The intent was always to go to college. Come to find out, I didn’t have the focus or discipline to see it through. A valiant effort wasn’t made on my part, but I was largely learning theory — and not putting it into practice. My hope was for a benevolent professor to bestow his or her scholarly knowledge on how to succeed in the business world (that, or perhaps offer up some advice for struggling entrepreneurs). The problem was, those types of classes weren’t around at the time, and I decided to venture out on my own.

This led me to the Central Bank of Boone County and the start of my career. It was at this job where I learned the importance of diversifying my skills. By age 27, however, I’d tired of the grind. And as luck would have it, my father-in-law had an opportunity: managing mobile homes. While I jumped at the chance, my bank account wasn’t flush with cash. So I borrowed some money from him to get started. The rest, as they say, is history.

DeLine Holdings now includes over a dozen different businesses across 40 states and employs close to 500 people nationally. Was it an easy road? Not at all — and there are certainly a number of lessons I’d love to share with my younger self on how to succeed in business while still succeeding in life. Here are just a few:

Lesson 1: Know You Don’t Always Have to Be Right

For the longest time, I thought always having the right answers was of the utmost importance. But this penchant for always being in-the-know often prevents you from considering other perspectives, which can get in the way of doing really great work.

Now, being “right-sized” is my goal. It took some learning to realize that as a leader, you’ll act in different capacities — just like different parts of the human body. I sometimes act as the head, providing road maps for those looking toward me for direction. Other times, I’m the heart, providing critical support across many aspects of a business. Practice introspection to understand your place in the world. That, in my opinion, is a huge part of how to succeed in business and life.

Lesson 2: Understand There’s a Time to Lead and a Time to Serve

My nature is to lead, but I’ve come to realize this doesn’t apply to every situation. If I were part of an expedition lost on Mount Everest, it wouldn’t be wise to nominate myself to guide us to base camp. That responsibility should, logically, go to someone else — think a Sherpa who has trained for many years to safely guide climbers.

Succeeding in life and in business requires enough self-examination to recognize when to lead and when to serve. Sometimes, you simply belong with the rest of the herd.

Lesson 3: Get to Know Yourself

“A man’s got to know his limitations.” Though this is a quote from “Magnum Force,” few sentiments could be truer when it comes to advice for young entrepreneurs.

My motivations are now habitually in check because I constantly refer back to this question: “What am I really trying to accomplish here?” If you know yourself and look honestly at your motives, you’re never left questioning the authenticity of your actions. That can be magnetic to other people.

Lesson 4: Never Underestimate the Power of Mentorship

One of the best pieces of advice for new entrepreneurs I could’ve used early in my career is this: Experience can be hard to come by in books alone. Only so much can be learned from reading, as authors don’t often share the intimate details of what it takes to launch and run a business. Mentors can provide deeper insights into those unwritten rules of turning failures into successes (as well as how not to let success cloud your judgment). Besides, entrepreneurship can be a solitary endeavor, and everyone should be able to confide in someone they respect.

Lesson 5: Put Family as Your First Priority

When launching a business, it’s easy to let work overwhelm everything else. But knowing how to succeed in business and life is more about balance than about achieving success at all costs. There will be tradeoffs from time to time, but you should always keep what matters most in the back of your mind: family. Sure, you’re doing everything for your family — but it shouldn’t be at their expense. Work can often wait, and it’s important to enjoy precious moments while you can.

Lesson 6: Know Faith Can Get You Through Challenging Times

Faith in business isn’t something that’s discussed very often. But much of my optimism actually emanates from my faith. There’s a place for faith in the world of entrepreneurship, and you need that moral compass in such an unforgiving place. Not that Christianity is the only option for finding faith in business, but it’s what tethers me to my decency, principles, and ethics. Though you might find faith in something else, it’s still vital to have that foundation to move through uncertainty. Otherwise, you can easily find yourself overwhelmed.

Lesson 7: Remember That Giving Empowers the Entrepreneur

Though this might come up often in conversations around how to succeed in business, giving is critical to business growth. It’s also important to success. When you give to others, you take steps to leave the world a better place than you found it. It demonstrates your willingness to share your blessings with the community supporting you. People pay attention to that, and doors will open. Beyond that, it provides an opportunity to connect with others, become a cheerleader, and help those around you succeed. That can be truly empowering and attract more and more positivity in your own life. If I can help someone achieve something, it’s one of the greatest rewards in the world.

Many of life’s most valuable lessons learned are, unfortunately, learned too late. (Experience brings wisdom, after all.) With this in mind, feel free to take a cue from any of the lessons I’ve outlined above. Simply remember that it’s just as important to go through at least some of life’s trials and tribulations to become the person you were intended to be.

The good, the bad, and the questionable are all opportunities to learn, and you can put them alongside these lessons to create a powerful approach to life. Trust the process — and know that everything is going to be OK in the end. Want to chat more about navigating the business world as a fledgling entrepreneur? Connect with me on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you.



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