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The Path to Becoming a Founder A Journey of Preparation

“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.” – Steve Jobs

The road to becoming a founder is not a sprint; it’s a marathon of preparation, learning, and experience. This journey can span over a decade or more, as budding entrepreneurs build the knowledge, skills, and expertise required to navigate the complex world of startups. In this discussion, we’ll explore the critical steps and timeframes involved in preparing to become a founder.

1. Early Foundations: Many successful founders, like Steve Jobs, begin their journey at a young age. They tinker, experiment, and explore their interests. In high school, some might start small businesses, gaining invaluable entrepreneurial experience.

2. Formal Education: After high school, formal education often comes into play. This can include college or technical training, providing a foundation in various disciplines. For instance, exposure to computer science paved the way for Jobs’ early work at Apple.

3. Professional Experience: Jobs’ rapid ascent from a software engineer to Vice President of Engineering exemplifies the importance of professional experience. Real-world exposure allows individuals to develop critical skills, learn from mentors, and understand the dynamics of a rapidly evolving field.

4. The Five-Year Learning Curve: Transitioning from an employee to a founder requires an understanding of management, industry expertise, and more. This often takes about five years. During this period, aspiring founders should focus on honing their skills and expanding their knowledge.

5. The Ten-Year Journey: To truly master a specific industry or area, a decade of experience is often required. This experience equips entrepreneurs with the depth of knowledge essential for success.

6. Timing Is Crucial: Founders must launch their ventures at the right moment, balancing the accumulation of experience with seizing opportunities. Timing can significantly impact a startup’s success.

7. Lifelong Learning: The journey doesn’t stop with launching a startup. Successful founders continually read, learn, and adapt. Reading books, such as “The Founders” or “Creativity, Inc.,” can provide insights into the challenges and persistence required for success.

8. Risks and Challenges: Founders face numerous challenges along the way, including risk, trial and error, and even close calls with bankruptcy. These experiences build resilience and resourcefulness.

9. The Path of Exceptional Founders: While some young entrepreneurs achieve remarkable success, they are often the exception rather than the rule. Most founders have years of learning and preparation behind their triumphs.

The path to becoming a founder is a long and arduous one, marked by dedication, learning, and perseverance. Early foundations, formal education, professional experience, and a multi-year learning curve all play crucial roles. Timing, ongoing learning, and the ability to overcome risks and challenges are key elements. Remember, as Steve Jobs advised, true satisfaction comes from doing what you love and doing it exceptionally well.

Bob Norton is a long-time Serial Entrepreneur, CEO and investor who founded six companies with four exits that returned over $1 billion to investors for a 25X ROI. Two others are still in development. He has trained, consulted and advised thousands of Entrepreneurs, CEOs and boards since 2002. Mr. Norton works with companies to 2X to 10X growth rates and valuation using AirTight Management™, the world’s most comprehensive Leadership Operating System. He also helps companies raise capital to fund growth. He is also the Founder of The CEO Boot Camp™ and Entrepreneurship Universityfor early-stage companies that have not reached product-market fit and $1M ARR.

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