How to Survive Your First Year of Entrepreneurship

Follow these tips in order to make it through the first year and beyond as a successful entrepreneur.

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By Neil Patel


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most entrepreneurs bail in the first year.

Why? To be honest, it is hard. It's not all glamor and glitz. You don't rocket to stardom in a few short months, drive a McLaren, date Hollywood celebs and take baths in hundred-dollar bills.

In fact, you're lucky if you survive at all.

Thankfully, there are some secrets to survival. Entrepreneurs survive by pursuing more than fast cars and lots of cash. Entrepreneurs survive by following these rules.

Keep your eye on the goal.

If you don't know your goal, don't have a goal or can't articulate your goal, stop.

You're going to give up if you don't have a goal. What is a good goal?

  • Something that you believe in
  • A cause bigger than yourself
  • Something that benefits humankind
  • Something that requires you to keep hustling every day
  • Something that is truly attainable
  • Something that you can quantify or measure

Write down your goal. Look at it every day. Read it out loud. This is what will keep you going.

Related: 7 Essentials for Making Your Strategy Succeed

Believe in what you're doing.

You've probably heard of guys like Elon Musk who said that they would rather die than not realize their dream. Or maybe you've listened to impassioned entrepreneurs speak of working all night, sleeping in their office and eating only fast food because they were so driven to work on their business.

Those aren't healthy habits, but they certainly display the kind of commitment that an entrepreneur needs to have.

Where does that kind of commitment come from? It's more than just an insane work ethic. It comes from believing in something with an unshakeable faith. You're sold on your idea. You know it's the right thing to do, and you're going to do it.

If you don't believe in what you're doing, you're going to quit.

Get support.

Most humans need a little love and support along the way. Entrepreneurs are no different. Find a supportive community that pushes you, encourages you, feeds you and tells you that it's going to work out.

Learn to love risk.

Risk is not going away. You're going to eat it for breakfast every day. The true risk isn't deciding to start a business. Anyone can do that. The true risk is taking more and bigger risks every day that you're actually in business.

Related: 4 Fundamental Strategies for Launching a Successful Ecommerce Startup

It's not risky to embark upon a dream. It is risky to play with millions of dollars from investors, place people's jobs and livelihoods on the line, and face legal and financial implications.

Be content with being uncomfortable.

Discomfort is your new status quo. Whether it's health concerns, mental stress or a raw and jittery drivenness, you are not going to be comfortable very often.

There are no shortcuts or hacks for overcoming the discomfort. It is omnipresent and inescapable. You can, however, become more comfortable with it by knowing that it's a good sign. The discomfort proves that you're pressing beyond your comfort zone, making things happen and personally growing.

Live lean.

Entrepreneurs have to live lean before they live large. Many aspiring entrepreneurs have literally been homeless or worked minimum wage jobs before they experienced success.

Related: The Unglamorous Truth About My First Year of Business

Chris Gardner had to live on the streets as a single parent before growing his business. Some entrepreneurs challenge other entrepreneurs to live out of their car for at least a year.

Don't let the anticipation of future rewards fool you into thinking that you can live like a king right now. You can't. So don't.

Schedule breaks.

Even the most iron-willed entrepreneurs need to take breaks. Give yourself some space every now and then. Keep the commitment to your breaks, or you'll experience burnout.

Joe Robinson writes, "Working without letup is a bad habit that can jeopardize business, health and the life you're supposedly working toward. You need to stop, breathe and experience some level of reprieve. Often, the biggest business breakthroughs come when you give yourself some space from the business entirely.''

Eat, sleep and exercise.

If you're an entrepreneur, you don't have time to do anything except grind. But you need to make time to eat right, get sufficient sleep and exercise some. These three things are what give you the ability to keep at it.

The moment you drop one of these healthy habits is the moment your productivity nosedives and you don't work as effectively. Staying fit is the key to staying successful.

It may seem like a waste of time to sleep seven hours a night, eat fresh food, or take a two-mile jog, but these "time wasters" are actually time savers. They give you the stamina, endurance, mental clarity and power that you need to both survive and succeed.

A group of 100 entrepreneurs will dwindle over one year's time to a group of 10 entrepreneurs. The others will fizzle out. They're hunting for a job, dreaming up a new plan or back in their old cubicle.

No one ever said that entrepreneurship was easy. No one promised success. No one entered entrepreneurship because it was going to be a cakewalk.

Is it going to be any different for you? Success is attainable. Know what you're up against, and prepare for survival.

You've got this.

Neil Patel

Entrepreneur and Online Marketing Expert

Neil Patel is co-founder of Crazy EggHello Bar and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. 

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