Over the past decade I’ve had countless conversations about being an entrepreneur, what the definition of an entrepreneur is and why the hell people like us keep doing what we do in the face of insane odds and statistically certain failure.
Below is a list of 15 things that I’d like you to know about entrepreneurs.
1. We are completely broken
Most entrepreneurs wont admit this because a lot of the time we have to believe our own hype. But the truth is, we’re broken. How else do you explain our never ending desire to buck social norms, start companies on a shoestring budget, eat like we’re broke (because a lot of the time we are) and work hour upon hour in the hope that we’ll create something incredible enough to grow our wealth.
2. We don’t believe that we can fail
When we do fail, we are completely gutted, shell shocked and will descend into a depression that will take months (if not years) to recover from.
3. Most of the time we have no fucking clue what we’re doing
I call this Living at the Forefront of Incompetence.
4. We’re fast learners
I might not have all the answers but I sure as hell know how to find them if you give me the chance.
5. We hate, hate, hate losing
I can honestly say that one of the driving forces behind my continual attempts to make my company work is how much I hate losing. I hate it. A lot. I’ll do just about anything possible to prevent a loss.
6. We like winning, but we like it when someone else loses too
I don’t play the game to simply build an OK business. I also don’t compete for the sake of competing.
Here’s a dirty little secret that many entrepreneurs will deny:
We like it when other people lose.
Sometimes winning isn’t enough. Sometimes a win is sweeter when someone else is losing.
7. We don’t know when to stop
This can be a bad thing. Sometimes you have to know when to stop. Sometimes you have to concede defeat. Yes, it hurts but sometimes it’s better to walk away. Most of the time we don’t know how to do this and will need someone to pull us away and shake us until we snap out of our ruthless focus.
This is also the best thing about entrepreneurs — they don’t know when to stop and call it quits. Paul Graham has a fantastic essay on the topic: How Not to Die. Because entrepreneurs don’t know how to die they may just succeed. It’s an intricate and balanced web of issues that when mixed together in the right quantities can produce something amazing (see points 3, 5 & 15).
8. We battle to ask for help
I wish that I was better at asking for help but I suffer from a few afflictions that prevent me from doing so.
The first is that I have a massive ego. I think that I can do just about anything better than just about anyone. That’s completely insane of course, but it’s still how I feel so I don’t ask for help nearly as often as I should.
The second issue that I face is that asking for help feels a lot like losing and I hate losing (see point 5).
9. We are jealous of other entrepreneurs success
Jealousy is a good thing because it can often turn to admiration and then the realisation that if our peers can achieve success then so can we.
But let’s be straight about this; I’m still a tiny bit jealous about your success.
10. We like suffering
This is a personal realisation that has taken a long time for me to be comfortable with. All entrepreneurs are a bit broken (see point 1) and one of the things that makes me feel the most broken is that I seem to like the pain and suffering that comes with starting and running my own business.
If I didn’t like the suffering on some level I’d just go and get a job, earn a stable salary and have the white picket fence and 2.5 children. But I’m broken so I stick with it, rinse & repeat.
11. We believe we’re changing the world
Whether it’s an app that’s crushing candy or a website to help oil-soaked penguins, we all believe we’re changing the world on some level. Whether that’s true or not isn’t for me to decide, but it’s how I like to think about what I do.
12. Money matters
Of course it isn’t all about the money but how dumb do you think I am? I’m not doing this to be poor. I’m not doing this to live in poverty or on Ramen noodles for the rest of my existence.
I believe I’m changing the world (point 11) and that’s great and all but if after two years I still can’t pay myself a salary then something drastic needs to happen. Money matters.
13. We all feel alone
No matter how many staff we have, how much our family and friends engage with us on a daily basis or how much we tell you we’re OK, we still feel like it’s all on us. We feel alone a lot of the time and there’s probably nothing you can do to change that.
14. No one has ever been through what we’re going through
This is a completely unfounded and incorrect feeling that every entrepreneur experiences. We all believe that we are the first and only people to have ever felt distraught, stressed, sad, angry or any of the other million emotions experienced in a day.
What we all need to do is get over ourselves and ask for help (see point 8), talk to someone and be more transparent about our experiences. This shit is hard and there are others out there who understand, we’ll just never admit that.
15. It’s never going to be good enough
If you’re married to, dating, involved with or related to an entrepreneur and you’ve ever asked them when they’ll be satisfied then this one is for you.
The answer is simple:
It’s never going to be good enough.