Derek Shanahan

10 Things I’d Tell My Pre-Startup Former Self

This post is a part of this week’s Startup Edition, a collection of posts inspired by the question: “What advice would you give young entrepreneurs?”

I never planned on being an entrepreneur.

I never really planned on a career at all, like most of the people in my generation. I spent the first 22 years of my life thinking I might play professional soccer, and when that stopped feeling right I walked away from the sport without a Plan B.

I primarily followed my nose after that, and it lead me on a path to trying to build companies and products.

If I could go back to my senior year in college and share a few nuggets of wisdom with my youthful self, these are a few of the things I’d say:

  • Building products, services, and companies is an enlightening experience that’s likely to redefine your paradigm for the idea of work. If it’s right for you, you feel as if you’re almost always working but it never feels like work.
  • Think about networking any which way except for the way you’re taught to think about it. Don’t do it with a specific goal in mind – do it because people are what will truly make the difference for you.
  • Speaking of people, focus on meeting as many great ones as you can. Good people lead to good things, always.
  • Hypothesize and prove yourself wrong as often as possible. Every day if you can. Being wrong is hard for most people, and the more comfortable you are with it the better equipped you are to succeed.
  • There’s a big difference between acting like a founder and acting like an owner. Founders are leaders, owners are bosses.
  • Co-founding is akin to marriage in a lot of ways. Don’t do it lightly, and hold up to your end of the bargain.
  • One of the tricks to being efficient (as opposed to busy) is learning to say no more often than you say yes.
  • Work hard at becoming a great¬†product picker. If it’s not your thing, find a co-founder or team member who’s already great at it. It’ll make all the difference going forward.
  • Stay fit. The energy, clarity, and strength you’ll get from exercise is a competitive advantage.
  • Eat real food and make food a priority, even if money’s tight. Ramen profitable doesn’t mean you actually have to eat shitty ramen.

There’s probably hundreds of little insights I’d like to share with my former self, but these jump out based on my experience over the last few years.

What advice would you give yourself prior to the path your currently on?

1 comments
Anderson760
Anderson760

If it's your first shot at the rodeo focus on doing 1 thing very well. I know you want to take over the world, create a product that competes with giants, and you will. But promise me that when you create your first product you will focus on one thing, know it inside and out, and change how people perceive that one thing that seemed so obvious