The Shocking Truth About Success: The Startup Of You


“If you think you’re being risky, you’re doing the safest thing you can. If you’re playing it safe, you’re taking a big risk.” –Seth Godin, entrepreneur, former VP of Direct Marketing at Yahoo!, best-selling author

The recent scarcity of jobs has shown us how exposed we really are without relevant real world experience. We’re forced to either be proactive and excel, or drown while we hope for a lifejacket that someone else may toss us. In any case, there are opportunities out there begging to be seized. There rarely is a silver bullet; rather, the best opportunities are made available to those who haven’t been afraid to take the less attractive ones on their way up.

Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha recently made The Startup of You famous. This concept centres around several entrepreneurial pillars amongst many others, such as adapting and pivoting, building a network of like-minded individuals and mentors, and tracking metrics and performance carefully.

Some individuals have recognized this. They’ve started moving, much swifter than others. They spend parts of their time doing various things they love, whether it’s art, science, or an athletic initiative. They spend time chatting with people who are more experienced than them, who they admire. They don’t mind cold e-mailing these wiser individuals. They reach out at conferences and professional events. (Eventbrite and Meetup are useful.) They are not afraid to punch above their weight class.

You can do the same. You can start creating things that are awesome. If you’re into business, start building a website that can help you sell things. (Shopify makes it really easy.) If you’re into science, reach out to a professor and collaborate with them in a study. If you’re into business development, draft up a whitepaper to generate more leads.

I’ve been experimenting with this concept on myself. I love writing and internet marketing, so I decided to write an eBook. In my spare time, I’m still looking to refine my own core competencies as an artist, and looking to learn as much as I can with everything that I do. I reach out to whoever is doing something I’m passionate about, or something that’s radically different from everyone else. I take some time out every so often to evaluate my own performance in various arenas, whether that’s in my writing or in my work with Impact.

It’s through my writing and my work with Impact that I realized the importance of learning from those who have done what I want to do. Through Impact, I’ve learned some hard truths about the world firsthand: for example, shortcuts aren’t usually available till we don’t need them, asking forgiveness is sometimes better than asking for permission, and focus is crucial. I’m grateful to have connected with some excellent opportunities through Impact, whether it’s a chance to chat with other people excited about what they’re doing, or a couple of weeks helping out at an exciting startup.

Although it can be hard work, it is often very rewarding. I’m happy to announce that we’re looking for more people to join the team as contributors. We’re looking for students to sit down with some veteran entrepreneurs, esteemed business leaders, and experts in various other fields and pick their brains on various topics. It’s a great way to connect with experts, while simultaneously getting published to thousands of readers. If you’re interested, click here to apply by August 18.

Inaction is not a safe option; it is the riskiest one, as you’re competing with people moving two, three, or four times as fast. If you want an accelerator or a jump start, you know where to look. It’s time to start thinking of yourself as a startup: what are your core competencies, and what is your competitive advantage? What is your value proposition? What opportunities are out there, and how is the career landscape changing? What changes do you need to adapt to? Who can you learn from, and how can you get in touch with them? What questions would you ask them?

Safe is the new risky, and risky is the new safe.

Photo credit: Startup Weekend LA by Philippe Lewicki on Flickr
About the author

Herbert Lui is exploring the intersection of entrepreneurship, art, and technology. He is passionate about writing and design, and believes in learning by doing. Herbert is currently a contributor at Techvibes, a VP at the Impact Entrepreneurship Group, and experimenting with new media through CutEdge. If you’d like to get in touch, you can follow Herbert on Twitter (@herbertlui).