Zack Morris, Parker Lewis, and Me
For those of us who watched this show every Saturday morning, there is no question who Zack Morris is, but for those who may have missed that part of history, you can catch up quickly here. A bit lesser known is Parker Lewis who you can read about here. In the lives of both of these characters we see traits like being cool under fire, taking on big challenges, and crafting elaborate schemes to cut corners. The other day I was thinking a lot about this and how characters from our childhood influence us as entrepreneurs. I was certainly influenced by these two in the fact that I watched them always narrowly escape certain defeat and when they didn’t accomplish what they set out to do, they learned a valuable life lesson usually taught to them by a celebrity guest. This makes for engaging television, but doesn’t work as well for a real business. I got to thinking a lot about how easy it is to get caught up in the big gamble scenario and how often that actually has been detrimental to my career and I started to notice that many of the things we are told as aspiring entrepreneurs work great at a conference in terms of motivation, but are not necessarily as practical when you actually have to execute. Many of us leave a conference, TED talk, or a blog post chanting how important it is to chop down the tree, but when we get outside we realize the speaker never gave us the ax. So here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years about starting your own thing:
- You don’t need ____________ to succeed! - Insert any form of education like college, an MBA, financial literacy etc. into the blank and then get out there! Some people chose not to go to college and became billionaires, some never studied business at all and created thriving ones, and some skipped high school and created a company that got bought by Twitter. Good for them.They are not you. There are also plenty of people who have gone to college, gotten an MBA, etc. who are successful and who will tell you that the education they received worked for them. Just as Zack and Parker would have you believe that skipping school and having fun is super easy and you’ll still graduate, many of the people who you hear speak will tell you that if they can do ___________ so can you. They are not you. There have been plenty of people over the years I tried to be and it never quite worked out for me the way it worked out for them. Be careful of getting sucked in to someone else’s dream for what you can be. You have your own dreams and your own way to execute on it. Trust in that.
- If you aren’t happy, quit and do what you love now! - Want to know how to be really unhappy? Quit without a game plan. Making money on your own is entirely possible and the amount you make when you work for yourself can indeed by more than you made at your previous job, but it is not easy by a long shot. The Zacks and Parkers of the world will have you believe that if you don’t like something, you can just drop it and you’ll “figure it out” but if you have ever had to sell anything in your life, it is not easy at all. Being an entrepreneur means that there is no one above you cutting you a check on a weekly basis and you yourself have to figure out how to make that money. That takes time and effort. That takes learning how to sell and creating great messaging. If you have no runway because you just quit your job, your path is going to be a lot more rocky than you think, no matter what anyone who left work and within two weeks was making millions will tell you.
- Everything’s outdated and everyone who’s not young is a dinosaur! - The fastest way to making the same mistakes is to ignore what the people before you have learned. In Zack and Parker’s world Belding and Musso are “totally uncool” and “out of touch”. In the world of business the people who have been doing this for years have a ton of great insight to offer you. Don’t just dismiss them because they are not in the same age range. I see this happen all the time. There are plenty of people who have been in business for a really long time for a very good reason and they can share that with you if you let them. You’ll be amazed at all of the things you can accomplish when you let someone else point out the land mines for you before you step on them.
- Take HUGE risks! - For every story of someone who put their business on a credit card and turned it around at the 11th hour, there are thousands who did the same thing and either are still struggling or are in a backroom somewhere right now punching in and practicing the phrase “Do you want fries with that?” I was at a talk the other night where the speaker was pointing out that entrepreneurs do indeed take risks, but the truly successful ones spend a good deal of time figuring out how to minimize that risk. Zack and Parker would have you believe that you can skip school more than three times and still get away with it. Ever tried to skip school even once? It usually does not work out the way you think it will. The people who want you to take huge risks will often say that you leap and the net will appear. I say, build the net before you leap.
- YOU can solve the problem with a little more hustle! - How many times have you heard the word hustle in the past year? The idea that’s presented is that if you are willing to stay up until all hours of the night and just work hard you’ll get through any obstacle. Let’s have a look at how well that worked out for one Zack’s friends You need more than just hustle. You need a support network, you need mentors, and you need to constantly reflect and evaluate your process on a daily basis. No amount of hustle is going to change that.
I think that it is incredibly important for us to find motivation where we can, but I think it’s equally important to put that motivation in context.
Take a moment to look at your current business and ask if there are any things that you are doing that remind you of Zack or Parker. If so, how can you shift them?
If you take the time to get real with yourself about your business, that’s when you really “can’t lose.”