We all know that television doesn’t always depict life accurately, but sometimes a fictional show will teach you some real truths.
We took a look back at NBC’s sitcom Friends to uncover lessons that entrepreneurs might find helpful, even when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month….ok, ok, you get it.
1. Dream big
All six of the friends had goals for themselves, and they were lofty. Joey hoped to be a famous actor, for example, and Monica hoped to run her own kitchen as a chef. It was a while before their goals came to fruition, but the important thing is that they didn’t sell themselves short. If you’re thinking of starting a business, go for it, but make sure that you do just that -- really go for it. Aim high.
2. There will be setbacks -- don’t give up
Rachel loved fashion, but messed up more than a few interviews and was stuck waiting tables before landing her dream job with Ralph Lauren. Ross was put on sabbatical from NYU after he got a little too emotional over a sandwich made of Thanksgiving leftovers. Joey went from being Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives to being unemployed and begging for roles like “dying man.” There are setbacks in every career (wasn’t there some guy that got fired from Apple and then came back to revolutionize the company?), but if you stick with it you’ll get to where you want to be.
3. Never fake an accent (a.k.a. Be who you are)
Remember when Ross was so nervous about teaching his first class that he accidentally spoke with a British accent? Later, when it came out that the accent wasn’t real, he was in the awkward position of apologizing to a room full of bored, confused students and pleading for a second chance to make a good impression. He could have avoided the whole situation by being honest. On the flip side, when Phoebe discovered that the vocals she heard in the “Smelly Cat” video weren’t hers, she walked away, thinking she’d rather sing the songs herself than take the money and perpetuate the fraud. Yes, meeting with investors to pitch an idea is difficult and scary, but trying to be someone you’re not is worse. Not everyone will “get” your vision and appreciate what you have to offer, but you don’t need everyone to get it, just the right one. Be authentic. Customers will appreciate it.
4. Keep your work life and your dating life separate
Rachel described Tag as “so pretty I want to cry,” so even though she knew he wasn’t the best person for the job, she hired him to be her assistant. Unsurprisingly, the choice didn’t really work out -- in or out of the office. Chandler got involved with a woman he worked with named Nina, and when the order came from the higher-ups that Nina had to be fired and Chandler had to be the one to do it, it didn’t go well (he actually needed stitches afterward). Mixing business with pleasure usually does nothing more than hurt the business, which is anything but pleasurable. Before you check into a convent and prepare yourself for a life of celibacy, see the next point.
5. Remember -- there is life outside of your job
Work is not your whole life, and it shouldn’t be. The characters on the show had jobs and workplace issues became occasional punchlines, but the majority of what the audience saw was what happened outside of work, because that’s where most of life happens. Think about what you enjoyed more -- watching Phoebe work with a massage client or listening to her songs at Central Perk. I have no idea what Chandler’s original job title was, but I know about how much he hates Thanksgiving and how scared his is of Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, because that’s the important stuff (and because I probably watch too much TV). Just because your job is how you make a living does not mean it should be the center of your life. It’s hard for entrepreneurs to remember this, but try.
6. It’s never too late for a new start
When he decided to switch jobs and give into “the fear,” Chandler became the old man in a group of interns for an advertising agency. He was starting over when most of his competition was just getting their start, but he ended up with the position. It takes a lot of guts to do what you really want to do, especially when it means giving up a steady job or going back to school after years away from the classroom. Starting over is a brave thing to do, and it can be done at any age. If the idea you had for your company isn’t working, change direction (or...ahem, PIVOT!) and try again.
7. Coffee is a helpful tool
One could argue that the group spent way too much time on the orange couch in the coffee shop. Then again, one could argue that they had a good idea of how things work. Coffee is an imperative part in the entrepreneur toolbox. Sure, the drink helps increase focus and alertness, but it’s more than that. A lot of networking is done over a cup of coffee, and a lot of business deals are done through networking. Not everyone has the skills (or the time or the money) to sink a putt on the golf course, but everyone could take 20 minutes for some coffee -- or tea, if that’s more your thing.