Everyone Should Start a Company to Be More Successful

Bold claim – starting a company will make you more successful.  But don’t most companies fail, especially for first time entrepreneurs?  So how does likely becoming a failure set you up to be successful?

True – odds are that the first thing you start won’t be a smashing success, but second time entrepreneurs have a MUCH higher likelihood of success.  And this boost is made even greater with the right resources, training, and support throughout.

Think back to the first time you can remember doing something foolish.  For me, it was building a double-decker go-kart with my brother when I was in early years of elementary school.  Anyone with some experience in physics would know this to be a terrible idea, and sure enough, I went flying off the second story as we went around the first turn.  Were all those hours of work designing, finding materials, building, and painting worthless?  Absolutely not!  I had a first-hand understanding of important concepts in physics, and went on to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and work a few years later at BMW’s design studio, DesignWorks, in California.

But I didn’t know when I was so young that I wanted to study engineering, or that I would love cars and want to design them.  And chances are, my high school student readers don’t have a resolute image of their future success.  What’s more, even if they do, success is different things to different people, so how can we best prepare?

MIT Launch seeks to prepare students for real world success, and in measuring our impact, this took breaking down our impact to three basic questions:

  1. What is Success?  Students rank skills in order of their importance to future success
  2. How Successful Are You?  Self-assessment of these skills
  3. Where Did You Learn It? Determining the top locations and experiences that skills were learned
Our alumni were asked for ratings aligned with these questions, and nearly ¾ of them (184 students) responded with the following results:

  • Success equals… resiliency, work ethic, problem solving, communication skills, and ability to identify opportunities.  More traditional STEM skills like technical abilities and quantitative analysis ranked last, which isn’t to say that these skills aren’t important, but that the actual knowledge and abilities aren’t as valuable as how much they (and other skills development programs) are able to develop more versatile skills that are adaptable to more situations and environments.
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  • We are successful!  There’s an extremely high correlation between average importance rating and students’ self-assessments.  This is expected to be a combination of students prioritizing development of these items because they understand their importance, plus some element of being good at something and therefore assuming it is important.  This has helped us know to further validate the important success factors ranking with more audiences.
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  • Mainly because we started a company.  50-80% of students learned the top skills for success from starting a company.  This means that this single experience had more impact than the entirety of the rest of their demanding school classes (mostly iB and AP students), more than their organized clubs at school (many do robotics, debate, and MUN), and more than learning on their own or in other work.
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So what does this mean?  Starting a company – experiencing the time demands, changing market pressures, team dynamics, and inevitable ups and downs – is the single best thing that someone can do to prepare themselves for future success.  And every “failure” is still a success – through the self-awareness, insight, and growth professionally and personally that is gained.  I might not have made a functional go-kart when I was a kid, but I learned more about what I loved, about the way objects moved, and about starting a project and adapting to new information.  I learned that I was an engineer and innovator.

Get ready – for what your startup project teach you.

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