Lessons Learned: 5 Traits Needed for Success

lessons learned

When I came to San Francisco, almost a year ago today, I thought I had a decent understanding of starting a business in the internet space. I had been “working online” since I was 19, doing everything from selling jewelry on eBay to social media consulting, I look back now and blush over my deep, unsettling ignorance.

In the last year I have learned more about starting up in the real world than I thought was possible – the crazy part is I probably haven’t even scratched the surface. When people say “it isn’t easy” they aren’t lying, they’re being generous. If I did a slideshow of what I’ve gone through in the last year to get Zirtual from non-existent to what it is today – you wouldn’t believe me.

I have lived in hostels, I have taken advantage of complimentary breakfasts at places I’m not staying, I have cried late at night prostrated on my desk, I have worked out of Starbucks, I have walked 3 miles in the rain to a meeting and arrived soaking wet because I didn’t want to spend the money on a cab, I have hustled, I have begged, I have borrowed, I have done everything but steal – unless you count aforementioned free-breakfast noshing stealing – then I’ve even done that.

I say this, to scare you, and in reality, I’m toning it down because you can’t understand what a year of non-stop hustling feels like from reading one blog post. Why do I want to scare you off? Because the few people who are true entrepreneurs out there and have what it takes to chase their dreams won’t be scared.

They’ll read this and focus on the I’m-almost-out-of-the-woods part, not the year in exile… and you my dears are the type of people who must chase your dreams. You must become entrepreneurs and you must follow your visions – because you are a rare breed and 99% of your cohort will never be able to do what you do. Because of this you probably possess…

The 5 Traits Needed for Success

  1. A solitary vision. Before really honing in on Zirtual I chased down several business ideas at once. Because of this I couldn’t get anywhere with any of them, the split focus was killing me. After graduating Founder Institute I decided that come hell or high water I was going to make Zirtual a success and proceeded to drop everything else I was working on. Which leads to…
  2. A high tolerance to risk. I didn’t always have a high tolerance for risk, instead I’ve spent the majority of my life seeking comfort and stability. But one day I realized I was either going to be comfortable, or happy, and I wanted desperately to be happy. So through lots of reading and  exposure therapy I learned to stomach large amounts of risk and I have come to realize that it’s my secret weapon. Most people avoid risk and uncertainty like the plague.
  3. A love/hate relationship with uncertainty. I think uncertainty is the spice of life. Not knowing what a new restaurant is going to taste like draws you in, the unknown part of a fresh relationship makes things exciting. But, as with all good things, uncertainty has a flip side – which can be catastrophic. You can get food poising or get your heart broken. Because of the down side of uncertainty most people avoid it, not realizing that when you push just a bit past the shudders of uncertainty you’ll find a whole new world of possibilities – one that most people never see because of their fear.
  4. An open mind and open ears. When you’re starting out – whether in a new field of study or a new business – the best thing you can possibly do is to listen to others who have gone before you. This can be reading, watching interviews or simply sitting down and talking with smart people on a weekly basis. Be sure to keep an open mind to what they’re saying. Often you’ll find a nugget of pure gold that will change your life forever. Keep your ears open more than your mouth. They know what you’re going to say (they’ve been in your shoes) but you don’t know what they have to share – so shut up, sit down and start listening to smart people.
  5. Ridiculous, near-mental persistence. I can’t stress this enough, almost all of the previous things I’ve stated can be discovered or even shortcut by persistence alone. What I’m saying is that if you have to choose one character trait with which to enter the entrepreneurial game with, make it persistence. The kind of persistence where people look at you and think you’ve lost your damn mind. The kind of persistence where even your family doubts you, but you push on regardless.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. – Calvin Coolidge