Assets Over Ambition

Why some young ambitious people stay that way forever

Someone recently asked me when I was planning on expanding Forward Thinking Media to allow other people to write for it. I have no plans for that at all, but I was curious why they were asking. He told me he wanted to write about his experience as a founder and write about how to start a successful startup. It was for sure up my alley, but the thing is that this guy never has built a successful startup before, but he wanted to write on the topic. Hell, I haven’t even built a successful startup yet, but i’ve been writing on the topic for years. Yet, if you go back into my 2016 posts about startups, they are all factually correct. All the posts I have written on the startups are right, even if i never started and sold one myself. If this is the case, then why wouldn’t I just let this guy write for Forward Thinking, even though he hasn’t done what he is writing about.

This is an interesting dynamic going on with young ambitious people (YAPS) today. I wrote about this dynamic in my post “You Wouldn’t Take Advice From The Next Steve Jobs”, but I wanted to expand on the idea here.

Why do YAPs want to give advice?

I think we all have been targeted with a Facebook ad with a 19 year year old selling his online course or consulting services to us. We all know a YAP that wants to be a life coach or another one who lives to “provide value” to their followers. Why is this? First off, I think it’s because YAPs have an insane amount of self confidence. They think they are the smartest person in the room, and many don’t have the experience to know they aren’t. YAPs have ambition and they have drive, and they want to turn this into money, influence, and freedom. They know their worth, and they just want others to see that worth and pay for that worth. This explains the gen z consultants, course creators, etc. They may not have the experience to back up what they’re teaching, but they have the knowledge and the ambition. Isn’t that enough?

How to obtain knowledge

When I was young, I gobbled up every book a could find on startups and I pretty learn thought I knew how to start one by the time I was a year or two into reading books about them. This is the problem though. YAPs can read all the info they want on the topic, and by the end, they feel like experts. They can hold their own in conversations about it, they can sell content about that topic, and they can actually convince themselves they are experts. The problem with this is that in 2020, knowledge and ambition isn’t enough. If a 16 year old can read 10 books on startups, so can a 40 year old with 15 years in the field. The information is easily obtained, but the experience can only be obtained with time and patience, both of which should result in assets. An asset is something that YAPs don’t really have yet. Knowledge does not translate to experience to the outside world, or assets.

A YAP can have all the ambition in the world and have all the knowledge too, but their chances of succeeding in the world of business are small. The reason is that knowledge doesn’t pay the bills, assets do.

Assets are King

When I look at the 26 year old version of myself vs. the 22 year old version of myself, the only true difference is four years of getting smacked around by the market, and the assets i’ve built along the way. Personally, my assets are:

  • My Twitter following (2,000+ followers)

  • My podcast following (5,000+ listens a month)

  • My newsletter following (5,000+ views a month)

  • My network (Intangible)

These assets make me a much more valuable person in a business context. The fact isn’t that these assets are that very valuable today, but it‘s that I have them, they are appreciating every month, and it allows strangers to learn more about me without me needing to tell them. But in reality, assets do something else for me. My assets speed up the process of the market realizing my value.

I always knew I was going to be valuable to the world, and I originally thought the best way to become more valuable was to read a lot, and share my learnings. This isn’t wrong, but if I didn’t have any of my assets and someone asked me about my experience, sharing insights from 100 different books isn’t that impressive. It actually sounds more like hustle porn than something useful to do. And this is the trap many YAPs fall into.

Because they are young, they don’t understand the power of assets so they don’t spend time building them. They will work harder than anyone in the room and are more ambitious too, but there’s no proof. Words are cheap, so how can someone believe what you’re actually saying? I know when I hear about a kid who wants to change the world, I don’t bat an eye. I know people didn’t for me when I said the same 6 years ago.

When you have assets, you have proof. You can materialize your hustle into something other than your brain. You can show these to anyone and NO ONE can dispute the fact that you don’t have assets. Also, assets expedite your genius into the market. If you’re building assets correctly, more and more people are hearing about you every month. if you actually are that smart or interesting, they will stick around. If not, they won’t. And this is how you know if you actually have it.

So, if you are a YAP

If you are a YAP, stop reading 8 hours a day in spite of building assets. If you’re going to be valuable one day, you need to strike the balance of being a producer as well as a consumer. You need to humble yourself and realize that even if you are smarter than everyone else in the room, does it matter if no one else believes you? Assets make you more believable. It’s proof. So start building stuff. Get out there and start a:

  • Newsletter

  • Podcast

  • Side project

  • Youtube channel

  • Anything you want!!

One last word on assets

Assets take a large amount of investment before they start paying off. So if you start something, do it because you like it. When you’re a YAP, the type of project you’re working on matters less than the fact that you need to work on it for 2-5 years before you see true ROI from it. Remember, you’re not doing this to get paid. You’re doing this to prove you are more than your ambition. You’re doing this to show your ambition can turn into something tangible. This is the real ROI. Everything else is just extra upside :)