Knowledge Is Power: 21 Things Every 21-Year-Old Entrepreneur Must Know

by Joshua Fechter
Sony Pictures

Young entrepreneurs are forced to overcome some of the biggest obstacles.

They don’t always succeed, and that’s a critical part of the learning curve every successful person must go through.

But, when you’re 21 years old, it’s hard to understand why you face so many downturns.

Your issues hidden beneath your soon-to-be college graduate status seems to have no solution.

Maybe it’s college debt, a sudden change of career passion or a difficult job market.

It’s a little nerve-racking, especially if you’re an entrepreneur who doesn’t fit the corporate mold.

When I was 21 years old, I had just landed a job at my first startup, had zero relevant work experience and had a couple of degrees already finished.

Famed technology celebrities like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos were my heroes, and I aspired to be like them. However, I didn’t realize how far I was from achieving even a small success.

Moreover, I had no idea how little my degrees meant when it came to being an entrepreneur.

If I could give my 21-year-old self a little advice to make the following years as an entrepreneur much easier, this what I would say:

1. Strive to learn faster.

If you find yourself doing a repetitive task, you’re not learning.

Sometimes, you will have to sacrifice pay and comfort to learn faster, but ultimately, your success will directly reflect your knowledge.

2. People can say anything.

There are many people who want to achieve success and make money at all costs.

They will lie to you about your upcoming paycheck and make tons of other promises they can’t keep.

Learn to detect these people quickly by reading psychology books to increase your emotional intelligence.

3. Challenge yourself with projects you have to go above and beyond to complete.

Set the bar higher than you can currently reach, and work hard enough to progress and surpass that limit.

The only way to find out what you’re capable of accomplishing is to put your back up against the wall.

4. Money is great but means little if you don’t have the smarts to back it up.

When you start achieving success from working extremely hard, your first instinct may be to spend your money on all the fun social opportunities you missed out on.

But remember: The more money you make directly translates to your ability to invest in yourself so you can stay up-to-date in a world of constant innovation.

5. Never sacrifice your health at the expense of employer demands.

Short-term gains are always attractive. However, catching an illness and missing work for a couple of weeks can completely derail your success.

6. Be willing to jump into the deep end.

From traveling around the world to setting impossible deadlines for yourself, take the risks.

Think of it as a learning experience about how to become more resourceful and in turn, you will learn resourcefulness is the most powerful tool you have.

7. Ask as many questions as possible.

The number of questions you ask is directly proportional to how smart you are.

If you’re working in an environment that deters question asking, leave immediately.

8. The concept of free weekends doesn't exist.

As an entrepreneur, you treat each day the same. The concept of a “weekend” is for those who want to take a break from their ordinary, boring lives.

However, you’re on a path to be extraordinary, and that’s an everyday mission.

9. Don’t work hard for yourself; work hard for the bigger picture.

If you work hard for yourself, you’ll quickly be burnt out because it doesn’t take a lot to feel content with our lives.

But, if you strive to improve the lives of thousands or just of your family, you’ll find your motivational spark every day.

10. When you start achieving success, you need to work hard to retain it.

The means to achieve your goals will be the same as keeping them afloat.

It’s easy to spend money, but it's hard to earn it.

11. No matter what job you do, writing skills are critical.

From writing emails to giving PowerPoint presentations, a simple typo can get you fired.

Some employers don’t have the patience for those who didn’t learn basic writing skills in high school or college.

12. Work on projects that scare you.

If you’re not afraid of losing your job, you’re probably working on the wrong project.

Entrepreneurs take significant risks that only have two outcomes: complete failure or success.

13. Company culture is more important than how much you make.

Working in an environment where your coworkers are obnoxious, not relatable and disinterested in their work is not somewhere you want to be, no matter how much you’re getting paid.

Moreover, it says a lot of negative things about a company’s future.

14. Never live by someone else’s standards.

You’re meant to live through your own life, not someone else’s.

If you find yourself chasing standards that aren't yours, you’ll never feel fulfilled.

Ask yourself what it would take to accomplish your dreams. Those are the standards you should set.

15. Learn to make connections like a pro.

It’s only difficult to network with major industry players if you think it is.

You would be surprised by how many influential people are willing to take time out of their schedules to have a coffee with you.

16. Do something you're passionate about and you’ll never have to sell.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was working in industries, selling products I didn’t care about.

When I sold products I use and enjoy, I never even had to think about selling because it came so naturally.

17. People remember your successes, not your failures.

I’ve failed so many times it’s mind-boggling. But, I’ve never heard anyone bring up my failures.

People are only interested in what I’m currently doing and how I’m trying to bring positive changes to the world.

18. Working hard will keep you from your friends, but not from their respect.

Being an entrepreneur often requires many more hours than a full-time job.

If people know you don’t have time to hang out because you’re trying to change a small (or even a big) piece of the world, they will always respect you.

The truth: You have the courage they wish they had.

19. Reading is your most powerful tool to propel your success.

From books, you can derive a strong industry vocabulary, a brain database of random facts and a passion for continued learning.

Influential people will quickly notice these characteristics, which will make for excellent opportunities to develop crucial relationships.

20. Waking up early separates winners and losers.

It’s rare you’ll come across a successful entrepreneur who wakes up later than 7 am.

Early hours provide the peace and quiet to accomplish your most important tasks, so take advantage of it.

21. Give everything you have so you don’t live with regrets.

At the end of each day, you’ll know whether you lived life to the fullest.

Push yourself to accomplish your dreams, and become your own hero. If you can do that, you’ll never live with any regrets.

As Elon Musk says, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”