Do you know this girl?
Every morning I pushed myself into the crowded New York subway, connecting to the F train that only comes when it feels like to. Everyone buried their heads in the ear studs, the only way to survive morning commute in Manhattan.
I listened to podcasts on entrepreneurship, investments, TED…Until I arrived office, where I could finally sit while wondering when on earth will I start my own business?
Then the evening comes. I joined my friends, who usually updates me their latest business ideas and dating progress since the last meet up. After confiding our life frustration to each other and getting mutual support, I forgave my girls for being fashionably late again.
What’s more important, I realized everyone wishes to escape their work one day. The only thing missing is the business idea itself.
Does that mean we are sitting ducks until then?
Everyone talks about how to find your passion. Yet that’s not as easy as it sounds. What if I tried and still haven’t found my calling? Or I don’t have the business idea yet, what shall I do?
That’s exactly how I felt. No one ever talks about how to prepare for passion!
Listen, my friend, there’s a lot you can do even when you don’t have the business idea yet. I’m an entrepreneur today and here is what I did to prepare myself for it.
1. Learn the essential general skills
Skills that matters regardless of industry or business model. This includes sales, marketing, investment, and people skill, etc. There are foundations to prepare for your passion.
It should not be the hottest topic of the time, such as blockchain today. It is possible that when you finally find your idea, the hottest subject already felt out of trend or has nothing to do with your business.
The essential general skills, however, are useful both in work and life. Even if you don’t come up with an idea to work on in the near future, these learning investments will never go wasted. It is the investment that is absolutely low risk with high return.
2. Use 5 hours rule on general skill learning
Spend 5 hours each month to learn skills that are irrelevant to your work in the next 5 months. For example, if you are in marketing, try a YouTube video on Six Sigma in operations management. If you are in finance, learn what is SEO and AB testing from Lynda.com, If you are in sales, get a book or video on PE 101 to get started.
3. Study business models that interest you
Consume learning like an omnivore. All the information will remix in your mind into a new idea of your own. You can follow your mood at the moment and listen to podcasts, interviews, blogs as you like.
I believe in cross-disciplinary learning. A human brain needs a variety of stimulus to create new combinations. Besides some of the subjects mentioned above, I have dipped in all kinds of lectures and presentations, from agile lectures for product managers to pronunciation skills for speakers.
As a Chinese saying goes: one does not need to have eaten pork to know what a pig looks like.
4. Audit university classes in your city
I started auditing classes at Columbia Business School after work, from entrepreneurship to investment. After work, I left the buzzing mid-town Manhattan and stepped away from the non-stop emails. Back to the arms of my campus.
I still remembered one of the guest speakers at an investment class. He was a veteran CEO who talked about applying Darwin’s theory of evolution in leadership: how one should accept the nature of things and let the world do the work for you, and not fight against it.
These words hit me like lightning, it reminds me of a work issue I had that day. It reminded me of life in the mid-town office, how we all kick and fight, unwilling to accept human nature in business.
Now I found the answer to the issue at hand and knew how to move the needle.
By the time I jumped on the train back to downtown, it felt like having been far from the madding crowd. All of a sudden, those ridiculous work emails and frustration seemed mildly amusing to me. It was a wonderful feeling.
5. Built your network
Another important way to prepare for your passion is to build your network.
Every contact you made from work can be your future social capital. From the contacts you meet at industry conferences to the sales reps who pitched you in your office. People who have met you in person or worked together with you are most likely to convert to your supporter, this is human nature.
I expect some of you might say: “I won’t need those contacts, my future business will not be in my current industry, I do not like it”. That’s fair. One thing you will never know is what you might need help with and from whom, and there is no need for proactively disconnect yourself.
I was on top of my job and was constantly delivering above expectation. Thanks to that I got an abundance of trust and freedom from my boss based in Europe. He left me alone most of the time because I do not need many instructions on how to reach my goal.
During lunch breaks, after work or Friday afternoons in summer, I read books in my office with the door closed. This is wonderful especially because New York subway is always cramped during rush hour, my girlfriends will never learn to arrive dinner on time, winter blizzard is freezing and the Nespresso machine in the office is amazing!
If you feel frustrated about a corporate job that just cannot keep up with your constant need for variety and stimulant, these approaches will largely reduce your frustration and make you happier.
7. Build up savings!
This is the most important yet ignored part to prepare for your passion. When you start your own business, you might need to bootstrap your own business or be without salary for a period.
8. Last but not least, be grateful for your current job
Since I was able to acquire new learning elsewhere, I had a different expectation for my job. I assigned a new purpose for it -the ‘sponsor’ of my future business, it’s value to me are:
- This job gives me savings to bootstrap future business
- This job gives me medical insurance
- This job gives me networks for my future business
- This job buys me time to figure out my passion and business idea
- This job gives me the experience to get things some against personal agendas, limited resources and changing environments. You see there is a good chunk of overlap between a corporate job and being an entrepreneur. You are much more prepared than you thought!
This change of mindset filled me with gratitude. I no longer waste energy feeling unfulfilled from a corporate job. Instead, I calmed down and focused on learning and recharging from my own outlets. It was then, the knowledge started to sink in.
Since that moment, things started to change, quiet, gradual yet irreversible. Everything started.
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