Mistakes young people make early in their career

I talked to a super smart 20 year old this week.

All the potential in the world, but had a major major flaw in his thinking.

This flaw is becoming the most common mistake I am seeing young people make early in their career.

Let’s break it down:

First, an analogy.

Imagine you want to be an awesome basketball player.

Your first thought: “I need to learn everything I can about the sport.”

Sounds logical so you run after it:

– You go online and order every bball book you can

– You bookmark a bunch of “how to” videos on YouTube / Tiktok

– You make a list of all the great NBA Finals to watch

Fast forward 6 months and you’re a walking encyclopedia.

– You know all the advanced terms

– You know all the history

– You know all the tricks the pro players use

In Month 7, you decide to step onto the court.

You try to shoot a 3 and you fail.

It’s a weird feeling.

After all, you just spent a ton of time reading / watching every permutation and combination of shot.

Here’s the thing. This example is pretty obvious.

When you read it, it stands out.

“Duh. Reading and watching is obviously different from playing.”

In this case it’s clear.

But for most people when it comes to their career, it’s not.

Here’s a common pattern I’m seeing more and more amongst young people:

– Get on Twitter and follow “the right people”

– Listen to every business podcast

– Read about all the “frameworks” and “mental models”

The end result? You can recite all the “mistakes not to make” and all the “tips and tricks”

You *feel* like you know so much about business.

But you don’t.

Even worse, you *think* you do.

Here’s the hard truth: Internalizing all those observations and lessons without having any grounding, context or actual experience is just like WATCHING bball when your goal is to learn how to PLAY bball.

No book, podcast or Twitter thread will simulate how you actually feel when:

– A deal falls apart at the last minute

– A key employee leaves you

– A partner abuses your trust

You have to actually live through those things.

And the only way you live through those things is you have to ACTUALLY do it.

You have to get on the court and shoot the basketball.

You have to feel the heaviness of putting up your 50th shot when you have 0 energy left in the tank.

That’s how you become a player.

So why do most people read/listen vs. do? I think a couple reasons:

– It feels like progress
– You can’t fail
– It’s intellectually stimulating

The reality of business is most of the work is not glamorous.

It’s a lot of nose to the grind, brute force execution.

The concepts / strategy of business isn’t what makes succeeding hard.

It’s the emotional steadiness, tenacity, persistence and focus to actually gut it out and will the universe towards an outcome you want.

Increasingly, my most common advice these days is – put the business books down, lift your head up and get moving.

Build something. Start a project.

No matter how small.

You’ll learn more from being in the trenches and being IN the game vs. standing on the sidelines.

To be clear, the point of this thread is not to say “reading, learning about business, etc.” is useless. It is obviously helpful.

But it’s not the straight line shot to your end goal.

The only way you will hit your end goal is by actually getting in the game itself.

Good luck!

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I grew my bootstrapped business to $50M+, brought in private equity and am now in the next leg of the journey.

I share my learnings along the way.

Follow: @RomeenSheth