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3 lessons on life as an entrepreneur I didn’t learn in school

I have a pretty big bone to pick with the entire educational infrastructure.

The problem with schools and the traditional education system is that most young people are at a disadvantage right from the get-go if they don’t fit into a template.

Schools don’t set you up for life beyond traditional organizations. Creativity and doing your own thing is not a roadmap.

You learn about the skill set required to be a good employee — but not how to run a business.

Tax, opening a company, legal stuff… Then and there, you’re out of luck as you won’t learn how to capitalize on an opportunity. Most of all – you won’t learn how money makes money.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years that I wish I had been taught sooner:

You can’t fit and stand out

One of the lessons taught in school is that if you want to know how to price something, you should do it in the average sense as that’s the safest way to go.

First and foremost – nothing is safe in entrepreneurship. There are no safety nets here.

But let’s set that aside for a moment.

There are numerous real-life examples where doing the opposite has made people successful and rich. As an Israeli, I routinely point to Rami Levy, the guy behind the country’s largest supermarket chain as a prime case study.

Essentially, Rami took a different route and priced products as low as possible and turned a modest grocery store into an empire. I like to think of it as Israel’s version of Walmart, but cheaper and without the redneck-y stuff.

Would he reach the current level of success if he adhered to commonly accepted standard macroeconomics practices?

I highly doubt it.

And he’s not alone in what he did — there are hundreds of similar examples, I just picked the closest one to me.

To make matters worse, if you exhibit a keen entrepreneurial sense as a teenager, you’re being forced into a mold where you likely won’t fit in at all because if anyone makes for shitty employees, it’s us, entrepreneurs. Our mindset is different and we tick differently, maybe even to the point of no return.

The key for me was to invest in self-reliance, something I can’t recommend and underline enough. Think independently and embrace your individuality because, in the end, nobody cares more about helping you succeed than yourself. No one will work as hard nor sacrifice as much as you.

How you execute matters more than what you know

At the very core of the educational system is retaining information, remembering it for times to come.

But – there is very little focus on executing things. It’s something you usually learned afterward.

Granted, you come out of your student days with certain knowledge but you have almost nothing to act with. The theory is there but you gain no means as to how to connect it to your life.

Take math as an example. It’s everywhere, but you never get to the real, practical things that almost each one of us will need at some point in our lives, like knowing brutto and netto, employee tax, pension stuff, and so on. These examples may be somewhat dramatic but it’s all stuff from real life.

And when you make a transition to the business side, trouble is bound to happen.

Whether it’s pivoting, a flawed business model, being bested by the competition, and so on, there is no shortage of reasons why so many startups fail – and most of them can be linked to the inability to deliver.

Ask any investor what they look for in an entrepreneur and right off the bat, the majority of them will mention one of two things: that they seek clear differentiation that positions your business above competitors and a team that can effectively execute the vision.

These days, knowing the technology inside and out is not enough as the winning model for most investors is a combination of intellectual prowess and execution.

There are certain hacks you can leverage over and over

Back in the day as a late teen, I used to feel really good about myself due to a few good ventures in the entertainment industry. At the same time, something was nagging me.

I had serious doubts about my entrepreneurial capabilities because I did my thing over and over under the same parameters or circumstances. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a one-trick pony who was stuck in his comfort zone.

After some two and a half decades, now I know business isn’t like that. You can fearlessly pivot to a different industry and seize emerging opportunities because your entrepreneurial skill set can be applied in almost every business situation.

Why?

Because there are basics to how every business works, which I like to call hacks. If you know how to capitalize on money, it’s the same thing in every business.

Managing people, for example, is a skill you can leverage in any business. The same goes for building a strategy, getting to the endgame, doing business development, and so on.

I could go on and on. The point is that knowing how things work, how to make money, start, leverage, and lead – those will never go obsolete.

Final thoughts

Some things you can only learn by doing.

It’s okay to have questions and challenge perspectives. It’s okay to not know how to do everything. The key is to believe in yourself and trust your decisions as that is how you get to grow – both as a person and an entrepreneur.

About the Author
Ronen Menipaz is an Israeli investor, entrepreneur, tech advisor, and founder of numerous business ventures in the entertainment, adtech, and fintech space, as well as the co-host of the Real Life Superpowers podcast. During his 25 years of entrepreneurial experience, Ronen has been involved with over 100 startups in Israel, 30 of which he founded or co-founded. Two of those startups went public, while five were sold and four more are currently privately profitable companies.
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