The number one advice most successful entrepreneurs give to those aspiring a similar path is, at most times: “don’t do it.”
I recently saw David Rogier‘s answer on Quora addressing this topic and couldn’t help but sit and think, “damn, straight on” (thanks, David!). I’m on my 5th startup attempt now (5th’s one a charm, right?) and have learned invaluable lessons with each one. Each attempt, and consequently, each failure, was not in vain. I’ve always been an advocate for standing on the shoulders of giants. If I could learn from those who walked this journey before me, I’d be a fool not to do it. Like scaling success, you should also scale failure. I always have, and still do, listen very carefully to what successful entrepreneurs have to say about every facet of the journey: the market, validation, product designs, investment, and so on so forth. But, I never understood why they always said not to pursue this life until now.
The reality – many things (in life in general but startup specific) are learned only through experience.
And it’s not for the typical reasons one would expect — yeah, it’s hard, yeah, you’ll lose relationships, yeah, you’ll be stressed, and yeah, you’ll live a tumultuous and unpredictable life. But no, that’s not the real reason the successful say not to do it because, in reality, a true entrepreneur wouldn’t listen to that advice anyways.
I’m no biologist, but it almost seems as if entrepreneurship is genetically engrained. It’s either who you are or who you aren’t, but in no way is that a bad thing. By definition, there can’t be leaders without followers. And followers without leaders. And the passionately driven “I’m not done till I say I’m done” individuals are the ones that don’t listen to “don’t do it.” Those words literally enter one ear and immediately exit the other.
It’s a test of grit and dedication and what ultimately separates the followers from the leaders.
To say it’s hard is a complete understatement — it is, without a doubt, the absolute hardest thing any person will do. You’ll end up losing friends, ruining relationships with family, and ultimately, yourself. You’ll cry. You’ll self deprecate. You’ll be depressed at times. You’ll doubt yourself in ways you didn’t think you could. You’ll develop anxiety if you didn’t have it before. You’ll hit rock bottom and ultimately “lose yourself” and, at times, feel you lost your self-worth. This happens continuously throughout the startup journey — whether you’re in week 10 or week 679.
The key to success: push through the pain.
It’s not easy. It’s f*cking hard. The easiness of giving up is the exact reason most people give up. Curious, this led me to explore the whole “entrepreneur” persona. What is the mindset like of someone who defies all odds and fights when there’s nothing left to give?
Entrepreneurs are a completely different breed.
You ultimately have to be bat sh*t crazy to do this voluntarily. For one, your mind never shuts off. Thoughts are constantly running through your mind — “I need to do X,” “I should have done Y,” “What if we do Z,” and so on so forth. Whether it’s new ideas, items on your to-do list, or the never-ending personal issues, there is a lot going on at any given moment. To mitigate the constant flow of thoughts requires decluttering your mind of EVERYTHING. Write everything down because at some point, you’ll reach a stagnant state and revisiting your old thoughts will provide the clarity and reflection you need.
Two, it requires an entirely different mentality. Innovation is a habit. It’s a mindset. If you’re not an entrepreneur, what are you? I believe, in the realm of innovation, there are three categories people fall into it.
The first, entrepreneurs. The crazy ones. The dreamers. The visionaries Then, there are the wantrepreneurs. The ones who have a dream but lack the courage to pull the trigger. And finally, the followers. The happy go lucky complacent ones who are content with the stable (and personally for me, mundane) day-to-day. Growing up, I naively was unaware this category even existed. I thought everyone was on a mission of greatness.
But I suppose that’s not the case. Actually, it’s very much so not the case. Entrepreneurs are a minority, and only those with grit — the thought they were put on this planet for one thing and one thing only — will see the good the startup journey reaps.