Success is something I think about every day. And it’s something I hear about every day. Sometimes I feel like I could punch a hole through my Macbook if I hear another story about a 25-year-old millionaire CEO. My generation seems to be caught between two very different sets of professional ideals. Our parents were the traditional types who secured a covetable position at a reputable company and vowed to work there until they could retire. And their parents did the same. Some of our peers have gone on to do that, but a lot of our peers have decided to circumvent parental expectation by creating their own companies. And I’m not talking about some local gardening business. I’m talking about global tech and media empires with billion dollar valuations. If you’re not following one of these two paths, how do you define success?
As an entrepreneur, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most is how to determine success. What benchmarks am I striving for? Should I be comparing myself and my business to others that are successful? Obviously, in any situation, comparison is the root of all evil. Because no two companies are the same. Every scenario is different. Every business’ goals are different. But there is some value in looking at the commonalities between those who are successful. And when I say successful, I’m referring to those who are happy in their line of work and are able to make a living doing what they love. These are some big pieces that all the entrepreneurs in my circle have in common:
1. They have an insane love for what they do.
When you go into business for yourself, you have to love what you do. You’re voluntarily taking on a job that you know won’t produce immediate revenue or returns for quite some time. You have to invest time, blood, sweat, tears, and money into something that won’t give you any of it back in the near future. It’s your love for your craft or your industry that gets you through when things really suck. Without that intense passion, you’re doomed.
2. They have shitty days. And they get over it.
Yes, they are spending every day doing what they love. Yes, they are their own bosses. Yes, they are self-made. But with that freedom and fulfillment comes immense responsibility. When you’re your own boss, you don’t just sit around and create all day. You have to budget, promote, network, and strategize, too. A lot of those duties take up more of your time than your creative functions. And there are days when it all gets overwhelming or the yielded results don’t meet your expectations. The creatives I know take it all in stride, acknowledge failures when they happen, and keep on trucking.
3. They swallow their pride.
Of course, you have to know your worth. You can never let someone undersell you or your business. But you also have to have realistic expectations. You can’t start a business, work for two months, and expect someone to pay you a million dollars just because you’re confident in your abilities. We all have to start somewhere. And often, that means we have to take on other part-time work or lower-paying opportunities to make ends meet. It’s all part of the journey. Every creative I know has been open and willing to dive into any opportunity that could further their career. Experience first. Money second.
Do you possess these three qualities? If you do, you just might be successful one day. Just keep pushing forward. It'll happen. Probably.