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Today’s post it’s going to be quite heterodox. Among other things, I’m going to start talking about rabbits. These furry animals which are cute to keep as pets, nicer and friendlier than cats, and with a less stinky pee. Outdoors, I bet that you also enjoy when you see them happily running around in the fields. Fun fact, in my backyard we have a nice rabbit family sharing the grass with a hare family, all in harmony. So cute! But if you study a bit about ecology you’ll find out that apart from being cute, in the wild there is a huge number of other animals which rely on them for survival. In the Mediterranean ecosystems, for example, rabbits have around 40 predatory species, including the Iberian lynx (my old friend), foxes, mustelids, eagles, owls, snakes… That’s why when one wants to preserve certain habitat, the focus comes first to key species like the rabbits. Without wanting it, they are the heart of the survival of a whole ecosystem (with the permission of my other old friends, the plants).
Maybe you already knew about the rabbits, or maybe you just learnt something new. In any case, after nearly half a year since I became an entrepreneur, this is how I feel so far: a rabbit. Yes, I know I’m cute (and a bit furry too), but on top of that I think I also have around 40 predators myself. In a lucky day.
Nobody told me that becoming an entrepreneur was not like being a pet rabbit, but instead more like being released in the middle of the forest surrounded by foxes, eagles, snakes… Because we -the self-employed entrepreneurs- are the rabbits of the ecosystem. We provide for the whole community. We pay VAT (24% in Finland), that’s OK. But we also have to pay our own unemployment insurance. Plus an accountant, because taxes are too difficult to understand for normal people. Plus your business bank account, what looks awesome, but it is much more expensive than a personal account. And legally you cannot avoid paying all these things, what represents thousands of euros per year. Whether you have income or not… I know that taxes are important for the maintenance of the social system, but it was much easier when I had a contract and I didn’t see all that (who look at the payslip details?).
Thanks for reading so far, I needed this small venting-out, although this isn’t the main topic of this post. Now it comes the part where I talk about the worst predators of all, the ones that actually look like friends.
When you start a business, if you don’t come from a business background it’s normal to feel lost and insecure. Everything is new, and of course you commit rookie mistakes. So you start studying on your own, and attending free courses organised by startup-helping institutions. Thank you Finland for having this service! All this is good, but still you need more, because those business tips at the end are full of pretty obvious stuff. So you start reading blogs, subscribing to them, following some gurus online… And they all have the recipe for success. “If you follow my course, which is unique, I will show you how to succeed effortless”. “How to go from broke to earn 6 figure in 3 months without previous experience”. “How to attract high-paying clients in your first month, guaranteed”. Etc, etc. And the more you read, the more your email inbox and your Facebook timeline is filled with ads from them.
They all offer you something for free, because they want to help you, to make you successful, like they are already. Because they have the magic formula of success. Seriously, some of them even have math formulas. Others offer their guide with “67 steps to achieve wealth, health, love and happiness”. Others self-claim themselves “world’s #1 wealth coach” and organise free events to promote their programs… And the list grows to infinity and beyond.
The funniest I found was a coach for coaches who offered a system to create online courses to market and sell in a 3 months pack. Actually the same thing that you had to buy, a 3 months course pack. The logic: if I bait you to buy this, just learn to create this product, and others will buy yours also, same as you bought it. You cannot say that it’s not going to work, because you are actually buying this. Brilliant!
But at the end, keeping a critic mind, they all offer the same obvious answers as the public business help, just in another direction, and this time you have to pay. Often a lot. And if you connect the dots, that’s why they are successful, they predate on rookie rabbits just arrived to the business field. They promise you wealth, you just need to follow their way. If at the end you don’t manage, it’s only your fault. You did something wrong, because the system works, at least for them. Don’t you see how they are already successful and wealthy?
At the end I’ve given up reading and following those gurus, with a couple of exceptions who I still find interesting and useful, people who blog mainly for fun (and of course promotion), like Nela Dunato or Mark Manson.
Recently I found this sentence from Darren Hardy’s book The Compound Effect, which summarises perfectly my feelings: “Never ask advice of someone with whom you wouldn’t want to trade places”.
And here is when I highlight the figure of the mentor. If you need to know a new business, I hope you are already convinced about the bad approach that is to follow random people’s advice on the internet. What to do then? Easy, find someone that you know, who has succeeded in his/her business (also applies to other life aspects) and ask them directly. One to one, tête-à-tête, bidirectional. Find someone who masters the topic or enterprise you want to achieve, and ask for a conversation. If agreed, they will become your mentors, somebody who made the same rookie mistakes you are about to make now, and they solved them, offering you a much clearer path forward.
This person can be a good friend, an acquaintance, or someone you have some connection: that university professor who make an impact in your career, the therapist you went time ago, the owner of your favourite restaurant where you normally go… Don’t be afraid, normally they are nice people, although very busy, so don’t press too much. And if they don’t answer back, or do it in a nasty way, obviously this is not what you want to become, so keep looking.
So far I have 2 mentors, and I can tell you that half an hour of conversation with any of them can get me back on track faster than 100 hours of e-lessons or youtube videos from the world’s #1 wealth coach, or any other internet-famous self-proclaimed guru.
Therefore the take-home message from this post is: better ask advice to people that know the business, in person. Find a mentor. Avoid the guru-sh*t circulating around the internet, even if they are famous, with millions of followers, retweets or whatever. Because they don’t know you, so most likely they don’t care about you at all. On the contrary, a mentor will give you the exact pearl of wisdom that you need, because they care about you, and you can be sure that they know what they are doing.
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