There is something about the time around our birthdays that makes us reflect on our lives. We start debating whether we are on the right path, setting new goals, thinking about the lessons we have learned, and remembering the people who have crossed our paths.
That is exactly what happened to me one week before I turned 25. I felt extremely grateful to everyone who shaped me over the years, from the moment I was born in a small Northern town, to studying abroad and joining the founding team of a successful fintech startup.
I thought about the exciting milestones coming up next year, like expanding the business and getting married. I also explored the areas where I could improve and the tips I picked up on my journey. While I still have a lot of life to live and a lot of learning to do, I wanted to share some lessons I have learned over the past years.
1. Let it go
Picture this: you have been selected to participate in an exclusive event with top innovators and investors. You worked hard for months to get this invitation. You have already started to arrange your schedule around it, make travel plans, and set aside some money. You know it is the opportunity of a lifetime that you just cannot miss. Surely, you will raise your Series A funding there, unless…
The world turns upside down and the event gets postponed twice before finally being canceled. But wait, you have already decided that this will be your breakthrough moment! What are you supposed to do now?
“Let it go and start looking for another opportunity. Everyone had at least one important deal, partnership, or meeting fall through. It is not the end of the world.”
Let it go and start looking for another opportunity. Everyone had at least one important deal, partnership, or meeting fall through. It is not the end of the world. As they say, when one door closes, another one opens. Unfortunately, sometimes we are so fixated on the closed door that we cannot see the open one right in front of us.
2. Don’t be discouraged
I like to think that I do not get treated differently as a young female professional. Every day I work alongside my male co-founders and we make one hell of a team. They know my strengths and weaknesses, just like I know theirs. When we achieve a milestone, we do it together. Yet, sometimes outsiders do not see it that way.
I remember an event we went to in the early days of the company. The three of us were meeting one of the organizers. When introducing himself, he shook hands with my co-founders but not me. In fact, he did not even make eye contact.
“When introducing himself, he shook hands with my co-founders but not me. In fact, he did not even make eye contact.”
At that point, he had no idea if I was a founder, an executive, a secretary, or somebody’s wife. Still, he decided to dismiss me as insignificant right away. Then, there was that time I had a call with a VC. When I talked about the team, the lady on the other side of the Zoom call paused with a look of disbelief on her face. “Wait… You are one of the co-founders?”
Experiences like this can be discouraging. How can I convince someone to do business with me if they do not take me seriously? The thing is – you do not have to. You will find the right people. Someone who believes in you. If they cannot show you basic respect, do not get discouraged and move on.
3. Surround yourself with people who are better than you
Of course, “better” is a relative term. Their success should inspire you to grow. Some of my friends make more money than me, and others are more fit. Some volunteer regularly and others talk to their mom more often. Some are calmer and more organized while others are not afraid to risk everything they have and change their life for the better. None of them are perfect. However, they remind me that I can dream bigger and motivate me to improve.
4. One cup of coffee can be worth thousands of dollars
Here is a secret: As a true millennial, I am not a fan of talking to strangers, making phone calls, and all forms of public speaking. Unfortunately for me, these are all essential in business. Pitching to investors, negotiating deals, giving interviews, and making presentations are key to establishing partnerships, growing your company, and raising awareness.
“Sitting down for a cup of coffee and a quick conversation once helped me secure a deal worth thousands of dollars.”
Sitting down for a cup of coffee and a quick conversation once helped me secure a deal worth thousands of dollars. I just had to get out of my comfort zone and show up to the meeting. Recently, I took a course on how to start a memorable conversation. It is a small step, but it is a step in the right direction. I understand how my insecurity is affecting my success and take action to address this issue.
5. Automate tasks
If an algorithm can do something, you should not be wasting your time on it. Automation can ensure that you pay yourself first. If you find yourself spending every dollar you make, set up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings and automatic withdrawals into your investment accounts. This does not have to be much – you can start with $5 per paycheck and see it make a difference over time.
“If an algorithm can do something, you should not be wasting your time on it.”
Do the same for your bills so that you do not have to worry about your Internet shutting off because you forgot to pay on time. Automation can also make you more efficient at work. These days you can automate almost everything from report generation to cold emails and concentrate on things that computers can not do, like creating a business strategy or building relationships.
6. Bonus tip: Give credit!
Although this is not the first time a list like this has been put together, I have to give credit where credit is due. This article was inspired by STO Market’s August newsletter created by Jonah Schulman, while he was inspired by Polina Pompliano and her newsletter talking about the lessons she has learned by her 30th birthday.
Natalia Shirshova is the CMO and co-founder of REINNO, an MA-based company that developed a lending and investment platform to help real estate investors gain liquidity with blockchain technology. Natalia’s background in economics enables her to understand financial markets and trends inside out, and apply this knowledge at REINNO. She is passionate about educating the public about new technologies and products.
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