Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #154
Let's see if we can get out of this stupid box together...
I love cliches, but I hate contradictions. That puts me in an awkward position when it comes to the phrase “thinking outside the box,” a phrase that often gets used to describe how entrepreneurs need to think. Specifically, it’s a cliched way of describing creative thinking, and that bothers me. Don’t we need a creative way to describe creativity?
Admittedly, I’m probably over-thinking the issue, but at least it inspired me to research where the phrase comes from, and that’s what led to my first article in this issue. It’s about the history of the phrase “thinking outside the box.” Apparently everyone has been using it wrong. Read the article to see what I mean.
Is it Time for Entrepreneurs to Stop “Thinking Outside the Box”?
Everyone’s favorite cliche might not mean what you think, but that’s OK. It’s even more valuable once you know what it actually means.
An Investor Taught Me the Two Things a Startup Idea Needs in Order to Be Successful
Everyone knows one of the two things, but most people overlook the other one because they don’t realize how valuable it is.
Office Hours Q&A
I’m currently a college student. I think I am most interested in working for a startup when I graduate instead of an established business like I feel is more normal for new college graduates.
If you were going to work for an early stage startup, what would you look for in terms of a startup that is most likely to be successful?
Rather than trying to predict which startups are going to be successful – especially early on – I suggest you reframe success. The success you should be concerned about isn’t success for the startup. You need to be focused on an outcome most likely to provide success for you.
And by “success for you,” I don’t mean money. Yes, money is nice. But do you know what’s more valuable than money? Knowledge!
If I was going to pick a startup to work for straight out of college, I’d be reminding myself that I’m young and have a long career ahead of me. While getting ridiculously lucky and making a couple million dollars off a big exit from whichever startup I picked would be nice, it’s not likely. Plus, even if, by some incredible miracle, it does happen, it won’t be as life-changing as you probably think. A million dollars isn’t enough to retire on when you’re in your early 20s.
Instead, since the real value of working for a startup comes from the knowledge you gain, the real thing I’d be asking myself is: “Where can I learn the skills most likely to help me succeed in the future?”
The good news is that answering that question about where you’re most likely to learn a lot is much easier than figuring out which startup is going to be successful. After all, the answer is almost always the same: Find a startup where you’ll get to work directly with a great founder.
Great founders can teach you more in a few months of working at a startup than most people learn in an entire lifetime. I’m telling you this because spending two or three years working for (and with) a great founder is the absolute best way to build the kinds of valuable startup skills and knowledge you’ll be able to leverage for the rest of your career. It’s about as close as you can get to a guarantee that you’ll have a successful startup experience.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!