Stop Dreaming, Start Doing: Your First Steps to Becoming an Entrepreneur

As children, virtually everyone had some kind of Big Dream. Okay, so some of them were a little wild, like the one where you wanted to be a rockstar. And some of them were just far-fetched, like the one where you wanted to be Superman.

Chances are, over the course of your lifetime, you’ve let a lot of Big Dreams pass you by. Life gets in the way: bills to pay, children to feed…

But dreams can’t happen if you don’t pursue them.

When you’ve got a Big Dream, you’re really facing two basic choices: Do or don’t. Try or give up. After all, nothing will change if you don’t change.

Are you hesitating to take the leap into entrepreneurship? Fearful of committing full-on to your dream of starting a new business? Our advice is simple: Stop dreaming and start doing.

3 reasons many entrepreneurs don’t get started

Here are the three most common hesitations people offer when they’re thinking of pursuing entrepreneurship:

1. A fear of failure

If you’re afraid you’ll fail, think of it this way: You have absolutely nothing to lose! If you try and fail, you’ll just be right back where you started. But if you never try at all, then you never even had a shot at success.

How do you defined entrepreneurial success? If success for you means becoming Amazon’s greatest competitor, then it may be difficult for you to ever feel fulfilled. Success takes many forms, and it helps to keep your expectations reasonable. Try setting achievable goals.

Or maybe you’re afraid of what other will think, particularly if you’re not succeeding according to conventional social standards. It’s an understandable fear! But by putting yourself out there, you’re actually accomplishing more than the armchair critics. Again, it’s about keeping perspective on what success really entails.

We love this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Besides, in the early stages of any new pursuit, getting something done at all is often way more important than getting it done well. Which brings us to our next point…

2. Feeling like you’re not ready

Is anybody ever really ready to take a leap into something like entrepreneurship? What does it mean to be ready?

If you’re flat-out missing a skill set, set out to learn that skill. For example, if you want to develop a mobile phone app but don’t know anything about coding or UX design, you could take classes in those fields. (Or, seek out a technical cofounder who can shore up your skill gaps.)

But if you’ve already spent some time honing your craft, keep in mind that there’s a limit to how much you can effectively learn in a classroom setting. Hands-on experience is the best teacher. Nobody starts out perfect — and neither do businesses.

3. Not having enough resources

If you’re short on funding, consider building a plan to begin saving or fundraising today! But also consider how much you can do without a major funding round.

Researching your ideal customers, establishing a product market fit, and otherwise building a framework to grow your idea into something tangible may help your endeavor feel more real — even without investors or a flush bank account.

stop dreaming plan
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How to stop dreaming and start doing: a 5-step plan

To stay motivated for the challenging road ahead, you’ll need a clear game plan for attaining that goal. Start with these five simple steps.

1. Craft a personal mission statement

Chances are, you’ve been nurturing your Big Dream for ages — which means you probably have a pretty good idea of what you want and why you want it.

Now let’s just make it a bit more specific. Try to answer these questions in concrete terms:

  • What do you want to do?
  • Why do you want to do it?
  • Who are you doing it for?
  • Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

Here’s an example: “I want to set up an organization that encourages veteran entrepreneurship by offering resources and a support system to pursue their business aspirations. I want this organization to be nationwide, with chapters in all 50 states, in five years’ time.”

Your mission statement is meant to keep you motivated and help you stay true to your deepest values, even if the going gets tough. So the more aspirational your statement, the stronger it’s going to be.

2. Craft a short-term action plan

Now that you’ve nailed down your overall vision, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of how you’re going to realize that vision.

Contrary to how popular media portrays it, nobody attains success overnight: You’re not going to send an email, wake up tomorrow, and see $1 million in profit. Success is a habit, and small, everyday wins will snowball over time.

A short-term action plan can break down the big goal into a feasible step-by-step process. Your task list for the week can be as straightforward as “set up savings account,” “register for coding class,” or “send prospecting emails to five cool people.”

Once you’ve met those goals, regroup and take the next logical step in the process. Your efforts will add up!

3. Find a mentor

A mentor figure is crucial to helping define your entrepreneurial path, especially as you’re just starting out.

As somebody with more experience in the field, your mentor is well-positioned to talk you through unexpected challenges, and to offer you sound advice and perspective on what’s going on and where you’re headed.

Here are some tips from Forbes on how to find a mentor.

4. Build your network

Your network is your lifeblood. It’s often said that you’re only as good as the people who are closest to you — and entrepreneurship is undoubtedly a collaborative process. So you need to get to know folks who can push you to be better.

If big networking events aren’t your thing, try getting involved! Offer help to folks who need it. When you show people that you can add value to what they do, they’ll invariably pay it forward.

5. Be kind to yourself

Motivating yourself to stop dreaming and start doing is hard. Some days, you’re simply not going to accomplish as much as you’d hoped. But instead of beating yourself up, try focusing on what you have done and what you can do tomorrow.

Learn to treat yourself with kindness now — as you move forward and the stakes get higher, it’s going to be a critical skill for confronting obstacles and setbacks head-on.

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