The headline of this story is the first line Dr. Dre says in “Straight Outta Compton,” and I often think more people could use a good dose of street knowledge, especially considering the putrid wave of self-affirmation bullshit that has swamped the world of entrepreneurship.
To be fair, I didn’t grow up in Compton and my upbringing wasn’t difficult compared to many. But I did grow up in a neighborhood where gangs were real, drugs were plentiful, and I’ve been shot at more than once. For entrepreneurs, I think the lessons learned in the ‘hood are far more valuable than the type of motivational crap about “being special” that you see posted on your Facebook wall. So without further ado, here are seven things I learned on the streets that I think will serve you well.
You are not entitled to anything. This should be obvious to everyone but we now seem to live in a world where everyone feels they deserve special treatment. On the streets there is no special treatment. If you want something, it’s up to you to go out and get it.
Nobody cares about your problems, they have their own to deal with. Too often I see people complaining about trivial bullshit as if I’m supposed to care. The world is not your personal complaint desk. In fact, I don’t care at all, and odds are nobody else does either. Your problems are not my problems so handle your business and stop bitching.
The possibility of getting your ass kicked is very real. This can be interpreted both literally and figuratively. Almost everything in life has a consequence. If you piss someone off there’s a good chance you won’t like the payback. Even if you play nice with everyone, things still might not turn out rosy. Life itself can kick your ass.
Figure out who really has your back and stick with them. Not all “friends” are created equal and you’re probably not going to make it without a little help. So choose carefully and once you know who’s on your side, don’t switch.
Personal integrity comes down to just two things. In the words of Tony Montana “All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break ‘em for no one, you understand?” (see “Scarface“)
The game is real. Perhaps it’s because many of them are playing with other people’s money, but many entrepreneurs seem almost flippant about what it takes to win, especially those who keep talking about “embracing failure.” When you’ve seen firsthand just how bad things can be, you get a very different appreciation for the real consequences of losing the game.
You are disposable, deal with it. The world was here before you and the world will be here long after you are gone. Contrary to all those messages on your Facebook wall, you’ll probably be forgotten in short order so live the best life you can while you’re alive and quit telling yourself that you’re some kind a legend.
Unlike those who grew up with parents who coddled them, growing up on tough streets teaches you a very practical mix of swagger and humility. It teaches you how to walk tall, when to shut up, and how to handle yourself in bad situations. You learn very quickly that you better be able to back up your talk with action, because nobody gets a free pass.
Much like the reality check that many entrepreneurs experience when things don’t go as planned, the consequences and judgments on the streets are harsh and real and it takes more than fluffy talk about “being bold and embracing the magic” to actually make shit happen. Truth is, whether it’s the streets or a VC meeting, trying to get by on that kind of bullshit might just get your ass kicked.