessons put forth by The 5 AM Club are exactly the learning and motivation you need to challenge your complacency. In your race against time, you may not have the time to read this fabulous book. So, we have summed up the key book’s takeaways for your convenience.

1. The vigor of waking up early

This is what the book’s most fundamental advice to everyone is. Waking up at 5 am every day can work wonders to avert failures and make success a natural habit. When we wake up at 5 am, we have more time on our hands than others. Besides, this is when we have minimum interruptions and maximum powerfulness of the mind. 

To add, the early morning peace is priceless! You can schedule your most important tasks of the day between 5am, and 8am. This book teaches us in the simplest way, how we can train our mind and strengthen it to deliver the highest productivity by waking up early. This energy that you have when you wake up in the morning and the few additional hours in your day are what serve as perfect ingredients for success.

“The secret to productivity is simplicity.” – Robin Sharma

2. The power of finding the right balance in life

The book talks about a precious lesson of finding the right balance within. We often talk about the need for mindfulness and achieving the right mindset to perceive things. But this book goes a few steps ahead of our usual approach to life. It highlights the vitality of mindset and introduces the concepts of heartset, healthset, and soulset.

These terms may seem new, but they are self-explanatory. The idea of heartset endorses the essentialness of emotional stability and well-being. Next, the perspective of healthset indicates the need to look after physical health. At last, soulset is an attribute of spirituality. As explained in this book, success prospects can be enhanced big time by achieving the right balance between these internal virtues.

3. The iconic 20/20/20 modus operandi

What is the first thing you will do if you start waking up at 5 am every day? Did you ever spare a thought about it? This book has the answer to this question, and you will be convinced that it is a great way to begin your day!. The author suggests that you should split the first hour of the day into three equal parts of 20 minutes each.

In the first 20 minutes of the day, you should prioritize your physical fitness and exercise. In the next 20 minutes, you should energize your soul and spirit via self-reflection and soulful meditation. This will prepare you for the rest of the day and will enable you to bolster your commitment and focus. In the last 20 minutes of the first hour, you should read and learn. But what are you going to read about in those 20 minutes? Read about successful people and their inspiring journeys to the pinnacle of success.

4. The significance of a proper sleep schedule

In this book, there is a mention of ‘a ferocious global sleep recession’, which is intriguing and enlightening. It hints at the state of sleep deprivation that this world is sinking into gradually. We often associate success and hard work with the notion of staying up all night and testing our endurance beyond limits. But that is not the right approach to accomplishing success, or rather, it is a flawed methodology.

Sometimes even if we do not have any critical work, we keep whiling our night time on social media or television. What are we gaining from it is the real question, and I am afraid the answer is nothing! We learn from this book that it is critical to look after your sleep cycle and start your day at 5 am afresh. Sleep and rest are indispensable for mental and physical well-being, or your productivity will decline.

“If you want to have the results only 5% have, you must be willing to do and think like only 5% do and think.” – Robin Sharma

5. The art of evolving

The book sheds light on the need to be spiritual and master self-reflection. However, do you realize the purpose that the routine of reflection each morning serves? The idea is to keep learning, keep reflecting on the mistakes and keep evolution an ongoing process. You should evolve every day and strive to be a better version of yourself every day. So, one of your primary goals after waking up should be to reflect on your actions and missed opportunities of the previous day.

To recapitulate, The 5 AM Club is a must-read book if you are a passionate reader. It has the prowess and charm to refurbish your perception of life altogether. Even if you cannot read the book for some reason, make sure you incorporate the above key takeaways into your life. By starting your day at 5 am, you can rediscover your lost soul and enthusiasm, and you would not have complaints to make about the lack of time. If you can own your mornings, you can go places on the ladder of success, for excuses are only for those who are not committed to their goals.

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