Opinions expressed by entrepreneur The contributors are themselves.
When people say, “Well, everyone has to start somewhere,” they’re usually not referring to dropouts like me. To be honest, I was a very rebellious kid and by the age of 16, I managed to fail most of my classes – all except art and technology – so I dropped out. You could say I wasn’t exactly setting myself up for success, but what 16-year-old doesn’t love a good challenge?
What I knew was that I wanted to use my artistic skills, so I set my sights on becoming a designer and entered graphic design school. But my low grades and lack of discernible academic skills did me no favors and my application was rejected. Furious, I got a job as a tea boy (yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like) at a creative production agency. It didn’t take me long to realize that if I made the tea badly enough, my coworkers wouldn’t ask for it as often. Then I have more time to figure out how I can really contribute to the company.
But the biggest challenge I faced at the agency was not the tea kettle. It was my family. I was the son of one of the three owners of the agency, which meant I had to work twice as hard to be accepted by my colleagues. But it soon became clear that it did not work. Two weeks into my tenure, my older brother, who had been with the agency for several years, pulled me out. He said: Everyone hates you.
that bit I couldn’t believe it. I was hurt, angry and more than a little embarrassed. But that slap of reality motivated me to prove myself over the next 20 years by constantly looking for ways to make myself valuable to the organization. By the time I became CEO some two decades later, I had worked in just about every position. Along the way, I learned lessons that ultimately served me well as a CEO. And I could only learn them by working my way up the ranks and working in all corners of the business.
Here are three lessons I would like to pass on to any inspiring entrepreneur:
1. Don’t believe what you see in the movies
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart: new problems, scary unknowns, and exciting (but distracting) opportunities challenge you every day. And you second-guess yourself at every step while others rely on you to make decisions. People will rely on you to make the right decisions – and they will expect you to do so with a degree of confidence, whether you have it or not!
Movies love to portray entrepreneurs with automatic access to lavish parties, luxury cars, and a golden ticket to Silicon Valley. In this case, life does not imitate art. Entrepreneurship involves many struggles. And if you’re lucky and your company starts to grow, so will your campaign.
In fact, you can compare entrepreneurship to parenting. Some of the most difficult, challenging, and stressful moments in life involve raising a child. The bigger the child, the bigger the mess, right? It often seems like an uphill battle to keep the house clean. But parenting is also magic. It contains some of the most moving and memorable moments of your life. Parents and entrepreneurs often find themselves in high-pressure situations, managing unique personalities and receiving zero credit. But these facts are true for both:
Despite the difficulties, you can achieve success with perseverance. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Energy and perseverance conquer all things.”
Related: 4 Success Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs
2. Passion supports perseverance
As an entrepreneur, you need passion to succeed. It will inspire your business plans and differentiate you from the competition. Your passion will attract the right customers and employees, and perhaps most importantly, motivate you to fulfill your mission.
If you want to give your all to something, you have to do what you love. Otherwise, you’ll get burned out, frustrated, and tempted to act. To identify your purpose, ask yourself:
I was put on this earth to do what?
What motivates me to get out of bed every morning instead of sulking under the covers and thinking about life?
What makes me tick?
Once you’ve determined your goal, take a step back and examine your career. Ask yourself: Does my job fulfill my purpose? Stepping into the world of business means choosing an investment that you believe in and are passionate about. Find a way to achieve that goal and push yourself forward to achieve the best possible outcome.
This starting point requires a vision and goals to achieve success. Where do you want to see your business in one, five and 10 years? Check daily the alignment of your goals and interests with your future plan.
My goal is creativity. It makes me tick, and it propels me forward in my career. In my world, it is essential for me to understand the creative process, how people think and work. By thinking creatively, I find more solutions to problems and even challenge my own assumptions.
Related: Remember, persistence pays off. Stay motivated with these 5 tips.
3. Defending, cherishing and promoting creativity
Creativity is born from adversity and limitations. Growing up, I was very familiar with both. For most of my childhood, my parents played cheating tennis, fought and tormented each other while my brother and I could only watch. My limitation was the university system which crushed my spirit. It wasn’t right for me and it wasn’t giving me what I needed at the time.
Adversity drove me to be creative in order to ease my anxiety and escape from my parent’s tortuous relationship. I channeled my passion for the creative process into designing, making, and creating, which also served as a rebellion against the constraints of the academic system. My creative spirit protected me and helped me thrive despite the upheavals happening at home.
To some extent, the creative spirit expresses a higher power in man. And while creativity doesn’t come naturally to everyone, it lives in all of us. Entrepreneurs must use the creative process to solve problems, escape bad times, and use this creativity in good times to develop products and innovate. I started my company in 2011 with the mission of unlocking creativity through open technology. That goal hasn’t changed, and it still gets me out of bed in the morning.
The struggles I faced in my professional and personal life, along with passion and creativity, made me the leader and entrepreneur I am today. If you have the next great idea, allow yourself to explore it and see where it leads. Of course, use your experiences, purpose, and creativity to unlock your potential.
Related: 7 Tips for Budding Creative Entrepreneurs