The Part of Entrepreneurship No One Wants to Talk About
It’s not all fame and glory.
People tend to glorify the glamor and fame of entrepreneurship. We place successful entrepreneurs on a pedestal without thinking twice about what it took for them to get there. The truth is: no one cares about the blood, sweat, and tears part of entrepreneurship, only the end result.
Ironically there are countless examples of failure in nearly every success story. More recently we got a glimpse of the other side of entrepreneurship from the CEO of Evernote Phil Libin. Imagine laying in bed knowing that you have to fire all of your employees and close the doors on your company only to receive an email from a user who also happens to be an investor that would sweep in and save the day.
Phil’s problem was one that many entrepreneurs run into at least once: bad timing. The Lehman-Brother’s bankruptcy filing killed Phil’s multi-million dollar investment opportunity and left him hanging with no money and employees to pay. From the ashes of despair rose a serendipitous saving grace at the last minute, allowing him to continue on Evernote’s journey to success. You’ll never find a 9 to 5 with that level of emotional turnaround.
Even in the darkest moments entrepreneurs need to have the tenacity to keep pushing forward with their world changing idea. This inherent skill in every entrepreneur comes at a great emotional cost on a personal level that many are afraid to address. It’s ok to feel the way you do about certain situations. While it’s really tough to find people who understand, you must find at least one trusted person( typically another entrepreneur) to share your thoughts with. The troubled thoughts on your entrepreneurial journey are limitless and will be the cause of many sleepless nights:
1. Are your customers getting value from your product?
2. Are you a bad leader?
3. Is the entrepreneurial freedom worth the emotional impact?
4. Are you really cut out for this?
5. What if you fail?
The utter truth is: being an entrepreneur is lonely. The word itself comes with a lot of preconceived connotations that vary from person to person. No matter how you explain what you do to your family, friends, or even your beloved; they can never fully grasp how you feel about the business at any point in time. The ups of entrepreneurship are rewarding, fulfilling, and exhilarating, but the downs can be dismal, depressing, and nerve wrenching. It’s this combination of good and bad, Yin and Yang, which makes entrepreneurship such a rewarding personal learning experience.
Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of sacrifice, but most don’t reveal their true feelings and trials until after they are wildly successful. Personally I’ve given up my savings, job opportunities, and every aspect of what it means to be a “normal 21 year old college student” in exchange for being a startup entrepreneur. Along the way I had to make very difficult and personal choices that not only had an impact on my personal life, but also in the lives of others.
Being the CEO of a growing tech startup and juggling 19 credits a semester really took a toll on my mental and physical wellbeing. Throughout the entirety of these challenges and personal sacrifices you would never not find me excited and smiling when I was asked about the business.
Every entrepreneur feels the need to be an eternal optimist. When someone asks you “how’s the business?” no matter how bad things are internally you must always note only the most positive milestones and future goals. Always be pitching, but find someone special to share your real thoughts and feelings with.
How would it look if the CEO of Pepsi produced a gloomy depressing interview about the company’s performance? It’s not any different for a startup entrepreneur: if you don’t believe fully in your idea and ability to execute who will?
The point is it’s ok to feel down, but it’s not ok to not talk about it. Entrepreneurs are not robots (yet) and are therefore subject to the many arrays of both positive and negative emotions in the human experience. The bad times build character, knowledge, and strength for greater trials. The great lessons in entrepreneurship don’t come from success, but from failure. Don’t be afraid to share these lessons and your feelings with others. Despite what you may think, you are not invincible and are far from an eternal optimist. Sometimes things are bad, really bad, and that’s ok. Learn, adapt, share your story, and move forward.