Entrepreneur Beginners Guide
“Ask for Help”
Tell everyone what you want to do and someone will want to help you do it. —W. Clement Stone, businessman, philanthropist
When I arrived at Morehouse College, where I would spend four crucial years of my life, I had a huge chip on my shoulder. About a year before my arrival, Morehouse offered and T had accepted a full academic scholarship to study computer science. My scholarship was funded by NASA and was intended to groom outstanding math and science majors to work in the space program upon graduation. That summer before classes officially began in August, I took part in a mandatory, six-week orientation program for the thirty or so NASA scholars at Morehouse. We were the elite students, and we knew it. Along with high SAT scores and GPAs, we had extremely high opinions of ourselves. These opinions would change quickly.
What we thought would be an easy summer filled with new-found independence and fun became a summer of torture. During the program, we took college courses, including advanced calculus and advanced computer programming. Our calculus class was taught by a Stern alumnus who was the stereotypical difficult professor. There was never a right answer. Even when a student offered a correct answer in class, the professor would ask us, “Is this answer correct?” Going to class was like having your fingernails pulled out one by one. Our computer science professor was equally intimidating. He had a different approach, though. He was a soft-spoken, jovial guy, but he would laugh at you and make fun of you if you gave a wrong answer. And he would often digress, talking about life in general. The worst thing about the summer classes was our grades. For example, in our calculus class, the best grade on the first quiz was a 55, I think. My grade was closer to my age. It wouldn’t get much better. The material, pace, and pressure were too hard. The NASA Project Space Program knew exactly what it was doing. It broke us down and it humbled us.
As a result, we were all scared to death of college and studied harder than ever to prepare for the first day of real classes in Au-gust. Students who had never struggled academically were on the verge of a breakdown at the NASA program. There was mass panic, but everyone tried to play it cool. Some of us formed study groups and curtailed our social activities. Many of us questioned our ability and fortitude to survive and to make it through college. Some bailed before the six-week program was over.
This period was especially difficult for me. Through high school I rarely had to ask for help in my course If Something gave me trouble, I would figure-it out. Now I had to ask for’ from peers—something I wasn’t comfortable doing at all. I thought help—and that this was a sign of weakness, and my reluctance to ask for help caused me to pay a high academic price.
I learned my lesson as a student thanks to NASA, and I vowed not to make the same mistake When I became a CEO in business. In fact, seconds after I came up ‘with my first business idea as a sophomore, I asked for help. I contacted my good friend and fellow NASA scholar, Chris, to hear what he thought about my company’s new name and domain name. Also, before I started another college business, 1 invited about live entrepreneurs to an evening meeting to discuss my business idea and to get their feedback and help. I made it a habit to ask for help from day one. Many of these same people continue to give me their guidance today, more than ten years later. The help I have asked for and received has been invaluable to my company’s growth and my personal development. Before long, asking for help became natural. I just had to get rid of my ego.
When you start your business, lose the ego immediately. It’s the main reason that entrepreneurs don’t seek help. An over inflated ego even prevents those who ask for help from receiving it. Rarely do people want to help those who act as though they don’t need it. And there’s a difference between being confident and having an ego that’s too big for your own good. Confidence attracts people; ego repels them.
One of the quickest ways to lead a life of mediocrity or utter failure is to think that you can accomplish a major task all by your-self. The self-made man or woman is a myth. Even the greatest business minds of our time had to ask for help. One of my favorite examples is that of Mark Zuckerberg, who asked his parents to help finance his young company, The facebook. His parents gave him $85,000 in the summer of 2004 to help buy servers for his growing business. This money, according to a lawsuit, was intended for his college tuition. It doesn’t hurt to ask, right? Whether it’s your oversized ego or your tendency to be introverted that’s stop-ping you, go beyond your comfort zone and ask for help. Your business depends on it.