What I Tell Young People Who Want To Be Successful.


(Whenever I can’t think of a good image to use for posts I’m just going to stick with vintage Gucci Mane portraits)

People hit me up all the time with their business ideas. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a good one. They always suck and they usually suck because the person writing the email falls into one of these two categories:

1) The person who just wants to be successful. But doesn’t have any passion. Their idea is almost never good. They just want to do something well so that people can slap them on the backs and tell them what a great job they did. Maybe it’s about the money, maybe it’s about the fame, either way they are doomed. The best entrepreneurs usually aren’t concerned with being successful, they just want to make an impact.

or personality type number 2:

2) The person who is passionate about something and wants desperately to do something productive within that field, but has no vision, no edge over their competitors, no bright ideas. These are almost always presented to me in the form of a bike company or some sort of website based business, since those are the 2 things I know most about.

Recently in an interview Nick Denton (the founder of Gawker Media) was asked what advice he would give to someone aspiring to be a “digital media entrepreneur”, which is basically what most of the people that email me are asking me. He said:

“I’d advise a young professional to be something else before  digital media entrepreneur.  Be a gossip, a gadget obsessive, a retailer of baby clothes, anything really. Being a digital media entrepreneur alone is like being into the feel of paper, it’s a characteristic, not a profession. Most entrepreneurs won’t make as much money as they would have with day jobs in banking or law. So they’d better have some purpose other than merely success in business.”

Bingo. You can’t become a “digital media entrepreneur” (I refuse to type that title without putting in quotes) unless you have an area of expertise. You can’t gain expertise unless you are willing to really immerse yourself in something. And almost nobody is going to take the years it takes to learn everything about a subject unless they are passionate about it.

That’s why I can run a good BMX website. I spent a decade or so doing nothing but riding bikes, reading bike magazines, watching bike videos and looking at bike related forums online. I never even considered for a second that I could make a living from bikes. I just loved them. So I learned everything I could about them.

A lot of people want that role but they don’t want to put the work in. Regular people look at entrepreneurs and want that status. They want to be interviewed. They want people to recognize them. They want the end result.

All that comes after the fact. The only way you’re ever going to become well known for doing something is by getting up in the morning every single day and doing it. Over and over and over. It’s not sexy. There is no arc to the story. You just wake up every day and work your ass off and you assure yourself that there will come a day in the future that all this will pay off.