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A case for entrepreneurship

Via The Star : Many parents still want their children to pursue the traditional career path — that is, a good degree, followed by a good-paying job. But if you think entrepreneurship is for you, start your business now even as you pursue your studies. Apologise when you’re a success.

Q: After attending a forum on entrepreneurship at the age of 16, I gained insight into what entrepreneurs can do to create a positive impact in people’s lives. Since then, I’ve read many articles and books about entrepreneurs and have been inspired to become one myself.

However, my parents have no faith in me — they don’t believe that I’ll be successful. They always focus on the negatives, telling me that I should just aim to get a stable, well-paying job. They say that if I don’t stick with my studies, I’ll get bad grades and I won’t be able to get a good job.

I would love to change the way they think about this subject. Is there any advice you can offer? — Jason Wong, Malaysia

I think it’s great that you attended an entrepreneurship forum at just 16. You’re never too young to be an entrepreneur, and it’s important to remember that some of the world’s greatest ideas and innovations have come from young people who tackle seemingly unsolvable problems with lively determination.

As I read your question, Jason, I realized that I went through a similar experience. I launched my first business, Student magazine, when I was just 15 years old, while struggling to keep up with math and science classes.

My dream was to make the magazine a success, and I knew that I was passionate about being an entrepreneur.

As I’ve mentioned before, my mother and father have always been supportive of my goals, but when I first told them that I wanted to leave school to focus on the business, they were not 100% on board! Like your parents, they were concerned about the consequences that could follow.

But they saw how passionate I was, so they eventually allowed me to quit on one condition: I put everything I had into making the magazine a success.

I did. My passion and drive helped me stay focused, and often kept me working all night. Soon my parents were convinced that I could do it. (My mother even began to work on articles for us!)

Josh, my advice would be to take your parents to the next entrepreneurship-related event you attend. They need to have an experience that will challenge their perceptions of our field.

I’d wager that if your mother and father start to understand why you are so excited about starting a business, they’ll be more willing to encourage you to pursue your dreams.

While attending forums and conventions can be incredibly inspiring (I should know — I speak at several a year around the world to raise money for Virgin Unite, our entrepreneurial foundation), the only concrete way to demonstrate to your parents that you’re on the right path is to get out there and get started.

I understand that you’re not at liberty to end your formal education like I did, but not being able to quit your studies shouldn’t mean quitting on your dream. As I explained in a recent column, starting a business part-time while studying can complement your schooling.

After all, focusing on your grades can be risky, too — it doesn’t always guarantee a rewarding career.

Many parents are often surprised to learn that many of those “stable, well-paying jobs” simply don’t exist anymore, and that young people without a healthy helping of enterprising drive often struggle to find a job.

So it’s time to get started. I’ve always said that I would much rather ask for forgiveness than permission — and I think that this is the route you should take, too.

Just launch your business and apologise later… when you’re a success!

The first thing to know about getting started is that you should never jump in blindly.

Successful entrepreneurs are passionate about disrupting the status quo, doing things differently and creating products or services that improves lives.

Remember: There’s no point in starting a business just because you think you’ll enjoy the entrepreneurial lifestyle or make lots of money.

Have a good think about what drives you. You know that you want to be an entrepreneur, but do you know what it is you want to create? Consider the subjects and industries that interest you most. Think about which talents you have, what problems you want to solve and which causes you really love.

Once you’ve figured out what it is you want to change for the better, grab at it with both hands. Speak openly about your ideas and plans. Be obsessed. Be confident.

Your confidence will rub off on others, including your parents. But don’t just stop at talking: Act.

Discover what you love doing the most, and figure out a way to turn it into something that benefits others.

Do this, and a fruitful career will not be too far away. — Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

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