Welcome back. Axios CEO Jim VandeHei is your host tonight. He'd love to hear from you at [email protected].

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 542 words ... 2 minutes.

1 big thing: Why you or your kids should start a company

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

I was among the most unremarkable, underachieving, unimpressive 20-year-olds you would have stumbled across in 1991, Jim writes.

  • Reeling with a 1.491 GPA, I drank copious amount of beer, smoked Camels and delivered pizza.
  • There was good reason my high school guidance counselor told my deflated parents there was no way I was college-bound after graduating in the bottom third of my 100-person class at Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
  • And good reason I had to attend the University of Wisconsin-Menasha Extension, a two-year school just to smuggle myself into the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a four-year one in my hometown. It took years to erase that 1.491 pearl.

Why it matters: The fact that 30 years later I have helped start three companies, Politico, Axios & Axios HQ — creating nearly 2,000 jobs — shows what an amazing place America is for ordinary people to build businesses.

  • Too many people too often whine about America’s flaws. But there is no better place to start a company. And no better time to do it than now.

Here are five reasons why you should consider launching — or joining — a startup:

1. It beats the hell out of working for the man. Few things are more liberating or intoxicating than controlling your own fate. Yes, it’s terrifying. But if you are young and/or free of responsibility, take wild risks to do things you truly love — on your terms.

2. Fail up! The best piece of advice I got when I almost chickened out of starting Politico was an aside from a lawyer: “Worst case, you’ll fail up!” Everything you learn by trying and failing proves indispensable in whatever’s next.

3. Discover the real you. Nothing reveals true spirit, grit, and creativity like starting something with a high probability of flopping. It’s easy to be cool, nice and sane when things are easy. Fear and exhaustion unearth unfathomable layers.

4. Get a free Masters in psychology. There is no better lens into what makes people tick than watching them work under pressure, on an impossible mission, with total reliance on each other. It’s ugly, beautiful, enlightening, and vitally instructive.

5. Make a difference. Any good entrepreneurial idea solves a big problem for individuals, business or society. If you nail it, you make the world a better place and create jobs and wealth for others.

The big picture: Notice what I left out — the possibility of getting rich yourself.

  • Do it because you believe in an idea or yourself, not simply to make a lot of coin.
  • Chances are you will fail anyway. But, trust me, it’s worth it.

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✨ Gifts that don't break the bank

"This is an idea that is close to zero dollars and worth every minute of time spent to pull it together," Finish Liner Caroline W. writes.

  • "For my boyfriend's 30th birthday, I created a memory journal for him with the help of all his close friends and family.
  • "Over 30 people sent me handwritten notes, photos, or emailed letters of their favorite memories with him and how much he meant to them over the years."