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Why There are No Rules in Business or Entrepreneurship


There are no rules in business or entrepreneurship. Anyone that tells you otherwise is either lying, has no idea what they’re talking about, or is just about to pitch you their “How to succeed in business” e-course.

It’s not a bad thing to learn from those who have gone before you, but it’s more a matter of applying their knowledge abstractly instead of mimicking it.

Success isn’t an if/then statement and if it was, everyone would start successful businesses simply by copying the first successful person’s blueprint. The only direct path to getting anywhere in business is by doing lots of (good) work, and even that doesn’t guarantee anything.

So many of us have this vision of starting a business, making six-figures with just a blog and then becoming a location-independent minimalist who takes photos of the 18.5 items they own. (There are lots of coffee shops and conferences somehow involved as well.)

I’ve ran with dozens of business ideas. But I couldn’t teach you a thing about entrepreneurialism that’d be worth a damn, other than “stop thinking, stop learning, start doing“. Do this before you feel you are ready. Do this before the idea is perfect. And then keep doing that until what you’re doing actually works out. If it works out. It might not.

There have been wins and losses for me. Both have been great, even if I thought the losses weren’t great at the time. The wins have been sweeter because they were on my own terms. The losses made sense eventually because I failed at trying things my way.

I learned each time that there’s no magic in “making it”, you’ve just got to keep throwing darts at a board and hoping one lands in the middle (and subsequently, doesn’t fall out). Formulas work on spreadsheets and chalkboards, but rarely do they work in real life.

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If you do things your own way, people will potentially call your ideas stupid. This either means you’re onto something, or that they are in fact, stupid. But you won’t know the answer until you’ve actually tested them. The world is also full of stupid ideas that have turned into gold mines (case in point: circular robots that vacuum).

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I can guarantee you that decades ago if you told someone you wanted to start a company that sold water in bottles for far more money that it cost to simply pour a glass from the tap, most people would have called your idea stupid. Or that later, you were planning to sell stainless steel bottles to hold water because people didn’t like the environmental impact of those plastic bottled waters. Stupid can make serious bank.

Times change. Paradigms shift. Markets are created or destroyed faster than we can blink. Perhaps I’ll start selling an e-course on how to stop listening to advice from successful online entrepreneurs…

There are no rules. And even if it seems like there are, they can change before you have a chance to put them into practice.

Paul Jarvis is a web designer and bestselling author, who’s obsessed with nature and hairless rats. His latest book, Everything I Know, is a guide to freelancing as a creative professional (without living on ramen noodles or settling for bad clients).
Title Photo Credit: flickr
Photo Credit: flickr

in your inbox everyday at 10am CST.

No fluff or "pie in the sky inspiration." Just real stories.

Written by Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis is a best-selling author and designer. He writes weekly for his popular newsletter and runs an online course on becoming a better freelancer.