Back to overview

Confessions Of A 30 Year Old Entrepreneur

First confession... I'm actually 38. (but that would ruin the Mark Zuckerberg comparison)

The Blurry Decade

Like most entrepreneurs and business owners, my work life and personal life have blurred together. Finishing college, starting a business/career, starting a family, getting a mortgage, etc. all at once is basically insane.  Let's cram all of life's most stressful events into few years...ya, uhm... great idea.  Funny enough, nearly everyone enters this insanity in their 20s and 30s. 

Starting a company in your 20s/30s is sometimes a good idea and sometimes it's bad.  It's a blur either way.  Just make sure your family isn't the blurriest part of your life.  Unplug and hug your spouse and kids!

Canadian Maple Syrup Takes Patience

Like a good Canadian Maple Syrup, you need time to create the sweetness.  Time boils off the water and leaves the sugar behind.  The blurry decade reveals results over time... and later than expected. 

When you're nearing 40 is when you really see the results of your 20s.  Where I am right now is the culmination of 100s of little decisions made over years... but there was intention behind them all. Read The Slight Edge for more along these lines.  I've redefined success a few times in the last 20 years, but I know however it's defined, success is created.  It does not just happen.

Are people really lucky in business?

Successful people are often thought of as lucky people.  "Luck" is an interesting word. I think luck is when preparation meets opportunity.  You can control preparation.  Opportunity is a bit random, but it's probably "everywhere" and just needs to be recognized.  Statistically speaking, the majority of lottery winners are bankrupt within 10 years... illustrating that super opportunities still require prep/knowledge/help to end well. 

Being lucky is very hard work.  In business, it's important to have multiple backup plans when things blow up.  This includes having enough time and money to see things through the early roller coaster years.  Lucky people also have a habit of surrounding themselves with awesome people.  This is no accident.

Failure Is Not An Option!  Oh, please.

"Failure is not an option" is a popular mantra in business.  Ha!  What a joke.  When you start up a company, failure is 100% guaranteed on so many levels.  Successful people are just good at learning from failure.  The real mantra should be, "Failure to learn is not an option".

Friends Are Not To Blame (But You Better Thank Them)

No matter the role I've played in my own destiny, I believe other people (friends and family) play a very big part in the outcome.  In my digital marketing agency, surrounding myself with people better than myself has been my only good HR idea.  Only hire someone that's better than you at something.  Good people are priceless.  Whether in work or personal life, blaming other people for things going wrong in my own life never ever solves anything.  I can't think of single time it's ever been productive.  It sucks the energy, joy, and momentum out of life. 

Gratitude is the exact opposite. Thanking other people (which I don't verbalize nearly enough) is always a good idea.  I don't know why this is true, but it's impossible to overdo thanking others.  When things are awesome, break out the compliments!  Your friends/family/coworkers are not to blame when things go wrong, but they are definitely to blame when things go right!  It took me more than a few years to figure this out. And now, for a suitably cheesy info graphic to end this semi-serious blog post...

James Shaw is Founding Partner & Creative Director at Twin Creek Media, an integrated marketing company in Kelowna, BC.  After starting up as a web design firm in 2004 with a college friend, the agency has grown to 5 warm bodies in the funky headquarters and a nifty team of 10 contractors internationally.