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Following the Rules

Where Big Ideas Come From

Note: This is part two of a multipart series on getting permission and why now is the best time to start a business (especially if you’re still in college). You can start from the beginning here.

Bill Gates in Poland

Bill Gates clapping like a bausss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know all of this sounds impossible. Who are you anyway? You could never be as rich or as smart as Jack Dorsey. Untrue. You have inside you all of the drive, motivation, and ability to succeed, you just need to think for a minute.

When was the last time you were really into a project? Was it painting? Riding bikes? Any hobby will do. Think about how you felt during that moment: time stood still, the ideas flowed out of you like magic, and your work ethic was unstoppable. You were inspired, content and maybe even happy working on the project. That means your body is capable of feeling those feelings. There is a TED talk about how to listen to classical music, and during the talk, the speaker asks the audience “are any of you tone deaf?” and about half the room, mostly men, raises their hands. He then asks “is your tone deafness stopping you from enjoying classical music?” and nearly all the hands stayed standing. The speaker then spoke a bit about classical music and its history, followed by a song. It was just a regular piece of music, something that would have faded into the background ordinarily, but because of the back-story, because they were forced to listen, the music filled their heads and took them away. Once the music played, the room filled with applause. Everybody loved the piece. These men who, until minutes earlier, had shut themselves off thinking they would never like classical music, were just floored. You have the chance to do the same with your business. All it takes is learning some more about it.

Entrepreneurship is tough and I have yet to be successful at it. I’ve had a bunch of failures, and a bunch of false starts, but I can see myself getting better, just like you will get better. Being a great entrepreneur requires you to break out of the mindset of failure. In school, if you get an F, they make you take the class again, and people make fun of you, but you don’t really learn from your mistakes. Instead, you get a hang of the material, and they let you do the same thing again.

Each failure on your quest for world domination is a stepping-stone. Each one pushes you a little closer to your dream.  The way to justify failure is to think about it: would you rather be just another guy? Would you rather be working for a large company, typing in Excel all day, watching your mind decay while the men higher up are waiting to replace you once you burn out? Or would you rather be unstoppable?

Nobody is rushing to replace Warren Buffet because he is the best at what he does. You cannot be afraid of that. As an entrepreneur, you cannot look at other business leaders and think “I could never do that,” no, you need to look at them, in the pages of Forbes or the cover of Fast Company, you need to look at them and think “I could do it better than them.” Then, you need work at it. Work to be better than Bill Gates, work to kick Richard Branson’s ass.

Only compete where you can be the best, but do not let fear slow you down. You have the capability to be the best in the world at something, it might take you one failed business venture, or it might take you fifty, but as long as you aren’t doing the same thing every time. As long as each venture is different enough that you can learn new things while using the lessons you learned before, you will be moving forward, and that is what will make you great. That’s what will give you Buffet status.

There are no more barriers to entry. You could start planning a business right now if you wanted to. You could be outside talking to professionals and figuring out what their problems are, but you aren’t. Instead you fake productivity. Instead you read blog post after blog post, you tweet and you look at your follower count, you open up Facebook and wonder why everyone else is failing at their lives, and you dread ever becoming one of them. The sad thing about the world is that average is terrible. The normal path in life is getting a job, maybe you become a gym teacher, or a banker, or a manager at Home Depot, you get a job and you work hard at it, and it seems great at the time. But the average person, when they look back at their life, only sees disappointment. You don’t want that. You want to be great, and that’s why you should feel sick when you look at your Facebook friends, and one by one you see them fall off into oblivion. You see them try to be stand up comedians only to quit and become teachers. You see them graduate high school with honors only to become housewives. You watch kids with promise get pregnant and drop out of college. You see these people and you need to feel scared. Scared of becoming one of them, scared of not working the absolute hardest you can work at the stuff that matters, because if you do an average job, if you put in an average amount of effort and make an average salary, you will be average, and it only takes one look at Facebook to see where that will get you.

What big ideas are you keeping inside for fear that they’ll be stolen?