3 Biggest Lessons from 3 Years of Solopreneurship

From the video shoot for my upcoming Speak Like a Pro virtual conference (hosted via en*theos) at the end of August.

Happy Fourth of July weekend to those of you in the states! I am celebrating for two big reasons: I just turned in my book proposal and sample chapter for The Human Pivot to my agent last week, and July 5 marks my freedom anniversary: I have officially been in business for myself full-time for three years now . . . and what a ride it has been!

3 Biggest Lessons from 3 Years

As I look back on these last few years of solopreneurship (and the nearly nine years of running Life After College), here's what I've learned:

  1. So many of us in the online world are just making it up as we go along. We are experimenting. We do not have it all figured out. We are throwing spaghetti at the Internet wall and seeing what sticks. How could we not be?! The Internet, and social media, is constantly evolving . . . and quickly. Don't let anyone tell you (or fall under the impression) that everyone else but you has a perfectly orchestrated plan. If you're intimidated to start, focus on running small experiments, getting a "Minimum Viable Product" (MVP) out there and making a thousand tiny iterations over time as you figure out what works for you. Check out The Lean Startup for a great primer on how to do this.
  2. Passion and good ideas don't equal paychecks. You need a sound business model and to be exceptional in your field.Cash flow is king, systems are king. (Okay that was four lessons in one). I know these are all stating the obvious by now. But just because you can start tomorrow doesn't mean that you can start and sustain earning a living on your own tomorrow. In addition to your daily and weekly experiments, what will your main source of income be? How will you optimize for steady cash flow? What skills differentiate you from the pack? I turned to The Freelancer’s Bibleand Business Model You (and many brainstorming sessions and coffee talks with friends) for helping me restructure my business this last year.
  3. You don't have to do things the way everyone else does. But that might mean it will take longer to find your own way forward (as it requires originality and innovation, and a willingness to "swim upstream" when everyone else is going another direction). As I mentioned above, the number one biggest resource that pulled me out of business ruts was talking with other very smart friends, speakers and coaches who had systems and business models that I respected, and from whom I could borrow very tactical best practices to piece together my own puzzle.

Running your own business is very likely to call up every last gremlin you have. It will ask you to stare down your biggest fears and find faith when you're ready to quit. It will ask you to be resourceful, resilient, scrappy, creative, committed, and tenacious. But for so many of us, we wouldn't have this time of our lives be any other way.

Get Your Lucent On!

Lucent Meditation App
Lucent Meditation App

Speaking of budding businesses . . . iPhone users: have you downloaded Lucent yet? We are so grateful for the 300+ people who have helped us pilot during our first week out of the gate! No doubt there's plenty of room for improvement, but here's what longtime reader Chuck—new to meditation—had to say:

"All I have to say is that after meditating for the past 5 mornings, I'm hooked. I look forward to that quiet time and I feel more focused and grounded throughout the day. I love it."

—Chuck G.

Bloomberg even recently ran a piece promoting meditation-as-morning-edge among traders on Wall Street:

Michaelson calls meditation "brain hacking," because it exploits the elastic nature of our gray matter, altering its makeup, as Lazar and other scientists have proved. As such, it may be the ultimate disruptive technology, he says. 

. . . A competitive edge, not enlightenment, seems to be driving [hedge fund manager Ray] Dalio. "I feel like a ninja in a fight," Dalio said of his professional equanimity, during a February panel discussion in New York on the benefits of meditation. "When it comes at you, it seems like slow motion."

To Make a Killing on Wall Street, Start Meditating

I'd love to hear from you in the comments:

For those of you who run your own business: what is the biggest lesson you've learned so far?