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 being modest 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

 

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  • http://quickeyespeedreading.com Ryan

    Fantastic post. I remember trying to balance multiple companies at once as well, but you told me it was best to push one. You were right, and now that one takes only a few hours per week, but pays for everything. Now my time is free to spend on random ventures.

    Had I not had the focus, the persistence, and the crazy thought in my mind that it could all work; I’d probably be working a random job and hating every minute of it. Your post is spot on. Thank you as always.~Ryan 

  • http://sybersquad.com Christopher Knopick

    I’ve got a 6th one for you, a thick skin.  You need to develop it in order to deflect all of the negativity that gets hurled at you (from well meaning people) but that don’t understand that you “HAVE” to do this and succeed.  If not for your well being, for their peace of mind.

  • Ken Cook

    “When you get to the top..don’t forget the little people…” 

  • http://twitter.com/ZahlmZahlm Hugh Kimura

    Number one was a huge one for me…I’ve finally eliminated all the stuff that I’m not totally passionate about and it feels so much better.  I really enjoyed hearing about what you have overcome so far!

  • @DavidAHunter

    Persistence always pays the best interest!

    I don’t think anything else really matters if you’re not persistent.

  • SofiaMaria

    Thank you Maren Kate for this inspiring blog. I’ve been visiting for the past year, but this is my first time commenting. I just got the guts to quit my 9 to 5 and throw myself into a business idea I’ve had for years. I’m going to need the Calvin Coolidge quote for when the tough times come! 

    Thank you sincerely for sharing your entrepreneurship journey with all of us!

  • http://LouisvilleGalsRealEstateBlog.com sharon Vornholt

    Maren – What a great post. I have put it up on my blog with a link back to your site. Sharon Vornholt.

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Thank you!

  • http://LouisvilleGalsRealEstateBlog.com sharon Vornholt

    You are very welcome.

  • http://getbusylivingblog.com Benny Hsu

    Great post Maren and I love that quote you added at the end. Zirtual is doing a great job and Erik is definitely outstanding. He should definitely get a raise. :)

  • Yassine

    I’m from Morocco, the impression I’ve got of you is of  ”a hard headed woman”, like in the Cat Stevens’s song.. persistance, persistance, persistance..good very good :o ) you sound also genuine on the October’s video, thank you for sharing your ideas.

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Thanks Yassine! Appreciate it – and I love Cat Stevens.

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Thanks Benny! Erik is awesome huh? That quote sits framed above my desk, helps me every single day.

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Thanks so much for commenting, I love hearing from readers! And congratulations – print out that quote and frame it! It will help you on your journey :)

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Heck ya :)

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Thanks Hugh!

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Ha, Oh I won’t… hopefully we’ll all get to the top :)

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    Yep, good call. That’s absolutely necessary in this biz :)

  • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

    I’m so happy/proud/happy for you! That’s amazing – we must catch up soon!

  • http://www.facebook.com/siekerka Michael Siekerka

    Thank you for sharing a brief view of your struggles.  The quote you provided is excellent, I printed it out and hung it up immediately after seeing it!

  • Alice Bymaster

    What does your company do? Just visited SF for two weeks – love the city and hats off especially making it in such a tough city (expensive, etc.), though the city itself could be a catalysta – I never feel more alive than when I am in SF.     – Alice

  • Funkie Diaz

    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.

    http://www.lipoglutathione.net

  • Morgan Flag

    I say this, to scare you, and in reality I’m being modest 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.

    http://www.bluegala.com