2013 Lessons

by Rita Nguyen

I love this time of year. In the first week of January I’ve finished my annual allocated week of self-reflection and am now looking forward to all the possibilities and opportunities ahead. While we could (and should) live every day like this, there’s something about January 1st that brings to mind clean slates and white canvasses. The year ahead is still so full of hope and possibilities and I for one can’t wait to see what it brings.

I’d like to say that I’ll get better at writing more regularly but let’s get real, that’s probably not going to happen.

This past year was amazing for me on so many different fronts but it also came with its fair share of punches too. With that said, here are a few lessons I learned in 2013.

Lesson: give everything your best shot and learn from it but move on when it’s done.
I’ve never had to do as much media in my whole life as I did in the second half of this year. On one hand it definitely confirmed that I was right to not go into PR. It also taught me to appreciate how difficult it is to control messaging – this from someone who has been in marketing for over a decade. I don’t think that there was one story that came out of the dozens of interviews I did that I was actually happy with – or even got all the details right. But it is something that you can’t dwell on. Once the story is out, there’s little that can be done unless you want or need to go into full crisis management mode. The other lesson here is to not trust everything you read.

Lesson: Negatively has no place in your life so it needs to be let go.
I have always told my community staff that haters hate and there’s little to be done about that. While this holds true with entrepreneurship, people aren’t really hating on a product but usually on you, which makes things really personal. I’ve always been pretty blasé about what other people think of me, which served me well this year but it’s still much harder to not take offence at some of the things that are being said by perfect strangers who see your world through a small straw. I’ve learned to stop reading comments on the media coverage – some things are just not worth reading.

Lesson: Life as an entrepreneur is hard enough, find the right support system.
Perhaps what is more shocking and difficult to come to grips with is how your friends and acquaintances react. The reality is that some people will always be either jealous or envious of another’s successes. Some also view our world as a zero sum game, which is just foolish. Luckily I have also found a couple of friends who are amazing. As entrepreneurs themselves, they understand the crazy. They listen, don’t judge and certainly don’t try to ‘solve’ my problems.

Lesson: Your time as an entrepreneur is highly valuable so don’t waste it.
I’ve had to be much more protective of my time this year. It’s amazing how many people want just a few minutes of my time to ‘explore’ opportunities. Even more incredible are the people I knew who crawled out of the woodwork to get a piece of the action. I spent far too much time earlier this year in meetings trying to put together partnerships. Amazingly, or maybe not, there are way too many people out there who really don’t want to add anything but their dubious ‘consulting’ skills for astronomical amounts of money, time and equity.

Okay so now that the venting is over, time to refocus on the important things – building as awesome team and having a blast along the way!