If even remotely qualify as being a young person, go start a company. This is the one time in your life where you can bet the farm without worrying about the consequences. If you succeed, you’ll win big. If you fail, the consequences are so minimal it barely matters.
Now you may think that it can’t be that easy. You might think of a million reasons that you’re not ready to start a company. And while some of them may be valid, there are a few incredibly valuable reasons why starting a company while you’re young is the most important thing you can do.
The “Real-World Experience” Myth
Most people want to wait until they have enough “real world” experience to start a company. They assume they are going to collect sage-like wisdom that can only come with old age and lots of job experience.
If you think you need a ton of experience to drop everything and found your own company, consider this question: “What do Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Sergey Brin (Google), and Max Levchin (PayPal) all have in common?”
Answer: they all started billion dollar companies before they were 25.
Don’t get me wrong, experience in your given field can increase your chances of success. But while it may make your life easier along the way, it’s by no means a make-or-break requirement.
If there are areas of your business that you don’t feel comfortable tackling, such as the finances or legal issues, there are plenty of people that you can reach out to for some advice. You don’t need to learn every aspect of running a company to get an idea off the ground.
The Gary Coleman Effect
A long time ago when I was starting my first company (I was 19) a good friend of mine said that I had the “Gary Coleman Effect.” You may remember Gary Coleman as the child actor from the comedy series Diff’rent Strokes, although if you’re 19 now, you probably don’t know who that is. Maybe today it’s called the Dakota Fanning effect.
As a child, Gary Coleman was a considered a fantastic actor because kids his age rarely expressed such talent. No one could believe such a young kid could be so funny on camera. Years later it would be discovered that little Gary was a really, really bad actor. Yet at the time, his young age amplified what were otherwise mediocre talents.
The same applies when you’re young and starting a company. In the event that your company takes off like the perpetually 21-year-old Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook has, you’re considered a genius. On the other hand, if your startup tanks the world simply says “Hey, he’s 21 years old, what else would you expect?”
Being young provides a period of your life where you get double the points if you succeed and lose no points if you fail. What you’ll learn later in life is that this opportunity is almost never offered again.
Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain
If you look at it in a very pragmatic way, the older you get the more liabilities you saddle yourself with. Before you know it you’ve got a high-paying career that’s too hard to walk away from, a family to support, and a big mortgage to pay.
The younger you are, the fewer liabilities you have. That means you can take incredible risks without having to worry about the liabilities that life introduces later on. If you’re a college kid living on less than $1,000 worth of expenses it is the best time in the world to get started. No matter what happens, you can always find a job to cover your overhead. It doesn’t work so easily when you have $10,000 per month in expenses!
Aside from the limited financial risk, you’ve got the upside of an incredible amount of potential experience. In your first job out of college (the first one is always crappy) you’re going to learn a little, but at only at the pace your employer offers you. If your manager leaves you doing mindless tasks for the first few years, you’re not learning nearly fast enough.
On the other hand, if you start a company, like it or not you’re going to have to learn as much as you can as fast as you can possibly digest it. It’s like hitting the fast-forward button for your career. Even if the venture doesn’t work out, you’ll gain more experience in one year of starting a company that you could possibly gain in a year working for someone else.
Start Young While You Still Can
The funny thing about your youth is that it can be your single greatest strength and weakness at the same time. You’re too young to realize how much you don’t know and yet don’t have the experience to realize why it would matter. So seize the opportunity while it stands without consequences – it’s the last time it’ll ever be this risk-free!