By Amir Farha
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life”
– Charles Darwin
I have been approached by many young people who ask me about job prospects, career development plans, further education and other things to get guidance on how to develop their own career. Most of them believe that one day they will become entrepreneurs and “be their own boss” and are looking to get an experience to help them reach that goal.
The fact is that this is a very important decision in ones life, and especially important early in ones career. It can alter their future significantly, consuming the most valuable asset in life… time. I truly believe that time, not money, is the biggest cost in life. With that principle in mind, if you want to be an entrepreneur, then it is important to start early… the earlier you start, the better. You could go and get a consulting gig at one of the big 4, get an MBA at a prestigious University, work for an International Investment Bank or private equity firm, and join the rat race and be enticed by big pay checks. In the long-term you’ll find that the learning gained from starting a business versus doing those things is so much more impactful.
When you’re 25, and thinking about what to do with your life, people can easily be driven to the wrong choices and be short-term thinkers, especially in a world where money has been presented by the media as the path to a luxurious life filled with “happiness”. People often focus on the $ rather than the learning curve, and that can be hugely detrimental in the long-term. It is so important to put time above money in your life priorities and habits, since that time can never be bought back, but money can come and go. It has been a guiding principle of mine since I started my career, and will continue to be there, no matter the circumstances. If you believe that time is the biggest value in life, the sooner you get to where you want to be, the better it is for you.
Going to do an MBA typically takes a 2 year time frame, which is hugely significant and costs a lot of money as well (enough to launch your own startup!). Working for a consulting firm or investment bank can earn you significant pay checks, however, fast forward 5 years, you’ll likely find yourself in the same organization, exhausted, having learnt little about what it takes to build a business, and forgetting the main reason why you joined the firm in the first place. So, if you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t make excuses, start now. It takes time, effort and perseverance, and isn’t for everyone, but the rewards are great and the learnings are invaluable.
When I look at some of my peers who have taken jobs at large banks, consulting firms or have attended MBAs, they seem to be “stuck” in their job – they’ve built an experience set that is difficult to transfer into other fields, industries or sectors. Once you pass 10 years of banking or consulting (or any specific career or skill-set), it becomes difficult to change and enter a new field. However, those choices are often made at such an early age, where you have not worked enough in industry, nor thought about where you want to be in the future. Plus, let’s not forget the fact that after 10 years of working in an organization, you’ll likely have a family and possibly several children, and therefore your risk appetite will be significantly reduced. At that point, it’s unlikely that you’ll become an entrepreneur as the risk to quit and start something new is too high. Hence, the longer you wait, the less likely it will be for you to “be your own boss” or change the world with your new venture. On top of all that, let’s not forget that the downturn in the global economy has taught us that job security is no longer a guarantee, no matter which organization you work for.
When I was 25, I had friends of mine telling me that they’re going to make their first $1m before the age of 30. They were going to start their own businesses and become millionaires. Today, none of them have pursued those dreams. Some of them went on to be Brand Managers for FMCG firms, investment bankers, private bankers, consultants, and today, they are all in the same jobs, most of them unhappy with their career paths but too scared to change it. They have families, and that dream of being an entrepreneur is no longer alive. They have lost that time, those years, by doing something that most of them don’t even like, and it’s so difficult to change it now. That time is so valuable, and I would advocate to anyone who is contemplating on being an entrepreneur to do it today, and not wait until the right time, because that never comes. Don’t wait for a partner to join you. Don’t make excuses. Don’t be afraid to fail. Believe in yourself. Have conviction and Go for it. Because we have one shot in life, and we can’t go back in time.