The One Thing I Regret Not Doing in my 20s

January 10, 2016, 6:00 PM UTC
LinkedIn Profile portraits, great headshot,
LinkedIn Profile portraits, great headshot,
Photograph by Jeanne dePolo

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What advice would you give your 22-year-old self today?” is written by Michael Leabman, founder and CTO of Energous.

Let me start out by saying I have a lot of advice for my 22-year-old self. But the most important parts are actually the same pieces of advice that I would give to anyone starting out–whether that’s a young entrepreneur or my own kids. For me, these life lessons translated into the achievement of a dream–cheesy, but true: the creation of my own company. Here’s to hoping they are valuable to others as well.

Make your parents nervous
It’s never too early to follow your dreams. Over the years, I realized that my biggest mistakes were the result of not following my instincts or taking enough risks. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I started pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and consciously taking more chances. Early on, one of the biggest deliberate risks was trading in a stable position for a $0 salary. I wish I could say that everyone was supportive, and while my parents were, others said it would be impossible. In the end, following my gut led me to where I am today.

Surround yourself with smart people
You don’t need to have all the answers to accomplish your end goal–all you need to have is the vision and the passion to seek out the unknown. Whether it’s family, friends, a business partner, or mentor (both personal and professional), surround yourself with people who can act as a sounding board or share valuable insights into challenging areas that you might not have expertise in. These people can help guide your ideas and provide support at various levels, which can prove tremendously valuable.

Know when to stop listening and follow your heart
While it’s helpful, and even critical, to subject yourself and your idea to the opinions and recommendations of other smart people, it’s important to take all advice with a grain of salt. Consider, for example, if the person is truly staying within the bounds of their expertise, or if they have perhaps tried and failed at your vision using another approach. Challenges will happen frequently and you will cross paths with people who are non-believers, but doing something that you are passionate about makes it much easier to overcome obstacles you encounter along the way. For me, this advantage naturally pushes me towards solving a problem, as opposed to letting it upset me. I am thankful that I wake up every day and work on my dream.

Learn from your experiences
Last but not least, and one of the most valuable pieces of advice I can give is to realize that your first endeavor might not be successful–and accept that from the beginning. Deliberately choosing to take more risks means you are also acknowledging that failure is a possibility, but realizing that without taking the risk you won’t reap the benefits. The trick is to also commit to learning from your mistakes. For me, each career move is a stepping stone to something better. From your first job to your dream job and everything in between, there’s value to be gained at every level, so embrace the small things and don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You have everything to gain.

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