I thought this interview that Aaron Clarey did, in part about his business, Asshole Consulting, was worth listening to.
From his telling, most of his clients are generally young men who feel that they have been badly mislead by all the authority (and-not-so-authoritarian) figures in their lives.
Probably the one piece of advice that’s most applicable is to “not expect anything until you’re 35.”
While I do know some absurdly successful 20-somethings, they are usually the exception to the rule. It takes more focus than most people have to get much success at a young age, especially when there’s no meaningful nepotism at play.
What you often don’t see from press releases about young CEOs is that many of them have significant backing from friends and family. In our culture, we tend to encourage people to hide those kinds of ‘boosts,’ instead preferring to portray people as sole heroes with no one backing them up. One successful startup CEO that I met (who dropped out of Waterloo, Canada’s most prestigious technical school) received about $250,000 in seed funding from his father, a dentist.
None of the hundreds of articles profiling him mentioned this. This doesn’t really detract from his other qualities as an entrepreneur, either, because $250k that doesn’t dilute the other investors is as close to an unqualified good as you can get.
So, if you’re a young person comparing yourselves to the people you read about in the heroes-of-fast-companies blogs, you’re going to become confused, because those are all fictional press release mills. For most people, even very successful ones, youth is often much less of an asset than experience, skill, knowledge, and connections.
Know your industry. Different industries weight different metrics more (though they all use some combination) some prefer skill, some knowledge, some experience and some are mostly driven by knowing people.
Bob Wallaceb says
It’s not so much what you know but who you know. Networks are the way to go, and the Old Boys’ Network really does exist.
The problem with the old boys network is that its a network for some boys, those whose fathers were in the network too. Others are mostly excluded no matter how good you are or how great your potential. And thats fine, there are valid and good reasons for this, and I accept that reality, but don’t go around pretending being a smart white man is the only qualification you need. Otherwise you may as well run around telling people we are all special snowflakes.
This is somewhat the case, but not entirely. I met a hedge fund manager the other year who was a high school drop-out with no special parents, and he got his start with his partner by managing money for family trusts (read: the old-money uber-rich). The problem in my view is that we don’t tend to acknowledge it, and it’s only acknowledged in condemnatory tones. Upward mobility is also often dependent on moments in history in which the society is expanding, and the elite opportunities are also increasing faster than that elite can make kids.
The larger the myth about meritocracy, the less true it tends to be, and vice-versa. Bill Gates comes from old money, being a part of the Stanford club matters a lot more in venture capital than almost anything else, the media is almost entirely locked down by old money clans, etc. etc.