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To be an entrepreneur you have to be someone special. By their very nature, successful entrepreneurs have to be different, separate from the status quo, if they want to create change.
To other people you’ll seem crazy, because who in their right mind would want to subject themselves to all the trials and tribulations of being an entrepreneur? They’ll discourage you, laugh at you, and tell you that you’re wrong.
What’s worse is that sometimes it will come from people you respect, like your coworkers, teachers, friends, and even family. Those are the ones that’ll cut the deepest.
So what do you do?
Well, we asked 13 amazing entrepreneurs from all sorts of industries to help answer that question for you this week. Each entrepreneur was given these three questions:
- Who said that you’d never make it?
- What do they say to you now?
- Knowing what you know now, what would you say to your past self, the one at the lowest point of their career?
Check out their stories and hear what they have to say about how they were able to overcome the doubters, the haters, and the naysayers.
Jordan Harbringer – Cofounder of The Art of Charm
My middle school teachers used to tell me I was the worst kid in their class, that I’d always have problems, and that I had behavior troubles (surprise!).
When we left school and they were wishing everyone well, my football coach looked at me with really a concerned face and said, “Man. Just please take care of yourself. Seriously.” It was like he was just waiting to see me on the news or something.
When I started The Art of Charm, a lot of people from law school made fun of me and said nobody would ever listen to the show or pay us actual money to teach them anything.
Many of those same colleagues from school send me Facebook messages about how much they hate law and how envious they are that I got out early to do my own thing.
I never did get back in touch with anyone from middle school or high school, although I did see one of the teachers that hated me the most. He delivered a pizza to my friend’s house. It was tremendously awkward and a lot less rewarding to see him so humbled than I ever thought it’d be.
I’d never have gone to college in the first place to be honest. I’d have left school in middle school and done something entirely different. What that is, I have no idea, but I do know the system didn’t work for me at all, and simply tolerating it for as long as I did was a tremendous waste of time and potential.
Georgina Nelson – Co-founder & CEO of truRating
When I was just starting out, I paid for a consultant to do some work for me on how we should get truRating to market. He’d worked for one of the big acquirers in the UK for 20 years so was pretty qualified to give us the low down. His first slide was a running track where beyond the start line was a brick wall. He told us to stop before we had even got started. We would never make it work. His next slides were each of the Dragons in our UK TV show, Dragon’s Den, and he made up what each of them would say to us—all along the lines of why it was officially the worst idea they had ever heard.
I haven’t spoken to him! Much of what he said was true—it has been really very hard to work with the banks and payment companies, it takes patience, tenacity and optimism. I guess he underestimated how much we had of all of these! I also think times are changing. The financial sector is changing. Companies are now far more open to innovation and there is an acknowledgement that startups can really add value as partners to what were previously core services. Especially in payments, companies realize that they risk being viewed as simply a commodity provider, alongside everyone else. They need to go over and above with value-added services that their merchants really want. We’ve been luckily in the right place at the right time to provide it.
First and foremost I’d say: It gets better?! Yes, I would do so many things differently, but that’s the benefit of hindsight. I’ve learned so much from all my mistakes, and it may sound a cliche but my mantra has always been, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” On a more practical note, I’d probably tell myself to take a step back, have a glass of wine, a bath and an early night. Things always seem better in the morning.
Yaro Starak – Blogger & Founder of The Entrepreneur’s Journey
I never had someone directly say to me “you won’t succeed.” My father pointed out that perhaps working a job first to see how business worked, then starting my own after, might be a smarter path, but he always supported me (as did my mother) no matter what direction I went in.
I think for me the bigger issue was not the naysayers as much as the fact that I was the only person in my immediate social circle going after entrepreneurship. Every friend I had went from university into full-time work and were making much more money than I did at the start of my business, so that was pretty worrying!
Although during the early days, people didn’t know what I was doing, once social media came into our lives most of my early friends saw what I was up to because I shared it on Facebook.
I’m not friends with those people anymore though, since we headed in different directions, so I don’t really know what they think (or say) about what I do today.
It’s like we became completely different types of people. I prefer to associate with other entrepreneurial and online marketing people today and, as you can imagine, they love hearing about what I do because they want to do something similar.
I would tell myself to enjoy the process more and not compare myself to others. I spent a lot of time feeling bad about my own lack of success primarily because I was comparing myself to people constantly. Even when I started enjoying some results online, I still compared myself to others who were making more money, which made me feel bad.
It took a while to realize that there will always be someone earning more and I should compare my results only to my previous results. I learned to enjoy the process more and not get too caught up on what other people are doing. This is something I would definitely tell my past self, especially during certain key achievements that at the time I didn’t think were good enough.
Steve Loughlin – CEO & Cofounder of SalesforceIQ
It’s important to know that if you are doing something exciting and new, everyone is going to have an opinion. The key thing is going back to your first principles.
Why did you start the company in the first place? Are you still confident in the problem you are solving and how you and the team are solving it? Are you confident in the values that you are trying to manifest inside your company? If you aren’t living up to the values, why not?
The more successful we became, the more voices and opinions started to emerge around what we were doing. The only way to keep focused and moving forward is to go back to those first principles and continue to validate that they feel right. If they start to seem off, make adjustments quickly and keep moving. Always keep moving.
Jon Nastor – Host of Hack the Entrepreneur
When I started building my business, it was a side hustle. I would work all day and spend 4-5 hours per night and weekends building my business. This lasted for 7 months and my friends would call me a workaholic and tell me to hangout with them because I wasn’t making any money.
These same friends tell me I am lucky because I can work when I want to and my family gets to travel the world.
We make our own luck by taking action. Momentum breeds momentum, so get moving.
Jeff Barrett – CEO of Status Creative
It’s never just one person. Any time you decide to forego convention and chart your own path, there will be those who doubt you along the way, at every step. Never ignore it. Take that feedback, learn from it, adjust from it and use it as fuel.
I recently wrote an article titled, “Want to be great? Get fired.” I would never be here today if people always told me yes in my career. Instead I would be slowly climbing the corporate ladder at the cubicle farm. I’m blessed to have great mentors who provide great feedback. I care about that more.
It’s great if someone who doubted you in the past now has something nice to say. But I’m not doing what I do for trophies, congratulations or participation ribbons. That said, and this is the part that you’ll like, I am keeping score. There is a scoreboard. I am competitive. And there are a handful of people that I would like to beat more than others. Like I said, use it as fuel. Just don’t let that consume you. I will always view myself as an underdog, someone who has much, much more to prove. That’s how I stay motivated.
I should have done this sooner. That’s what I would say. But everything is timing and I started doing my mix of PR, blogging and personal branding at the exact right time. There’s not much I would change about that. But what I’ve learned over the last five years is that anything really is possible. You will hear “no” a lot in your career. Not every door will open, many will close abruptly. Great people all have one thing in common, though. If someone closes a door, they find another way in to the party. Don’t listen to bouncers, that’s what I’m saying.
Will Blunt – Founder of Blogger Sidekick
My biggest doubter was myself. I talked myself out of starting a business for a long time—going from idea to idea, but always finding a flaw or obstacle that would keep me from just getting started. On reflection I was scared of failure and fearful of not achieving the things I dreamed about.
Have I changed my tune? I would say yes, with a disclaimer. I kicked my fear to the curb for a short time, but with more experience and success comes new challenges and new fears. It’s an ongoing journey.
I’d tell myself, “Get started sooner.” Just about everything I have learned about running a business and achieving my dreams has come from “doing,” not “thinking about it.”
It’s easy to glorify what it’s like to run a business, when in reality, owning a business isn’t that fancy…it’s hard work.
But it challenges you to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and grow as a human being.
I’m still not sure if I’ve got what it takes to sustain this ride, but I’m a lot further down the track than anyone that hasn’t got their training wheels on yet.
James Crawford – Founder of Beanhunter
Mostly my friends.
Yes, they could appreciate the idea of one starting their own business, but couldn’t understand why you would want to give up the security of a 9-5 job and good salary and climbing the corporate ladder.
It made me nervous.
Some would also entertain the idea of starting their own business themselves, but when push comes to shove they won’t back themselves and give starting something a go.
Now that the team and I are showing some decent success, friends are more supportive of my entrepreneurial ventures and there are less “you need to get a real job” comments.
Take time out to rest. Take a deep breath and just keep going!
Sarah Hamilton – CEO & Cofounder of Bellabox
Luckily, I haven’t had anyone who has felt comfortable to tell me that I would never make it, but I did have a friend that said I would have a life where I ticked the boxes; safe job, kids, white picket fence
They [since] have come to me for advice on how to run a media/magazine business. I didn’t take their initial “doubt” as a negative, I was more so surprised, so when they asked for help I was more than happy to give it. We don’t see each other often but I don’t hold a grudge and I doubt he would even remember what he said!
I would be more objective. When you start a business and especially when you get investment on board you never feel like the value you have created is enough. I would say that you still put in effort as if you owned 100% of the business, even when you don’t. You need to create goals in your mind and celebrate their achievements.
Dean Ramler – Cofounder & CEO of Milan Direct
In year 11 at high school I had a clash of personalities with my business teacher, and so he failed me for the year with a grade of 1 out of 100. I ignored his feedback that I was no good or had no commercial mind and then selected to study business again as a VCE year 12 subject.
The week before Year 12 commenced I got called in to the principal’s office to strongly encourage me not to study business again, based on the feedback she had received from my year 11 teacher. I pitched my case, and was allowed to continue business studies.
Much to my year 11 business teacher’s angst, I went on to top the state with a perfect score of 50/50 in my VCE Business class.
So that was my first lesson to not let anyone stop you from treading your own path! And a few years later I started a successful business of my own! Thankfully I have not seen that teacher since…
I have always backed myself, and so in hindsight I would not change a thing, as I stood up for what I believed in, was confident in my abilities, and voiced my opinion when it mattered most. So if anything I would just encourage my younger self to always stand up for what you believe in, no matter how trying the circumstances. You have to have that inner belief to succeed, even when people tell you otherwise.
Benny Hsu – Blogger, Podcaster, & Online Entrepreneur at Get Busy Living
At my lowest point, I would tell myself to stop waiting for a miracle. Stop hoping for your life to change. Start taking 100% responsibility for everything in your life. That means if you don’t like how things are, do something about it. Take back control of your life and stop wasting your time complaining about it.
Christian Mischler – Cofounder & CMO of HotelQuickly
I’m lucky to have a very supportive family, even though it’s a family of teachers and doctors, who have very limited business sense.
I started my first startup when I was 16 and was doing alright, I guess this showed my social circle that I can be successful in entrepreneurship. There have always been naysayers whenever I’ve launched a startup, but not because of my skills, rather because they didn’t think the idea was good or thought it’s very hard to do. With HotelQuickly we had a lot of headwind when we first launched especially from our competition (Agoda, etc.), but this just increased the satisfaction when we got more and more successful.
There are always critics and pessimists, at any stage of the business. Even when you’re super successful, there will always be the one saying that you just got lucky and that it might still fail. As an entrepreneur in a competitive industry, you have to have a thick skin. It’s important to listen to constructive feedback and to listen to the customer, but not get distracted by pure negativism or jealousy. I believe the satisfaction and the joy of a successful business are more than worth it.
I’d tell myself to start earlier. I started my first business when I was 16, and I’m glad that I did. However, I now see entrepreneurs run multi-million-dollar businesses and they’re in their early 20s! I could have done that, would I have been more seriously involved. I’ve run my startups on the side, but with limited aspiration in building it into a billion dollar company. I was happy with the profits that financed my high school and university, but I think a lot more would have been possible.
Kyle Gray – Founder of Conversion Cake
The biggest doubter I have ever faced is myself. I’m constantly wrestling with my own internal resistance, “you’re not working hard enough,” “you can’t do that.”
The inner critic is very clever, and always knows how to adapt the same thing it is always saying to your current situation. But I have found that taking a little bit of action each day toward my goals seems to quiet this voice down.
I make this easy by having a checklist every day of a few things I need to do to advance my goals. It can be personal or business related. I use the list that I can check off every day to prove that I control my life and make sure I am focusing on what’s important to me.
“Trust yourself. You are stronger than you think and you deserve what you want.”
The thing that held me back for the longest time was simply not thinking I was capable of “starting a business.” If I had changed my perspective and believed that I could create value for other people, I would have started taking these small steps much sooner in my life.
The entrepreneur’s journey can be a lonely one at times, and you’ll encounter all kinds of resistance. What makes an entrepreneur is their ability to break through these barriers and come out a better person on the other side. That’s something many of these amazing entrepreneurs included in this article can attest to.
Here are some key takeaways:
- There will always be doubters, haters, and naysayers no matter how successful you are. Listen for a minute and move on.
- Don’t compare yourself to others, instead your only benchmark should be your past self and your goals. If you’re doing better today than you were yesterday, then you’re doing good.
- Believe in yourself first and foremost. No matter what others say, you make your reality with your actions, not their opinions.
- Don’t wait! So many of the people we asked said they wished they hadn’t hesitated, and had the confidence to start sooner.
Hopefully you’ve been inspired, and possibly a little heartened, knowing that many of these successful entrepreneurs have faced the exact same resistance as you have. No one is ever going to be perfect, and you’ll never gain the support of everyone. Take it all in stride and focus on building something great. Don’t dawdle, and overcome your doubters today.