Despite how it may look like from the outside, entrepreneurship has many nuances that make it an acquired taste.
It offers the freedom to run things the way you see fit and spend time accordingly, which is nothing short of amazing. Money is great and there is an unmatched sense of pride and accomplishment once you hit success. Entrepreneurship also entails tediously long days and weeks filled with difficulties that are somewhat specific to this line of work. Success takes a long time to achieve and failures are a routine part of the process.
It can be brutal and unforgiving. And yet, we do it because we love it. And for all the love I have for it, I recognize that being an entrepreneur holds more than enough hardships to make people fail or simply give up. If you are dreaming about embracing the entrepreneurial lifestyle, I offer words that may give you a much-needed perspective about its finer points.
“It takes 10 years to be an overnight success.”
It’s a famous quote (I’m not sure whom to attribute – Hollywood?) that perfectly encapsulates what entrepreneurship is all about. Nobody comes out of the blue and (re)invents the wheel. People have a tendency to overlook the sheer amount of time it takes to make it and, perhaps more importantly – all the doubt and anxiety that creep up and stay with you throughout the journey.
You are your business. Whatever you do is a direct reflection of your business and vice versa. When you look at it from that angle, there is (almost) always a cloud of uncertainty and unease about your every move. You can raise money, have a great team and a winning product/service, and generally be happy and have fun. Still, there will always be something in the back of your mind, nagging you. If you can manage such an environment psychologically, it can be a good thing as it can drive you to become better.
When things are going well, it’s not enough to just do what you usually do. We live in a fast-paced world and you need to constantly improve or someone else will come along and take your place. You can disrupt and be content, only to see your company disrupted as a market leader in the next innovation cycle. It’s easy to take entrepreneurship for granted sometimes but it’s actually very stressful to operate in such a world.
In fact, you also stress about maintaining the level of success you have. There is a lot of responsibility because this is much like having a second family. To some, you’ll be a strict parent. To others, you’ll be a caring sibling or a cool uncle/aunt that always lightens up the mood or a grandpa/grandma telling stories of old. For each partner, employee, and investor, you have to take care of their interest, and there will always be a struggle to balance between being an entrepreneur vs a family man in a satisfactory way.
The circle of people who will be affected by your decisions keeps on growing. It’s how it has to be because entrepreneurship is a team effort. The success belongs to everyone but here’s the trick – failures are on you, for the most part. And the truth is, you will not succeed all the time.
The vast majority of motivational speakers and successful business people talk about the importance of believing in yourself, taking action, and getting out of your comfort zone. While all of those are extremely important, only a few of those authorities highlight the fact that you have to have a really thick skin to endure all the stress and unpredictability. It’s about making a good or a bad decision – there are no in-betweens. Make no mistake: mental health is just as important as physical health for the entrepreneur, if not more.
The dangers of ego
At some point, you’re liable to go on an ego trip – especially if you find too much success early on. Successful entrepreneurs achieve a sort of hero status today. For aspiring entrepreneurs, such an image doesn’t help.
As an entrepreneur, you have to be more and more humble as you progress. Humility is an important trait in any case but in entrepreneurship, it carries more weight because of the inherent danger of losing touch with reality. You can easily forget the true values that brought you to where you are and just as easily begin to think that success is possible solely because of you.
That’s when some entrepreneurs fail. They can’t overcome the internal fight with themselves and get ahead of excessive pride or self-confidence in the long run to be a better person, not just a better entrepreneur.
We are past the point where companies are run as autocracies – at least we should be. Such management can destroy a business and any sense of company culture with it. It stifles creativity and makes growth next to impossible. To grow, you need to have the best possible people. To have them be a part of your journey, you need to keep them involved and have them partake in the success. Every leader is going to lead how they see fit but one thing that will always be true is the immense value of teamwork and unity.
I’ll leave you with this: as an entrepreneur, you don’t have the privilege of fear. One of the beauties of entrepreneurship is that nothing holds you down in terms of what you can and can’t do. But at the same time, it means there will be failures because if you fear something, why do it in the first place?
Out of all the things you have to fear, failure is not one of them. You have to embrace your failure and be prepared for it. Things will not go your way in every endeavor. A good entrepreneur understands this and uses it as an opportunity to bounce back and be better. Is it embarrassing? Yes. Is it necessary to evolve? Absolutely.
If you are really keen on the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur, you wouldn’t want it any other way.