Are you sure you want to be an Entrepreneur?

We live in a nation of entrepreneurs. And the largest generation, the Millennials, are being called “the true entrepreneur generation.” We’re lucky, too. We have the Internet. Tools for entrepreneurs have never been better. What’s more exciting: kids no longer grow up focused only on “what they want to be” but “who they are” and I believe that’s been a catalyst for continued growth both in entrepreneurship as well as the thriving freelance culture we enjoy today.

I hear talk and vision from some (the dreamers) and action and execution from others (the doers), but individuals who dream AND do are true entrepreneurs in my eyes.

Before we go on, though, let’s be honest: many people call themselves entrepreneurs when they really are just dreamers — they haven’t yet transitioned into “do” mode. You know who I’m talking about. What is entrepreneurship anyways? The dictionary definition is simple: start and build business(es), taking on financial risk in the process (to paraphrase). In my own opinion? I hear talk and vision from some (the dreamers) and action and execution from others (the doers), but individuals who dream and do are true entrepreneurs in my eyes. Their the ones with the vision to see it as well as the heart to make it happen, high tide or low tide.

But before we get too hyped, I must warn you, it’s hard. Being an entrepreneur is not a role, it’s a paradigm and a way of life.

The life of an entrepreneur may seem desirable and it’s glamorized by many. After all, we’re the crazy people believing in ourselves and our ideas when others are unable or unwilling. But before we get too hyped, I must warn you, it’s hard. Being an entrepreneur is not a role, it’s a paradigm and a way of life. I believe it’s in your blood and guts, or it’s not. That’s why it’s frankly hard to teach entrepreneurship in an academic setting. So universities focus first on identifying entrepreneurial qualities and then prioritize building business skills around the direction the entrepreneur wishes to pursue. Others bypass college altogether, seeing entrepreneurship as a career where a diploma is irrelevant. But that’s another article.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love being an entrepreneur. It’s for me and I frankly can’t avoid it (I’ve tried). That being said, I’ve had a lot of years of dreaming and doing and I want to make sure you know what you’re getting into. Here’s what I would have wanted to know when I was starting, just to be aware of:

1. It can wreck your finances
This is probably the most obvious warning. Being an entrepreneur isn’t exactly the best choice for people looking for safety and security (at least in the short-term). It’s risky. There are many ways to reduce and minimize risk, but you’re still making a bet on yourself (and others) and with the power and freedom of being an entrepreneur comes the risk and responsibilities of building a business and all that comes with it (accounting, payroll, taxes, bills, etc.). There are other challenges as well. For instance, say you’re generally a frugal saver and your business partner is a big spender type. It can be a challenge to see business spending differently than personally spending — to understand that investing money into certain strategic and beneficial areas will provide an ROI. For the “spender” the challenge is reversed of course. You believe there will be a return on everything, when being a good steward is so critical to entrepreneurial success. Before you becoming an entrepreneur, accept that you’re taking a risk and be okay with that. Don’t go all-in if you’re not really all-in. Take your time and trust your gut.

2. It can wreck your body
If the entrepreneurial lifestyle had a hallmark, it would probably be stress. Entrepreneurs are notorious for being thrown in just about every fire imaginable and basically have no boundaries between their work and the rest of their life. You’re in a near-perpetual state of “high-alert” and many entrepreneurs fuel this, because they think it’s a necessity. They listen to all the talk of “the hustle” and place a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves not only to achieve, but to achieve quickly. This can lead to everything from back issues from sitting too long, to anxiety and depression from stress, to strokes and heart attacks. Entrepreneurs age rapidly… kinda like Presidents. Stress is the biggest factor that will cause other health issues. And entrepreneurs don’t understand that if they’re not healthy, they can’t be effective entrepreneurs. Prioritize your health, aways.

3. It can wreck your relationships
If being an entrepreneur wrecks your finances or your health, you can expect that your relationships will be affected as well. Additionally, the focus and energy often required (and exerted) by entrepreneurs typically pulls them away from their time spent building and nurturing their personal relationships. I can vouch for the fact that as an entrepreneur it’s easy to wrap your identity around your business and think you’re “working hard for your family” or “providing a future” or whatever noble reason you make up in your head, but the justification is a bit warped, a tad off. After being absent so long, people close to you will start to drop away. Don’t take your people for granted, they may not understand what you’re doing like you do. They’ll just notice they’re not a priority anymore and respond accordingly. Don’t build a business and lose the loved ones that were your fire to begin with. Time is finite. There’s only so much to go around. You have to be aware and draw some lines in the stand. If your family and friends are a priority, you must make time for them. You must shut it down, let it go. It’s hard. Don’t push yourself to conquer the world and lose your soul. Don’t wake up one day and realize that though you’re successful, you’re unhappy. And lonely. After all, “it’s lonely at the top” for a reason. Don’t forget to let who you are define you, not what you do.

Written by @Robby Berthume, CEO of Bull & Beard. Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse on January 27, 2016 and re-published on Medium on 4/10/16 with no changes. Tweet me by clicking here.

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