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10 Lessons You Should Learn Sooner Than Later There are some truths you only learn the hard way. How hard is mostly up to you.

By Steve Tobak Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Some say youth is wasted on the young. Others say wisdom is wasted on the old. If you play your cards right, you can avoid both pitfalls.

We all start out young and dumb. That is the nature of life. We learn as we go. We grow through trial and error. Experience brings maturity and wisdom … hopefully before you're too old to benefit from it. That's the goal. That's how you avoid those cynical predictions.

Now, I have to be honest with you. I learned these things through my own personal experience. I'm not at all sure there's any other way to learn them. On the outside chance that reading them will help accelerate the process, I offer them to you. God speed.

1. Shut up and listen.

People spend more time talking, tweeting, texting, sharing, updating, posting, commenting and pontificating than ever before. Most of the time, they're trying desperately to get attention, feel good about themselves, distract themselves or act out. They're not actually learning or accomplishing a thing.

Related: 11 Mistakes Standing Between You and Your First Million

2. Take risks.

You're not entitled to much of anything in this world, and that's a good thing. You won't enjoy or appreciate anything that's handed to you. There's no greater joy or achievement than taking a chance and working hard to see it pay off.

3. When to act.

There are times to take action and times to sit quietly and observe. Figuring out which situation calls for which response is the most important recurring decision we make each day of our lives.

4. Do less.

Too many people try to be good at too many things. Either that, or they make definitive choices based on limited information. Both are flawed strategies. You learn through trial and error what you're good at and enjoy doing. Find that one thing and focus on being the best at it.

Related: 4 Truths You Need to Know About Millennial Job Hopping

5. How little you know.

When you're young, you think you have everything figured out. At some point, you come to realize that you don't. Eventually, you figure out that you don't know very much at all … and how little that matters.

6. Face reality.

Wishes, dreams, and fantasies are great for kids, but when you're all grown up, the sooner you learn to face what life throws at you and the repercussions of your own behavior, the better. Good things do not come to those who wish things were different.

7. Be genuine.

Nobody ever made it big by trying to be like someone else. Following others' habits, routines, principles, or way of life just makes you a clone. Have the courage to carve your own path. Stay true to yourself and be the genuine you.

8. Success is the enemy.

Success breeds overconfidence and hubris. It can cause you to ignore facts and cut corners. It also attracts competitors. For those reasons, success is its own enemy. When everything is going gangbusters, look out below.

Related: 7 Habits of Masterful Managers Who Coach Their Teams to Success

9. Make good decisions.

This may come as a shock, but there is only one thing in this world that you have control over: your decisions. That's it. The only way for you to change the outcome of your life is by making good choices. That's what matters most.

10. Keep your word.

Everyone talks about the importance of work ethic, but what that really means is doing what you say you're going to do. Meeting your commitments. Nobody is going to shower you with riches until they know they can count on you to get important things done and done right.

For more on what it takes to be a successful business leader in today's highly competitive world, get Steve's new book, Real Leaders Don't Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur, and check out his blog at

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at, where you can contact him and learn more.

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