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Thursday, December 7, 2023

How Young Entrepreneurs Can Succeed: “Grow 1% Every Day”

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How can young people today succeed? By thinking like entrepreneurs.

10’000 Hours | Getty Images

That’s what Dylan Gambardella and Justin Lafazan concluded as they built a community of young, ambitious creators. Their education company, Next Gen HQ, develops programs to help the next generation find success at work and at life. It also exposed them to people like Mark Cuban and Karlie Kloss, who they interviewed for a new book called Now That’s Momentum. (Full disclosure: I’ve gotten to know Gambardella and Lafazan while speaking at events they’ve hosted over the years.)

In this conversation, Gambardella and Lafazan explain exactly how young people can adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and the importance of building a community.

Your book is full of advice for how people of your generation can “think like an entrepreneur”, but I have to say — I’ve been so impressed by the entrepreneurial energy in your generation! What’s your assessment of how people in their 20s today relate to entrepreneurship?

We couldn’t agree more. The next generation wants to win! We’re incredibly energized to succeed in business and life, particularly on our own terms — in a recent survey, 84% of respondents rated career autonomy as their number one employment factor. We believe the key to creating our own journey, whether that includes building a business or another avenue, is ‘thinking like an entrepreneur’.

When people talk about how to engage Gen Z, they often use the word “community.” How important do you think community-building is in motivating and engaging young people?

Living like an entrepreneur is not always easy, and a community provides a tribe at your back to give you the confidence needed to be bold and take risks. We borrow confidence from our community while developing our own. We want to become our best selves alongside a community of other people who are going for it. A community breeds support and friendly competition, which make all the difference.

You guys started as community builders — growing a community of young entrepreneurs through events and then supporting them in other ways. What’s the most important thing you learned about how to build a thriving community?

Be the guide, not the hero. When getting started, we knew we didn’t have all the answers – we were 18! So we simply did what we could, by providing value as best as possible. We learned that paying it forward is a staple of any thriving community. Adding value without expectations cultivates a virtuous cycle of support, making the community stronger as a whole.

You advise young entrepreneurs to “grow 1%.” What do you mean by that?

One of our core values is to grow 1% better each day. This refers to setting long-term goals with achievable, actionable daily practices. By breaking a long-term goal into short-term commitments, anything is possible.

For example: Training for a marathon can be daunting, but breaking that into daily, long-term practices can breed momentum. I can’t run 26 miles today, but can I run for 10 minutes? Next week, can I run for 15 minutes? In a year’s time, I’ll be running longer than I could have imagined thanks to the power of compound interest.

Another piece of advice you have is to “never stop learning.” I often hear that advice aimed at older people who are many years removed from school. Why do you think it’s important for young entrepreneurs to hear too?

Our goal is to be lifelong learners — learning doesn’t need to end when we graduate high school or college. There are learnings all around us. Every person, event, or situation is an opportunity to learn and grow, as long as we remain students.

We don’t believe in “failure.” In fact, these are really just learnings that can influence the next steps in the journey. Young entrepreneurs are going to fail — a lot — and we can’t let that keep us out of the game.

We believe in getting in the game and staying in the game at all costs. Doing that requires constant learnings, feedback, incremental improvements, and the momentum to persist through obstacles.

Finally, your book contains a lot of advice from people at the top of their game. What’s one piece of advice that’s really stuck with you?

“Just get started.” There will never be a perfect time or situation for your big break. If you are passionate about something, give it a go. Focus on the first step — the 1% you can tackle today — and make it happen. Get in the game, stay in the game, and keep the lights on!

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