At my daughter’s recent graduation, a commencement speaker kept reiterating, “You can do anything with a degree in philosophy.” To which I thought, you can do anything with the right attitude. For all of you entrepreneurs struggling to make ends meet but committed to seeing your dreams through, this article is for you.
I was a late bloomer. I didn’t have a full-time job until I was 27. When I was hired, I was basically starving. My car had broken down. I was living with two other people and sleeping on a couch. My family and friends thought I was going nowhere, fast.
I didn’t feel that way though. Yes, I was living leanly -- that much was obvious. I wasn’t doing well financially. Sure, friends of mine were getting married and buying houses. But neither of those choices excited me.
Taking the road less traveled is part of being an entrepreneur. I felt like it was too early to compromise. I wanted to follow my dream, which was to work with my hands and be creative. I wanted to be my own boss.
At the time, I was making stuffed animals and selling them at street fairs. I was learning about people and how to sell to them. It wasn’t easy, but I stayed true to myself. I was enthusiastic and hard-working. I know those are the qualities -- and not my resume or skill set -- that led me to getting hired at my first job. So don’t give up hope.
One Sunday, I read an article about a new startup in Fremont called Worlds of Wonder. It was a toy company. I knew I could make a better-looking teddy bear than the one they were marketing, although I had designed just a few stuffed animals for another company. The next day, I visited WOW’s offices in person and told them they needed me.
To my surprise, they agreed to interview me. They could tell I was enthusiastic. I was so enthusiastic, in fact, that I had bought a new suit for the occasion. I did my best to hide my ponytail for the interview, but when I returned to my apartment, elated, I noticed that the price tag was still dangling from my blazer. You can’t win them all!
I remember sitting in my cubicle that first day, excited but totally unsure of what I was doing. When we had staff meetings, I tried to make myself invisible, always choosing to sit at the back of the room. But whenever there was a job to do, I raised my hand.
I was a fish out of water, but I was determined to make it work. No task was too large or small. I just kept thinking, I can figure this out, like I have everything else. I had a good attitude. I was the first to work and the last to leave. (Little did they know that part of the reason why was because I was sleeping there overnight.)
They were paying me, but I should have been paying them, because working at a startup taught me an incredible amount about starting a business.
You will have self-doubt. You will be terrified. Many of us don’t take on new things because we’re sure we don’t have the skills. But from my experience, it’s far more important to have the right attitude. Almost everything can be taught. Are you a ready and willing student? You have to be able to ask others for help.
Are you ready to make a leap into the unknown? I’m excited for you. You’re here, after all, wanting to learn how to be a better entrepreneur.
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