Jeff Lerner is the Founder/Chief Visionary Officer of ENTRE, the leading online educational platform for aspiring and current entrepreneurs.
I knew I wasn’t cut out for the 9 to 5 life by the ripe age of 16 after getting fired from my first and last traditional job. After that, I rediscovered my musical talents and dropped out of high school to become a professional jazz musician. I was hooked on the idea that professional musicians get to make their own schedules.
By the age of twenty, I was a professional pianist and part-time college student playing multiple gigs a week. Many of my clients were millionaires and billionaires who invited me to play for their private parties. As I played for these wealthy clients, I realized they also didn’t have typical 9 to 5 jobs.
As a young, ambitious twenty-something, I asked them how they made their millions. They told me they had started their own businesses. That confirmed everything I had always felt. I grew up feeling like school was really just job training in disguise. I had always struggled, not because I wasn’t smart or academically inclined, but because I couldn’t see myself being happy with someone else bossing me around. That’s why I initially dropped out to pursue my interest in music. Interestingly, according to Guidant Financial, only 30% of entrepreneurs have a high school degree.
So, encouraged by my clients’ stories, I committed to what my instincts had always told me—to create my own success, I should start a business.
I won’t bore you with the gory details of all my failed business ventures because there were many. However, I’ll recap a few so you get the gist.
I’ve been a booking agent, party promoter, restaurant shareholder, real estate investor, loan officer, coupon marketer, marketing agency co-owner and restaurant franchise owner, all while playing piano professionally. Unfortunately, the restaurant franchise business left me with $495,000 in debt, turning my life upside down and making me rethink my process.
Each of these businesses had two things in common: They were underfunded and undercapitalized, which happens to be why many small businesses fail within the first year. Despite my valiant efforts, I was constantly looking for the perfect product or service to sell. Still, they were limited by time, geography, lack of capital and inexperience.
Long story short, I ended up half a million dollars in debt because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I didn’t have the proper skills or tools to launch and scale a successful business. The only thing fueling my efforts was a deep desire never to work a traditional job again.
After those failed businesses, I started investing more time into learning skills and looking into the potential of growing networks on the internet. I began studying business models that weren’t limited by time, geography, lack of capital or inexperience.
From my late twenties to my late thirties, I started multiple successful business ventures. For four years, I was an affiliate marketer and then a digital agency owner for five years. In 2018, I sold my agency and began my next business venture—teaching people how to become entrepreneurs.
As I started on this journey, I noticed a lack of personalized business education from the content I was consuming. I also noticed that all of the business courses tended to only focus on business tactics and not personal development. So, I decided I wanted to incorporate several industries into an all-encompassing online platform for people to grow personally and professionally.
The industries that I was personally interested in were personal development, finance, digital marketing, mentorship and positive psychology. I took these interests, called up a good friend and founded a business to shake up the entrepreneurial education space.
My ultimate goal for my company’s platform was to teach people how to use their individual talents and passions to design a life that reflected their definition of success.
Advice For Aspiring Entrepreneurs
My first piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to understand the importance of personal development. Personal development is the backbone of success because it helps you better understand yourself and your goals. For example, reading books written by successful people shifts your mindset to become more success-oriented. Another personal development tool for aspiring entrepreneurs is learning sales skills. Sales skills teach you the art of selling your product or service while building loyalty and trust with potential customers.
My second piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to learn the art of finding and recognizing opportunities. I learned this skill through practical optimism, which is looking for the positives in any situation since it can lead to opportunities in the future. The easiest way to develop this skill is to take any situation, good or bad, and shift your mindset to think positively about the outcome of the situation. Even if it doesn’t happen, at least you had a good attitude about it, right?
Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t easy. It requires hard work, persistence, drive and a burning desire to impact the world. As long as you have these things, I believe you can become successful.
What I’ve Learned Throughout the Years
Since becoming an entrepreneur, I’ve had my fair share of struggles, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve concluded that growth in all areas of life—physical, personal and professional—is the key to achieving the life you want.
I don’t think our educational systems teach us how to build the right skills, develop as a whole person and use our creativity to design the life we want, which means we have to take control and do it for ourselves. I believe this is the most significant time in human history to be alive for one simple reason: Today, more than ever before, you can actually design and achieve the life you want for yourself; everything you need is available in our modern world. My goal now, and perhaps yours as well, is to put it all into one business to believe in.