Recently, a friend introduced me to a guy who claimed to be an entrepreneur. He had an idea for a startup and wanted to know if I was interested. He told me the concept, and said he just needed someone to build it and monetize it. I said if I do that, then it’s my startup, not yours.
He laughed. I wasn’t kidding. I assumed an entrepreneur would already know that. Like a lot of people who think they want to be an entrepreneur, his idea of what it takes was incomplete.
Whether I’m bragging or complaining, I am an entrepreneur. I have launched a couple startups and ran a company with employees, so I am credible. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either.
If you don’t know what makes you content, being an entrepreneur will make you more miserable than you can ever know.
What I can’t stand is how entrepreneurship is overhyped in the business press. Most of the coverage is success porn portraying entrepreneurs as heroic and supernatural. The lone entrepreneur overcomes insurmountable odds. Meanwhile, they omit the important things they took for granted along the way. It reads like fan fiction. No wonder it attracts people like the guy I met.
Being entrepreneurial and wanting to be an entrepreneur are two very different things.
Wanting to be an entrepreneur is fun. Who doesn’t daydream of rage quitting in the middle of a meeting, buying a ’68 VW Vanagon, moving to Nantucket and starting a used bookstore, coffeeshop, and Internet cafe. What can I say, I’ve been at this a long time.
Being entrepreneurial isn’t fun at all. It begins with disappointment. Everything you know seems flawed; the status quo, conventional wisdom, your co-workers. You either keep it bottled up and fester, or say something and become really unpopular for pointing it out.
Once you get started, you’ll find entrepreneurship isn’t just a lot of work. It’s nothing but work. Much of it’s stuff you’ve never done before nor wanted to do…ever.
People say entrepreneurs aren’t afraid of hard work. “Not afraid of hard work,” sounds more like the perfect employee to me. In fact, entrepreneurs make terrible employees because they’re looking for ways to do less work for someone else.
An entrepreneur’s work isn’t just hard, it’s complex. As they say, you get to wear many hats. What no one tells you is which hats, what size, or when to wear them. You will constantly be determining what you should be doing, and hoping you’re right – because you have no one else to blame. In a single day, you can go from feeling liberated to debilitated and back again.
There are plenty of people offering advice on entrepreneurship. A lot of it’s recycled and cliched. All I can tell you is what I know from personal experience. The most difficult part was having to unlearn things I was good at while learning new things I sucked at.
Whether I worked for myself or someone else, there have been times when I have absolutely hated my life. If you don’t know what makes you content, being an entrepreneur will make you more miserable than you can ever know.
For me, I have an insatiable need for autonomy, and this is the only way I even come close. I may not have f-u money, but I am content. I know my old self would totally envy my current self, and that’s all that matters.
With the right mindset and expectations, it’s not a bad life. Just know what you’re getting into. Once you’ve gotten used to it, you can’t ever go back.
You’ve been warned 😛.