What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: Advice from Successful Entrepreneurs


When we look back at our younger selves, there are often a multitude of things we wish we could tell them. Hindsight is a powerful tool, and when it comes to navigating the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship, the lessons can be particularly invaluable. In this article, we have gathered advice from successful entrepreneurs who reflect on their own journeys and share what they wish they had known when they were 20. Whether you're a budding entrepreneur, a recent graduate, or simply seeking inspiration, these lessons from the seasoned professionals will guide you on your path to success. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and let's dive into the wisdom that could change the course of your entrepreneurial journey.

Introduction: Lessons from a 20-year-old's Perspective

Being 20 years old is an exciting and transformative time in a person's life. It is a period filled with dreams, ambitions, and possibilities. As young adults embark on their journey to adulthood, many of them are faced with the daunting task of making important life decisions, including choosing a career path. While some may have a clear vision of what they want to achieve, others may find themselves feeling lost and uncertain about the future.

In this article, we will explore the invaluable advice from successful entrepreneurs that they wish they had received when they were 20 years old1 . These entrepreneurs have traversed the hurdles of starting and growing their own businesses and have amassed a wealth of knowledge along the way. By sharing their experiences and insights, we hope to provide guidance and inspiration to young individuals who are embarking on their entrepreneurial journey.

Breaking Down Fear Barriers

(Unearth the Entrepreneurial Spirit)

"Fear is inevitable in every walk of life. It is how you respond to fear that determines your success." - Richard Branson2

One of the most important lessons successful entrepreneurs learned early on is the need to overcome fear. Fear can often hold us back from pursuing our dreams and taking risks. Whether it is fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or fear of judgement, it is essential for young individuals to unshackle themselves from these fears. By doing so, they can discover their true entrepreneurial spirit and unlock their potential.

Entrepreneurs also emphasize the importance of being open to new opportunities and embracing change. The world is constantly evolving, and those who are adaptable and willing to take risks are the ones who thrive. By stepping out of their comfort zones, young individuals can challenge themselves and uncover new possibilities they may have never thought possible.

Nuggets of Wisdom I Wish I Had at 20

(Cherished Advice)

"The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks." - Mark Zuckerberg3

Successful entrepreneurs have reflected on their own journey and shared advice that they wished they had received when they were 204 . They stress the importance of never being afraid to fail and learning from mistakes. Failure is not something to be feared but rather a stepping stone toward growth and success. Entrepreneurs believe that taking risks and having the courage to fail is what sets apart those who achieve greatness.

Another piece of advice often shared is the need to find a passion or purpose that drives one's entrepreneurial endeavors. Discovering what truly excites and motivates you is the key to sustaining long-term success. Passion fuels perseverance, and when faced with challenges, it is the driving force that keeps entrepreneurs going.

man standing near to tree
Photo by Ana Nichita on Unsplash

Unearth the Entrepreneurial Spirit: Breaking Down Fear Barriers

Fear can be a powerful barrier that holds us back from pursuing our entrepreneurial dreams. It whispers doubts and insecurities into our minds, making us question our abilities and preventing us from taking risks. But successful entrepreneurs understand that fear is just a temporary roadblock that can be overcome.

One of the most important lessons they share is to embrace failure and view it as a stepping stone towards success. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, once said, "You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over." This mindset encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to push past their fear of failure and take bold actions.

Think big and don't let fear limit your ambitions. Many successful entrepreneurs started with a simple idea and transformed it into a global phenomenon. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., famously said, "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." This quote serves as a reminder that great success often requires a willingness to think outside the box and take risks.

Surround yourself with a supportive network of mentors and like-minded individuals who can offer guidance and encouragement. Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, noted that, "Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder." This signifies the importance of building a network of diverse professionals who can provide different perspectives and opportunities.

Lastly, learn to embrace discomfort. Successful entrepreneurs understand that growth and innovation happen outside of our comfort zones. Warren Buffett, the legendary investor, once said, "The best investment you can make is in yourself, invest in the skills that will help you create a future worth living." Stepping outside your comfort zone allows you to challenge yourself and learn valuable skills that can propel your entrepreneurial journey.

Remember, breaking down fear barriers is essential for unearthing the entrepreneurial spirit within you. Learn from those who have succeeded before, face your fears head-on, and embrace the journey of entrepreneurship with boldness and determination.

Cherished Advice: Nuggets of Wisdom I Wish I Had at 20

As we navigate through life, there are always moments when we wish we could turn back time and offer our younger selves some valuable advice. When it comes to entrepreneurship, this sentiment rings true for many successful individuals who have learned valuable lessons along their journey. Here, we explore some cherished advice from these accomplished entrepreneurs - nuggets of wisdom that they wish they had known when they were 20 years old.

1. Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity

One of the most important lessons entrepreneurs wished they had learned earlier is that failure is not necessarily a setback, but rather a stepping stone towards growth and success. J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved Harry Potter series, once said, "It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default." This sentiment is echoed by many entrepreneurs who have experienced setbacks along their entrepreneurial journey. Failing ultimately provides valuable lessons and insights that can be used to make better decisions in the future.

2. Pursue Passion and Purpose

Successful entrepreneurs often emphasize the importance of pursuing passion and aligning it with purpose. It is not enough to start a business solely for the sake of making money. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., once said, "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." When you are genuinely passionate about your work, it becomes easier to overcome obstacles and persevere during challenging times. Additionally, pursuing a business venture that aligns with your values and purpose adds a sense of meaning and fulfillment to your entrepreneurial journey.

3. Surround Yourself with the Right People

Jim Rohn, a renowned motivational speaker, famously said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." This statement holds profound meaning when it comes to entrepreneurship. Surrounding yourself with supportive and like-minded individuals can significantly impact your chances of success. By building a network of mentors, advisors, and colleagues who share your vision and aspirations, you can tap into a wealth of knowledge and resources. Additionally, being part of a supportive community can provide the motivation and inspiration needed to overcome challenges and stay focused on your entrepreneurial goals.

4. Be Adaptable and Embrace Change

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, entrepreneurs must be adaptable and willing to embrace change. As technology continues to reshape industries, those who resist change may find themselves left behind. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, "What's dangerous is not to evolve." Successful entrepreneurs understand that being open to new ideas, trends, and market shifts is crucial for long-term success. By embracing change and staying ahead of the curve, entrepreneurs can position themselves to capitalize on emerging opportunities and drive innovation within their industries.

5. Seek Continuous Learning and Personal Growth

To thrive as an entrepreneur, a thirst for knowledge and a commitment to ongoing personal growth are essential. Entrepreneurs who acknowledge that they never stop learning are better equipped to adapt to changing circumstances and seek innovative solutions. Benjamin Franklin once wisely said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." Whether it's attending workshops, reading books, or seeking out mentors, successful entrepreneurs know the value of continuous learning and actively invest in their self-development. This dedication to personal growth allows them to stay at the forefront of their industries and make informed decisions that can propel their businesses forward.

In hindsight, these nuggets of wisdom from successful entrepreneurs are invaluable to anyone embarking on their own entrepreneurial journey. Embracing failure as a learning opportunity, pursuing passion and purpose, surrounding yourself with the right people, being adaptable and embracing change, and seeking continuous learning and personal growth are all crucial elements to thriving as an entrepreneur. So, as you embark on your own entrepreneurial path, take these cherished pieces of advice to heart and let them guide you towards achieving your goals and dreams.

Overcoming Adversity: Stories of Resilience and Determination

Life is unpredictable, and every entrepreneur faces their fair share of challenges along the way. However, it is how they deal with adversity that truly sets them apart. Successful entrepreneurs have shown immense resilience and determination in the face of obstacles, and their stories serve as inspiration for us all.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back after facing setbacks or failures. It is a quality that distinguishes those who persevere from those who give up. Entrepreneurs like Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, demonstrate this trait with their unwavering determination to succeed. Blakely faced numerous rejections before finally getting her revolutionary shapewear product off the ground. Her resilience allowed her to overcome obstacles and build a globally recognized brand.

Another example of resilience is Walt Disney, who faced countless failures and rejections before finding success. He said, "All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you". Disney was not discouraged by his setbacks and continued to pursue his dreams until he achieved monumental success.

Determination is another crucial trait that helps entrepreneurs overcome adversity. It is the unwavering resolve to achieve their goals, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, displayed immense determination when faced with initial resistance to his vision. Despite numerous setbacks, Schultz persisted and transformed Starbucks into the iconic brand it is today.

One of the key aspects of determination is having a clear vision and purpose. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, exemplifies this. He once said, "I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better". Musk's determination to revolutionize space travel and sustainable energy has propelled him to overcome numerous obstacles on his path to success.

Insurmountable setbacks can be demoralizing and make one question their abilities. However, stories of entrepreneurs who have overcome significant challenges remind us that resilience and determination are essential in the face of adversity. They teach us that failure is not the end but rather an opportunity for growth and learning. As Thomas A. Edison famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work".

These stories of resilience and determination in the face of adversity not only inspire us but also teach valuable lessons. They show us the importance of never giving up, even when the odds are against us. Instead of being deterred by obstacles, successful entrepreneurs embrace them as opportunities for growth and improvement. So, the next time you face adversity on your entrepreneurial journey, remember the remarkable stories of those who have overcome similar challenges. Stay resilient, stay determined, and keep pushing forward.

The Power of Networking: Connections That Shaped Successful Careers

The importance of networking in building a successful career cannot be overstated. Networking has the power to open doors, create opportunities, and propel individuals to new heights of success. As renowned entrepreneur Richard Branson once said, "Succeeding in business is all about making connections."

Entrepreneurs who have achieved great success often credit their network of contacts and mentors as a vital factor in their journey. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, emphasized the significance of building relationships early on in his career. He said, "You need a network. Nobody survives alone."

Building a network involves reaching out to people within and outside your industry, attending events, joining professional organizations, and staying connected through social media platforms. This network can provide valuable advice, support, and even potential partnerships. In fact, research has shown that 70% of jobs are found through networking.

Successful entrepreneurs have often benefited from chance encounters and serendipitous connections that led to life-changing opportunities. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, once remarked: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward." Making the effort to expand your network could lead to encounters with individuals who might present unforeseen doors to success.

Networking is not just about expanding your contacts; it's also about nurturing those relationships. It requires effort, time, and genuine interest in others. As entrepreneur and author Keith Ferrazzi advises, "The currency of networking is not greed but generosity." By being proactive in assisting others and creating value in the lives of people in your network, you'll build trust and establish a strong foundation for mutually beneficial relationships.

The power of networking is exemplified by the story of Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook. When Facebook was struggling to grow, Zuckerberg reached out to the founder of Silicon Valley's leading venture capital firm, Peter Thiel, for advice. This connection eventually led to a $500,000 investment which played a crucial role in propelling Facebook to success. Thiel even went on to say, "I was so impressed with the team that I decided to become the first outside investor. That was a good decision."

In conclusion, networking can have a profound impact on the trajectory of one's career, especially for entrepreneurs. It can create connections that may lead to unexpected opportunities, support, and invaluable mentorship. As bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell once said, "Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities." Building a strong network is an essential step towards creating these circumstances and maximizing the opportunities for success in your entrepreneurial journey.

Succeeding Against All Odds: Unexpected Triumphs

Life is unpredictable, and so is the entrepreneurial journey. Along the way, successful entrepreneurs often encounter unexpected challenges and setbacks. However, it is during these times that individuals can showcase their tenacity and determination to overcome the odds. Despite facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, many entrepreneurs have managed to achieve remarkable success through their unwavering perseverance.

Bold Entrepreneurs must possess a strong belief in their vision and an unwavering commitment to see it through. It is this resilience that sets them apart from others, allowing them to defy the odds and achieve their goals.

A shining example of succeeding against all odds is the incredible story of J.K. Rowling. After facing numerous rejections from publishers, Rowling finally found success with the Harry Potter series, which went on to become a worldwide phenomenon. Despite being a single mother living on welfare, Rowling's determination and refusal to give up led her to become one of the most well-known and successful authors of our time.

Another example is the story of Walt Disney, who faced multiple bankruptcies and setbacks throughout his career. Despite these challenges, Disney persisted and created a legacy that continues to bring joy to millions of people around the world. As Walt Disney once said, "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."

These stories serve as inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs, reminding them that success can be achieved even in the face of adversity. It is important to remember that setbacks are not permanent roadblocks but rather opportunities for growth and improvement. By embracing challenges and learning from failures, entrepreneurs can discover new paths to success.

Bold Additionally, it is important for entrepreneurs to surround themselves with a supportive network of mentors and like-minded individuals who can provide guidance and encouragement during difficult times. The power of having a strong support system cannot be underestimated in the journey towards success.

In conclusion, succeeding against all odds is a testament to the resilience and determination of entrepreneurs. Despite facing unexpected challenges and setbacks, successful individuals have managed to overcome adversity and achieve remarkable feats. By embodying qualities such as perseverance, belief in their vision, and the ability to learn from failures, entrepreneurs can turn the unexpected into triumph. As Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Lessons on Failure: How Missteps Can Lead to Growth

Failure is often seen as something negative, a setback that can hinder progress. However, many successful entrepreneurs have learned valuable lessons from their failures, using them as stepping stones towards growth and success. As Winston Churchill once said, "Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." This section will explore the importance of embracing failure and the valuable lessons it can teach us.

Failure is not the end, but a beginning. It is common for entrepreneurs to encounter failures and setbacks along their journey. However, it is crucial to view failure not as a roadblock, but as an opportunity for growth. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, said, "You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over." Embracing failure allows entrepreneurs to learn from their mistakes, gain valuable experience, and ultimately grow stronger in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Failure fosters resilience and determination. Each failure provides an opportunity to develop resilience and determination. It is through overcoming obstacles and learning from mistakes that entrepreneurs build the strength to persevere. As Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of The Huffington Post, once said, "Failure is not the opposite of success; it's a stepping stone to success." When faced with failure, successful entrepreneurs use it as a fuel to keep going, pushing forward with even more determination and resolve.

Failure promotes innovation and creativity. Often, failure leads to out-of-the-box thinking and innovation. When faced with failure, entrepreneurs are forced to think differently, explore new strategies, and find alternative solutions. As Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Failure can spark creativity and open doors to new possibilities that may not have been considered without those initial missteps.

Failure provides a unique learning opportunity. Every failure offers a valuable learning opportunity. It allows entrepreneurs to analyze what went wrong, understand their weaknesses, and identify areas for improvement. By embracing failure, entrepreneurs can gain insights that can lead to better decision-making and ultimately contribute to their future success. As Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, once said, "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."

Failure builds character and humility. Facing failure humbles entrepreneurs and builds their character. It teaches them that success is not guaranteed and that hard work and perseverance are essential. Failure helps entrepreneurs develop the humility to ask for help, seek guidance, and learn from others' experiences. As Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., famously stated, "I'm convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."

In conclusion, failure is not the end but a beginning towards growth and success. By embracing failure, entrepreneurs foster resilience, determination, and creativity. They learn valuable lessons, which contribute to their future success. As Albert Einstein wisely said, "Failure is success in progress." So, let us not fear failure but embrace it as an opportunity for growth and a stepping stone towards our entrepreneurial dreams.

The Role of Passion in Business Success: Do What You Love

When it comes to achieving success in business, one common piece of advice that successful entrepreneurs often share is to follow your passion. Passion has the power to fuel persistence, creativity, and resilience, enabling entrepreneurs to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. As Steve Jobs once said, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do."

Passion not only drives motivation but also creates a sense of fulfillment and purpose in one's entrepreneurial journey. When you are truly passionate about your work, it becomes more than just a means to make money; it becomes a way to make a difference. It is this deep love for what they do that propels entrepreneurs to go the extra mile, overcome obstacles, and make a lasting impact on the world.

One of the keys to utilizing passion in business success is to identify and pursue opportunities that align with your interests and values. By choosing a venture that resonates with your passions, you are more likely to stay motivated and dedicated to overcoming the inevitable challenges that arise. Passion acts as an inner compass, guiding entrepreneurs towards fulfilling their goals and creating a meaningful impact on their customers and society.

Take, for example, the story of Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla. Musk has a passion for sustainable energy and space exploration. He has dedicated his life to advancing these causes through innovative technologies and has become one of the most influential entrepreneurs of our time. Musk's success can be attributed, in part, to his unwavering passion for his chosen fields, which has driven him to overcome numerous setbacks and pursue groundbreaking solutions.

Moreover, passion fuels creativity and problem-solving abilities. When you are passionate about your business, you are more likely to think outside the box, take risks, and come up with innovative ideas. This ability to see opportunities where others may see roadblocks sets passionate entrepreneurs apart and gives them a competitive advantage. As Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, once said, "Passion is what gets you through the toughest times and helps you enjoy the best times."

However, it is important to note that passion alone is not enough. Successful entrepreneurs understand that passion must be coupled with diligence, discipline, and continuous learning. Building a successful business requires an unwavering commitment to growth and improvement. Passion acts as the driving force, but it must be supplemented with hard work and a willingness to adapt and evolve.

In conclusion, passion plays a crucial role in the success of entrepreneurs. It fuels motivation, creativity, and resilience, enabling them to overcome challenges and make a positive impact. By choosing a venture that aligns with their passions, entrepreneurs can tap into their full potential and create remarkable achievements. As Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how." So, if you aspire to become an entrepreneur, remember to follow your passion, for it may be the key to your success.

Taking the Leap: Steps Towards Becoming an Entrepreneur

Do you dream of starting your own business? Do you have innovative ideas that you believe can make a difference in the world? Taking the leap into entrepreneurship can be both exhilarating and daunting. But don't let fear hold you back. With the right mindset and a few important steps, you can turn your dreams into reality.

1. Define your Vision and Goals

Before diving into the world of entrepreneurship, take the time to define your vision and goals. What is it that you want to achieve with your business? What problem do you want to solve? Having a clear vision will guide you through the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey. As author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss said, "Define your objectives, and then identify the path, whether in the business world or otherwise, that allows you to achieve them."

2. Do your Research

Starting a business requires a lot of groundwork. Research your target market, competition, and potential customers. Understand their needs and preferences. This will help you create a unique selling proposition and position your business for success. Entrepreneur and author Guy Kawasaki advises, "There are pockets of customers who are dying for your product. Find them."

3. Build a Support Network

Entrepreneurship can be lonely, and having a support network is crucial. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who can inspire, motivate, and advise you. Join entrepreneurial communities, attend industry events, and network with professionals in your field. As author Napoleon Hill once said, "No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind."

4. Start Small, Think Big

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of starting a business. But remember, every successful entrepreneur started small. Begin with a minimum viable product or service and iterate and improve as you go along. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said, "I knew that if I failed I wouldn't regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying."

5. Embrace Failure

Failure is a natural part of the entrepreneurial journey. Don't let it discourage you. Instead, learn from your mistakes and use them as stepping stones to success. As Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, put it, "Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough." Embrace the lessons failure brings and keep pushing forward.

6. Take Calculated Risks

Entrepreneurship is all about taking risks, but they need to be calculated risks. Assess the pros and cons of every decision, and don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. As entrepreneur Richard Branson once said, "Screw it. Just do it." Trust your instincts and be willing to take the necessary risks to propel your business forward.

7. Seek Mentorship

Finding a mentor who has been through the entrepreneurial journey can be invaluable. They can offer guidance, share their experiences, and provide valuable insight. As Oprah Winfrey once said, "A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself." Learn from those who have walked the path before you and let their wisdom guide you.

8. Stay Passionate and Persevere

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. It requires passion, dedication, and perseverance. Remember why you started, and let that passion drive you through the challenges. As entrepreneur and author Simon Sinek said, "Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion." Stay committed to your vision and keep pushing forward, even in the face of adversity.

9. Embrace Continuous Learning

Entrepreneurship is a journey of continuous learning and growth. Stay curious and open to new ideas. Invest in your personal and professional development. Read books, attend workshops, and seek opportunities to expand your knowledge. As entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn said, "Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune." Never stop learning and keep evolving as an entrepreneur.

By taking these steps and embracing the entrepreneurial spirit, you can set yourself on the path to success. Remember, becoming an entrepreneur is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride and embrace the opportunities that come your way. As entrepreneur Richard Branson once said, "Every risk is worth taking as long as it's for a good cause and contributes to a good life." So go ahead, take the leap, and turn your entrepreneurial dreams into a reality.

man jump from blue fence to brown concrete pavement
Photo by Ben O'Sullivan on Unsplash


As Steve Jobs once said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards." This sentiment resonates deeply with the experiences and lessons shared in this article. While it may be impossible to fully comprehend the challenges and successes that lie ahead, the words of wisdom from those who have walked this path can provide valuable guidance and inspiration. So, take these lessons to heart, learn from the experiences of others, and build your own path towards success as an entrepreneur.

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