Hey, everyone. Sam Ovens here. In today's video, I want to share with you nine things that I wish I knew when I was 20. Right now I'm 29, and I've been in business for like ... Well, I first started becoming an entrepreneur when I was about 21 years old.
It's been nine years since I first started getting into this. When I was reflecting on my journey the other day, I thought, what were some of those things that I really wish I knew when I'd gotten started? What were some of those key pillar insights or lessons that I wish I had known back when I started that would've helped me through my journey?
There's a lot of them, but I decided to kind of synthesize them down into just nine simple points and share them with you today in this video so that if you're starting a business or growing a business or if you're thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, you can take these lessons from my journey and apply them in your own. Let's get started.
Now, the first one is a big one. It is where you are in life right now, like every ... Take a moment. Just stop. Pause. Look around you. Look at your life situation. Look at where you are in life right now. Understand that it's solely you who did it. You're responsible. It wasn't anybody else who did it. You did it. It's all your fault. Until you understand that, you'll never be able to take control over anything in your life because if you live life thinking passively like, "Life happens to me and I don't have any influence over my life," or "I'm a victim, and all of these other people in the world control my life," then you'll never be able to make a change. You'll never be able to control it.
If you want to see a lot of evidence of this, in a lot of the poorest countries in the world, there's a very high correlation with a religion. The poorest countries in the world are the most religious countries in the world. I'm not saying that religion is a bad thing, but they're typically ... Their religion revolves around thinking that their life here is ... They've got no control over it, and then they're basically just here to suffer, and then they'll have a good life when they die in some kind of afterlife, right? Now, if you have that belief, you're going to be eternally screwed.
That is kind of an extreme version of it, but in your own life, you've got to understand that you've got the steering wheel. You've got control of your own fate. It's all your doing. When you understand that, then you're able to take responsibility for all of your actions and all of your outcomes from your actions and actually make some changes and some improvements. So, that's number one.
Now, the second one is business is all about solving problems. I wish I had been told this in the beginning. You know, I went to university and I was hearing all about accounting and statistics, and then Porter's Five Forces and management by walking around and god knows what else crap that I got taught there, and I was just so ... my mind was just like what is this business thing? This is so complicated, I don't know if I wanna be in business. But what I wish someone has told, just day one, lecture one, year one at university is, "Alright listen. The only thing you need to know is that business is about solving problems." You don't try to come up with the idea in the shower and then you just start a business. Business isn't about having breakthrough ideas in the shower. It's not even about ideas. You don't even need a damn idea. And everyone thinks they need an idea to get started, but you don't. Business is just about solving problems.
So instead of trying to come up with an idea and instead of looking for ideas, look for problems. And you want to go out and speak to the world. Pick a niche, number one, like a small group of people that you're interested in. Then go and talk to them, understand them, ask them questions like, "What's the most painful part of your day?" Or, "What keeps you up at night? What are you really stressed about?" Really get to understand them. Get out of your own mind, stop thinking about you, and start thinking about a group of other people that you're interested in. Find out a true problem that they face. Something that actually makes their life painful. Really understand that thing and now you've found a problem. Not a problem for one individual, but a problem that's wide spread among participants within a group.
Now once you've found one of those things, then the solution to that problem is your idea, alright. So your idea is, "How can I solve this problem for this group of people?" And then once you've got an idea for it that's a solution, then that ... When you apply a solution to a problem and it works, then value is created. You know value is a byproduct of applying a solution to a problem. And when you do that, when value is created, then people are willing to pay money. And the bigger the problem you solve, the bigger the money. The best companies in the world, the best entrepreneurs in the world, the richest people in the world, the most successful people in the world, they just solve the biggest problems. They've not the best at applying Porter's Five Forces. They don't ... Fuck Porter's Five Forces. I can't believe we learned all of this useless stuff at university. It's just about solving problems.
The internet was a huge mess before Google and then Google made it usable for us, right. And then ... Google is a great example of solving problems. Like think about Gmail. Email used to suck before that, now it's pretty good. And then Google, finding things on the internet, like I'm exponentially smarter since Google than when Google didn't exist. It's helped me a lot in my life. Imagine how many people's lives have been saved because of Google and being able to access information. Imagine how much the world has changed because of Google, right. Then think about the iPhone. Back then people used to have like a Navman, or they might have had maps, like an actual printed map under their seat. Then they would've had a digital camera and then they probably had an SD card in that camera. Then that camera probably had batteries and it probably needed like a USB cable and things too. And then they ... They had all of these different things and they had to carry a lot of them around with them everywhere. And Steve Jobs with the iPhone just kind of put them all into one thing. That solved a huge problem.
And so if you just look at the most successful people in the world and the best companies in the world, they just solve big problems that a lot of people have. So forget about all the stuff that makes business complex. It's just a game of solving problems. So find a big problem, solve it. If you do it, the other things fall into place.
Now, the third one, number three, is if you want to start a business you don't need to go to university. I went to university at first because I didn't know what I wanted to do. I think university is a pretty good place to go if you don't know what you wanna do, alright. Because it's better to go there and just be learning some things and hanging out with friends and drinking some beers, than it is to be sitting on your own at home doing nothing. You'll probably end up falling into a bad crowd of people, or just playing Xbox and eating pizza at home. And so I think university is a good place to go if you're unsure about what you wanna do with your life. And that's because it's a better alternative than nothing.
But if you know you wanna be an entrepreneur, you don't need to go to university. You should ... If you know you wanna be an entrepreneur and you're currently in university, quit. If you know you wanna be a entrepreneur and you're thinking about going to university, don't. Just start your business. Starting your own business in the real world will be a better learning experience than any university course could possibly teach you. Why? Because reality, there can be no simulation of realty, or no abstraction of reality that beats reality at being reality. So university is an abstraction. It's a simulation. And like a microcosm of what the real world environment is like. And so whenever there's an abstraction it's not as good as the main thing. So go and play in the main thing. Start your business.
Now the fourth one is starting a business while working a nine to five job is near impossible. You need to learn to go all in or just get all out. Now when I first started by business I had a full-time job working at this corporate in New Zealand called Vodafone and it was impossible. I would try to work early in the morning and then I'd try to work later at night. And then I remember even at lunch break I'd go to my car, sit in my car, eat lunch in there, and then pull out my laptop and start doing some work in my car during the lunch break. I was constantly just in a lot of agony and pain because I was thinking about my business and all of these things that I needed to do in my business, yet I was stuck here and I had to be present here. But I couldn't be present here. My body was here at the job, but my mind was back at my business. And I couldn't do either one well. I couldn't do my job very well and I couldn't do my business very well. And I was just stuck in this limbo space in the middle.
Now I didn't make any real progress until I quit. When I quit, I was worried because I thought, "Oh my god, I've now quit my job." But everything from there got better. And it makes a huge world of difference when you can apply your full conscious attention to something. So don't try and sit on the fence between a job and a business. Go all in or get all out. Make a decision.
The next one, number five, is that lions don't care about the opinions of sheep. And popularity and opinions are false positives or false negatives. You need to ignore them. Now I know this one is hard. I struggled with it a lot. Like when you first start out as an entrepreneur in business, you've been conditioned in society. Like I started a business when I was 20, 21 years old and so I had 21 years of conditioning in society and everything to care about what other people think. Like when you're talking to people and say something, you're looking in their eyes and you're looking at their reactions to you. Facial reactions, verbal reactions. You kind of learn to optimize based on other people's reactions of what you're doing. That's how you learn what's acceptable, what's cool, what's not cool. This is all happening your entire life.
But then when you go to start a business, all of a sudden it's like you become a black sheep. You know it's like you're all of a sudden you're ... Everyone's looking at you and criticizing you and thinking you're doing weird stuff and they say things like, "Oh you've changed," and, "Oh, you're different now." And all of this stuff, right. And a lot of people think, "Oh that's not gonna work," or, "You should just stay at university," or, "You should just get a job or save for a house," all of this crap. And what you've gotta understand is that the moment you decide to become an entrepreneur, non entrepreneur's advice is no longer valuable. Like they're civilians. You change into a different type of person when you start your own business and you become an entrepreneur.
Just the same way like a lion wouldn't care about the opinions of sheep. You know the sheep might gossip about this lion and say like, "Look at that lion, walking around doing these things." And the lion doesn't care. And this is what normal people do, civilian people do, when you decide to radicalize and become an entrepreneur. You've put yourself over here and now the sheep are over here and they're gonna gossip about you, they're gonna say shit about you, and you've just gotta learn to ignore them. It's easier said than done. It'll take time. You can't just change this wiring in your brain, but the only way to change the wiring and not care about opinions is to just put up with them over time.
Don't ask for people's opinions, first of all. Like never ask for them. But what you'll find is people will still force them on to you. And then just listen to them, don't fight their opinions, just be like, "Yeah, okay," or whatever. Because if you try to defend yourself you just look weak. Somebody you defends themself to some civilian's opinion, it just means that they're unsure themselves. So you don't need to fight back. You just go, "Okay, whatever. Okay, whatever." And just understand that the best revenge and the best "Fuck you all, I was right," is to win. So stop trying to win like a little verbal argument with a civilian and just say, "Whatever." Focus on your work and don't say anything. Just say things with your results. So you don't need ... When it does work, you don't need to go back to everyone and be like, "I told you so." Do not. Just make it work. Focus solely on making it work and don't defend yourself, ever. Don't reply to people's criticisms ever. Don't care about their criticisms. Just win. There's no better way to respond to criticism than winning.
And then number six. When you first start in business, cash flow somebody your number one goal. And when you have cash flow, that's when you wanna start thinking long term. Now when I first started in business I started a business that was a longer term sort of business that ... and I really didn't think it through. I tried to build like an online software platform type of thing, it was called Promote Yourself. And it was, you know it was probably a good idea in the grand scheme of things. But I didn't give any regard to the short term cash flows. I hadn't raised money and I didn't have much savings. I had like ... I sold my car and I think I had like six grand or seven grand or something. Then I had built this business and long term, like sure we could get a huge amount of people using it and when I had a huge amount of people using it it would probably make a lot of money. But I needed to survive the short term.
I had bills to pay and I also needed to eat and I also needed staff and software developers and all of these different people. I also needed dollars to invest in the business through marketing, all these different things, right. And I didn't think about that. In the beginning, when I launched that business, the future prospects looked great, but the short term I hadn't paid attention to. And very quickly we ran out of cash and we had to ditch it because we just couldn't survive. And so in business and in life, number one priority is survival, right. And survival is a short term, immediate goal. Survival isn't long term thinking. Survival's like right now. Just imagine if you're out in the wild, your first ... If you're totally by yourself out in the wild, your first priority isn't to learn calculus. Your first priority is to find some damn food and some water and some shelter, right. Or to evade the dangerous animal that is about to kill you.
And so when you're in business your first priority, when you get started, is survival. And then number one ... Like the food and the water that you drink in business that keeps you alive is cash flow. And so you need to focus on this thing first. Without cash flow you'll die. And so I learned this lesson the hard way and that business died. And then I got into a business where I focused more on cash flow in the beginning, which was like a consulting business. And this actually what we teach people how to do at my company called Consulting.com. We teach people how to start a service business with done for you or one-on-one services solving a problem for a niche market. Because one we're solving a problem for a niche, we're creating value, and we're doing it in a way that incurs low cost to us and can be done quickly and generates cash flow fast. It has all of these properties to it. So it's the best business, in my opinion, to start when you get started because you're focusing on cash flow.
And once you have that cash flow in place, then there's another mistake people make, right. And I made this one myself too. With my first business I thought too long term, didn't focus on the short, failed. Then I started my consulting business, focused on the short term, got cash flows in place. But then I didn't think long term. So I made the inverse problem. I made the inverse mistake. And then I stayed in this space for too long. I just kept focusing on cash flow, but then it just dawned on me that am I just gonna keep focusing on cash flow with this small little business? Like not tackling anything major the rest of my life? This surely, this isn't it. And so then I realized that I'd made another mistake, which was once cash flow was sorted I didn't fix my eyes on larger, greater horizons.
So once you conquer that first mountain of cash flow, you've gotta keep that cash flow flowing. But then you need to look for bigger horizons. That's when you start thinking longer term. So priority number one is survival through cash flow. Priority number, once that's in place, is long term thinking. Start thinking about solving something big because you can't really tackle big problems that take a long amount of time and incur quite a lot of cost and resources until you first have some kind of feeding mechanism in place that's going to spinning off cash and resources for you to fund this great venture. And so that's my advice for you.
And then number seven. So when you're lost and confused, focus on the customer and what's best for them and then everything else will follow. So as an entrepreneur you can get just ... you can just get completely confused and surrounded by so much information, so many different opinions, so many different things to do. And it's kinda like you're in a blizzard. And if you imagine you're in a blizzard, you're just surrounded by all of this snow coming down around you everywhere. You can't really see. And this is kinda what it feels like when you're an entrepreneur and you get lost. When you find yourself in one of those situations, which will happen a lot by the way, then you need to have a little mechanism to get yourself out of that. The best thing I found is to focus on the customer and what's best for them, and then everything else will follow from there. That's my one of kind of true north, Polaris star kind of thing that gets me out of blizzards.
The reason why this works is because it comes back to the first principles of business. It's like business is solving problems. Who has problems? Humans. And then typically we're solving problems for human participants within a wider group which we call a niche. So just come back to those first principles. And you wanna ask yourself, "What is my niche?" "Who are some of the people within my niche? Who are the humans?" And then, "What is their problem?" "What's that problem like?" Then, "What solution am I offering to them? How does that create value?" And, "How can I make that better? How can I understand their problem better? How can I make the solution to that problem better?" And then, "How can I add more value to them? How can I do anything in this little area to make that better?"
Because I see entrepreneurs all the time, and this happened to me a lot too, I'm not ... All of these mistakes I made, that's how I learned them as lessons. But you know there's so much stuff out there that you think, "Oh I need to focus on marketing, or ads, or my social media." Or, "Oh, I need to become an influencer," or, "I need to write a book." "I need to create a blog or a podcast." Or, "Oh I need to be on Oprah." Or, "I need to be in the New York Times." None of that shit matters. Honestly. You just gotta come back to the first principles. Focus on the customer and everything else will follow. Solve their problem better than anybody else and you will win. It's not a game of who's got the most books. It's not a game of who's been on Oprah the most. None of these things are real. The only thing that matters is solving the problem for your customer better than anybody else. So just focus on that.
And now, the number eight. So stay lean and frugal. If you buy things you don't need, soon you will have to sell things that you do need. And I see people do this all the time in business, it's a classic one. Is once they start making some money, they start buying lots of toys and they start getting sloppy. It's a very slippery slope once you start getting into this whole lifestyle thing. And you start to have something called lifestyle creep. And it's like, it just keeps creeping and it's a silent little creeper that before you know it, it's surrounded you and it's suffocating you. It's like this big boa constrictor that's just wrapped itself around you and it's squeezing you to death. And at that point you're gonna be ... You're gonna start pulling the chain on your business. So your business then is not gonna be a vehicle that provides value and solves problems for people. It's going to become some kind of slave animal, with a chain around its neck, that you just keep pulling whenever you need money for yourself to get this giant boa constrictor suffocating you off your back for a little bit.
And this is quickly what happens to a lot of people. They start a business and it works because they're solving a problem for people. And then they start taking the rewards from that business, like the money, and spending it on themselves and being an idiot and buying all of this useless shit they don't need. And then, very quickly, because their minds over here and they're focusing on this, that the business is no longer solving the problems like it once was. The business starts to suffer a little bit. And then this person's lifestyle costs keep going up, but this business flatlines or declines a little bit. And now they start choking the business for these emergency cash flows and then the business starts going down, down, down, down, down because they're not treating it like a value mechanism anymore. This only ends one way, and it's failure.
Then these people, they start selling things or cutting things that they do need, like different staff or different systems or these different things that made their business better, they start getting rid of these. And they start hurting customer relationships. Just so they can keep things they don't need. And it's mindless. It's moronic. Don't do it. Don't make this mistake. You want to keep the main thing the main thing. And you'll find that pro athletes, they don't let the money that they make from their craft distract them from their craft. A lot of athletes do it. They start making money from being good at the game. So then they start being popular and famous and buying all of these toys. Now they're focusing on this instead of being the best in the game, and when they stop being very good in the game then, because they're focusing on this, then they can no longer have this. And it just disappears. And it's like a mind trick. You have to focus on the game and the first principles and that's always gonna be solving the problem for your customers better than anybody else. And keep your lifestyle lean and simple.
It's so much more freeing and nice when it doesn't cost that much money for you to live month after month. And you're not trying to look like you're successful. People who are successful don't need to try and look like they're successful. They just know. That's why like the CEO ... or Larry Page and Sergey Brin, they had a Prius when they were billionaires. Jeff Bezos, when he was a billionaire, he had like a $3000 Honda Accord. Billionaires don't have fancy cars. Billionaires don't wear fancy clothes and things like that. They don't need to look like it because they are it. And quite often you'll find the people who try to look like it, aren't it. Because they're trying to put some artificial clothes, but the emperor really doesn't have any clothes. But emperor's with clothes, they don't need to wear fancy costumes.
And finally, number nine. Focus is a super power and you need to learn to keep the main thing, the main thing. This is the number one thing that I've probably learned in business. Once you understand what your niche is, what they're problem is, and then once you've come up with a good solution that works for them and it creates value in a way that they pay money to you for that solution, then you just need to never forget that. That's it. And the only thing you need to do is remember this and keep working on making it better. Just keep making it better. The only way you can really mess this is up is by forgetting it or not making it better. Because if you forget it and you get distracted, then you're done because it's gonna go to shit. But the other thing is, is if you keep focusing on it but not making it better, then someone else will come along and make it better. And then they'll take it away from you.
So once you found this thing you just need to focus on it. And focus is like a super power that everyone's forgotten how to use. And you have to ... To really be able to focus, you need to sacrifice. And a lot of people don't wanna sacrifice. They don't wanna get rid of all these hobbies, or not go out on the weekends and drink and do all of this stuff. But you need to understand that if you don't sacrifice for your goal, your goal will become the sacrifice. You cannot have it all. And so I've had to give up partying, I don't drink alcohol anymore, I don't go out and do all of these different hobbies, I don't watch all of this TV stuff. I've had to sacrifice a lot of things, but it's okay because I am happy to do that. I'm happy to make that trade for this thing because I want that thing and I enjoy that thing to so much.
And you'll need to understand this throughout your career in business because you'll constantly have to make decisions where you have to sacrifice things. There's no way to keep both. There's no way to do both. There's no way to keep it all. It doesn't work that way. You have to clear out the trophies of your past and you have to sacrifice things. And it's gonna be painful and emotional. You're gonna be attached to all of these things. But you have to let them go. That's the only way to keep climbing is you need to drop baggage. You need to get a lighter pack so you can keep going.
And so those are the nine things that I wish I had known when I was 20. So I hope those nine things help you. If you enjoyed this video, just click that Like button and also subscribe. I release a video like this once a week on my YouTube channel. And also let me know that you thought in the comments section below. So thanks for watching and I'll see you on the next one, next week.