The 1 thing I wish I had learnt before I started

The 1 thing I wish I had learnt before I started

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I often get asked, “What’s the best piece advice for those starting out?”. Usually I am not one for looking backwards. I am not one for regrets. I occasionally reflect on the past, but only to learn and move forwards.

If I was leaving school or university right now, what would I say to steer myself away from many of the troubles ahead? My advice to my 18 year old self would be 1 word: alignment.

Alignment is that place where external expression meets internal experience. It is the attunement of our inner values and preferences with our outer circumstances and experiences. Alignment is when the decisions we make are driven what we truly value.

In other words – it is the continual act of being true to yourself.

It takes great courage to be guided by your own compass, rather than by the crowd around you. It sounds simple, but the majority of people I have encountered have either never really considered their path in this way, or don’t feel comfortable, confident or brave enough to consistently act this way.

That is such a shame, because people’s number 1 death bed regret is wishing that they had been true to themselves and not lived the life others expected of them. By not finding the courage to be true to ourselves, all we have left in our final days is regret.

I believe that if entrepreneurs (or people in general, for that matter) spent far more time learning how to be themselves rather than just striving for success, they would have much more chance of feeling successful in the future.

Going out on your own can be as rewarding as it gets. Yet doing it in a way that is not aligned with who you are can be as destructive as it gets.

I have seen so many wrecked lives, health scares, broken marriages and ruined childhoods as a byproduct of this problem. I have seen and felt so much pain and regret caused by this.

Just as the athlete with poor technique can be more prone to injury, the entrepreneur who is out alignment can be in for a long rocky road ahead.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You have more time to work on yourself than you’d think. There’s time to learn about who you are before you start to build momentum. True success comes from building the right kind of momentum on a daily basis over a long period of time.

Every day that you are true to yourself, steadily building momentum, the chances of breakthrough become increasingly probable. Every day that you are not true to yourself, the momentum is put out of balance, making it more likely that the machine will break down in some way.

There is a lot of impatience in this life. There is so much running off into the distance, chasing the ball, without ever asking if it’s the right ball to chase. Stop, look inside yourself, feel whether this sits right with you – and think.

There is this widely held misbelief that setting up a business should be hard work and a huge struggle. I have a big problem with that. It should not be an endless energy-sapping struggle that feels as if you are swimming against the tide. It should be a life-affirming challenge. It  shouldn’t even feel like work! You should feel that you’re doing what you were born to do. If it doesn’t feel like that, you are missing the real opportunity.

There is a big upside to alignment: when you are aligned, everything becomes effortless. It is that point when the wave carries you on the surfboard, when the wind hits your sails, or you hit the perfect golf swing. There is a zone in which ‘less’ can deliver so much more. And it is the secret to phenomenal business success.

It is really worth finding that place before you start, so that you can soar, rather than struggle. It is your ticket to thriving, not just surviving. And above all, it is the only way to feel truly successful. That is what the power of alignment can deliver. And that is the best piece of advice I wish I had received when I was starting out.

So, consider how you can align what you ‘do’, with ‘who’ you are, before you set sail. Life will be so much easier.

As always, I would love to hear your insights and feedback, in the comments section below.

To following your own path!


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  1. Marc,

    I looked up that one word that jumped off the screen and gripped me as I read: Effortless.


    requiring or involving no effort; displaying no signs of effort; easy: an effortless writing style.

    It doesn’t mean “work-less.” It’s gonna take work. And focus. And dedication.

    But, by working on a project, in a direction, toward a vision of #better … that’s when it becomes effortless.

  2. I needed this today! So much power in staying true to yourself. Thank you for this 🙂

  3. Marc,

    I love yor blog, it really gets me thinking every read!

    Your comment about the widely held mis belief that business should be a struggle rings true- working on my current site is most definitely a life affirming challenge, although whether I am aligned more generally is a question requiring more introspection.

  4. I’m not sure there’s any other way to truly learn this lesson other than the hard way – if you’d told me at 18 that I should be true to myself, I wouldn’t have really known what that meant (even if I nodded sagely and kidded myself that I did). Only after years of trying to figure out how to get on in life without being miserable did I truly discover the advantages of setting my own agenda, which happily coincided with the maturity to know what that agenda should be anyway.

    So this is all good advice, but best used as a reinforcement when people start figuring it out for themselves, but hesitate because society tends to discourage breaking out of the little boxes we’re supposed to occupy.

    • For me the reason why we don’t know at that age is because we are taught to conform rather than listen to our hearts. It is an educational and societal problem and not something I believe we all have to endure. Clearly in the current system we probably all have to learn the hard way!

  5. Marc I’ve learned the hard way (Steve has it right!) that the most important factor that makes life and work effortless is to surround yourself with people who share your values and that you enjoy spending time with.
    The best idea, the sexiest opportunity, the biggest “potential” payday means nothing if your colleagues, coworkers or investors can’t be trusted, have a personal/hidden agenda, don’t work in an open and honest way.
    Once you have the faith to trust your instincts and keep away from those toxic people and circumstances, it’s easier to find your own rewarding path.

  6. Words of wisdom Marc, something I learned the hard way too and something I should probably remind myself of more frequently.
    Great work on your blog, thank you for your effort its a welcome break from my day.

  7. What’s up it’s me, I am also visiting this website
    regularly, this web sitee iis actually good aand the viewers
    are genuinely sharing good thoughts.

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