The Best Advice for New Entrepreneurs Is To Stop Trying And Start Doing

ByAllison Strouse

A wise friend and mentor, whom I fortuitously met not too long ago, had me do an exercise that changed my life. We had coffee in a dimly lit café in the Flatiron District of Manhattan on a dark, rainy afternoon. We talked about the challenges I faced while building my company, Yarly, a photo-sharing platform focused on making private photo-sharing from any device incredibly easy.

As an entrepreneur himself, he gave me some business advice, and I responded with, "I'm trying but …" I hadn't thought anything odd about what I had just said, but I could see that my friend found something very interesting hidden in my phrasing. He stood up and grabbed a spoon lying on the table next to us. He sat back down, placed it in his hand, reached out to me and said, "Try to take this spoon out of my hand." I simply grabbed the spoon out of his hand. He took the spoon back, placed it in his hand, reached his hand out to me again and said, "Na ah. Try to take the spoon out of my hand." I said, "I don't get it." He said, "Try."

I did some abracadabra move with my hand, in a joking manner, as if I could magically move the spoon out of his hand. Obviously, the spoon still laid solidly in his hand, untouched, completely unaffected by my mental brainwaves and silly hand gesture. He looked at me with a knowingly mischievous smile, satisfied that he was able to so gently teach me another important lesson. I smiled back in my new-found moment of clarity, and in his sweet, soft-spoken way, he said, "Don't try. Just do it."

"Trying" is a waste of time. Stop trying. Just do it.

I have never forgotten that moment, and it is due to that realization that I have been able to achieve a lot very quickly. 

As an entrepreneur, there are countless moments when you have to dive in head-first, and you have no idea what you're about to get into. Whether it is incorporating your business, networking with developers, pitching investors or designing a marketing plan, there are so many moments when you stand, teetering on the edge of a brand new experience, clinging onto the word "trying" to save you from having to take on anything new. "Trying" is a waste of time that leaves your business as untouched as that spoon in my friend's hand. Stop trying. Just do it. 

As a second-year student at Columbia Business School, I am one of the few students who has dedicated almost all of business school to building a business. I have many fellow students approach me, asking for advice on how to get their own businesses started. Depending on the stage of the idea, most of my feedback has to do with taking some of those very scary first steps. These include talking to customers, recruiting a business partner and/or talking to potential investors.

I can promise up and down that it is not as scary as it sounds, but at the end of the day, it comes down to hopeful entrepreneurs taking these steps themselves. No one can do it for them. For example, if you need to find a business partner, this includes going to networking events even when you don't want to because you are dead tired after a long day of work or school. At these events, you have to walk up to strangers, start friendly conversations and eventually pitch your business like you have all the energy in the world. Staying at home is a lot easier, but the only problem is that staying at home means that you are trying, not doing.

There is a world of opportunity waiting for you to grasp at it. As an experiment, promise for one week that you will push yourself to do things that feel uncomfortable, things that are new and scary. You will look back and be astounded by what you can make happen. You are powerful if you do, you are static if you try and there is no middle ground. When you have doubts about this, do what I do and think of the spoon example. It is a simple but very powerful reminder. 

Entrepreneurship is really a beautiful thing, but I believe that many never experience it because they can’t do the first few things that take a lot of courage and effort. In the following series of articles, I will bring you though all of the things I had to do to get to where I am today. And I haven’t gone too far, but I have gotten a lot further than scores of aspirational entrepreneurs. I recruited a team of three amazing developers who have partnered with me on the business, we have a live mobile app on iOS, Android and Windows and we’ve raised initial capital from strategic investors as well as family and friends. These are accomplishments that my team and I are extremely proud of, and I hope that my experiences will be helpful in encouraging you to get to a similar place.