4 Things that Prepare the Minds of Entrepreneurs


I was born in Kano, Nigeria. The economy was good and my parents were a middle class doing well.

Around 1997-1998, several ethnic and religious crises overtook the city. I am Yoruba – one of the three major ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, the other two being Hausa and Igbo. We lived at Katsina Road, a Hausa hub where the Hausa rioters could easily slaughter us in minutes – and many families had been slaughtered like that.

Some weeks after the Nigerian military dictator, General Sani Abacha, died in 1998, a vicious bloodletting began and everyone ran for dear life. That evening, my family took few clothes and moved in with my uncle living at Sabon Gari – a stronghold of the Igbos which was practically the only safe place in the city, aside the army barracks.

That night, our house was raided.

If we had waited one night in Katsina Road before fleeing, we’d have been murdered. Guaranteed!

But our lives were about the only things we didn’t lose. Everything else was lost.

We departed Kano for Lagos – for good. The psychological trauma of the unrest, the lost treasures, the duel with death and the sad reality of starting life from zero again… made things almost unbearable in Lagos.

So I started my first business at the age of 10. I hawked garri – a type of local flour made from cassava – for my mum after school.

Since then, I’ve undertaken lots of business engagements, worked for some other people and met many entrepreneurs.

Over the years, I used to dream of going for an MBA to learn business but little did I know life was already preparing my mind for business – probably more than any structured course could.

I’ve never taken an MBA, so I’m not the best person to tell you the value or otherwise in it. But I can tell you about four things you probably see as mundane – but which gradually but surely prepare your mind for the interesting and challenging journey of entrepreneurship.

1. Going to college (or not)

The Internet is filled with stories of successful drop outs. It’s public knowledge that

·      Steve Jobs spent one semester in college

·      Paul Allen spent two years in university

·      Richard Branson left school at 16

·      Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college

Education skeptics cite these successful dropouts to justify their argument that you need not go to college to become a successful entrepreneur.

Not everyone agrees with them. And college drop out, Bill Gates stands with the latter group.

I’d think what works for you might not work for another. In my own case, I went to college and I think it helps me. But again, I’ve got plenty of reasons to believe I’d have done well otherwise.

Whatever is the case for you, open your mind and learn away.

2. Working for others

For many people I know, working for others is not inspiring. Your freedom and creativity is restricted.

But not everyone can form their own company right from now. What if you don’t have the funds? What if you don’t have the expertise and connections?

For example, Mark Cuban worked as a bartender, Harrison Ford worked as a carpenter, Mary Kay sold books door-to-door and Andrea Bocelli was a nightclub piano player.

Truth is, working for others prepares your mind towards becoming a successful entrepreneur: you make mistakes and get corrected, build connections and gain practical experience. If you have the opportunity, use it – and very well too.

 

3. Networking

Daily, the exigencies of life will make you meet people, send out mails and share gifts. Those are mundane events, right?

Wrong!

They’re one of the ways life helps prepare your entrepreneurial mind. You learn to meet strangers and build relationships with them, deal with nice and disagreeable people, lend a helping hand and ask for help when you need it.

Some of these people will vanish as fast as they’ve come into your life, some will stay around, inspire and teach you how to be different. YBDivided for instance is one business that’s taught me to be different. While every other business is out just to maximize profit, they’re also pursuing a larger cause, pushing for greater unity and compassion in a world filled with prejudice.

Overall, these people and experiences help you get better at nurturing relationships. Good for your business mind.

We know Bill Gates has his Paul Allen, Steve Jobs has his Steve Wozniak, and Mark Zuckerberg has his circle too.

4. Mistakes

Mistakes and failures are painful. Sadly, they’re inevitable in life.

But the good news is, they teach you lessons you never forget. Every successful entrepreneur I’ve met or read about did make some painful mistakes or exhibited some immature behavior.

Want some real-life examples? Bill Gates was arrested twice for driving infractions, and Tim Allen and Jay Z were convicted substance abusers.

And these aren’t isolated cases. According to a research from the National Bureau of Economic Research, “The combination of “smart” and “illicit” tendencies as youths accounts for both entry into entrepreneurship and the comparative earnings of entrepreneurs.”

You can’t change your history of serial mistakes and acts of immaturity, but you can learn from it.

Passing through college, working for others, networking and making mistakes might be hard but they certainly prepare you as an entrepreneur.

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