Now before you read this, it should be prefaced that I am not some jaded entrepreneur that just went through the spin cycle. I am an observer, and I want to share something that I believe needs to be shared. It is an effort to better encapsulate the entrepreneurial experience, and the lifestyle that is led pursuing an idea.
For many, the path to entrepreneurship begins in business school. This introduction to entrepreneurship though gives you about as much of a clue as a flight simulator gives you to the experience of doing a barrel roll at Mach 3 in an X-15 jet. There is something that is impossible to convey in business school, no matter how much you read about entrepreneurship, or how many business plans you write, or how excited and enthusiastic you are about starting a business. Many people assume that the questions that need to be asked before starting a business fall along the path of are you smart enough, talented enough, brave enough, etc. to be an entrepreneur. While these are important questions to be weighed, I think a much more apt question though is, do you actually want to be an entrepreneur?
There is a lot more shine to the word entrepreneur in 2013 than there was ten years ago, but the stomach required to be a successful entrepreneur is completely unchanged. There are so many aspects to entrepreneurship that simply cannot be taught in business school, both truly amazing life-changing things and utterly gut wrenching things. People like to assume that entrepreneurs work on their own time and have tons of excess cash, when the reality is that most entrepreneurs have absolutely no time and no money, that isn't tied into the business. They can’t teach you how exciting it is to get your first investor, but also how terrifying it is knowing someone is demanding a return on a project that may have once just been for fun. They can’t teach you how to manage what it feels like to have no defined direction and never feel like you have done enough.
They don’t teach you about how to spare the feelings of your friends and family when you blow them off time and time again because you have to work late, even though they all know that it is you that is choosing work over them. Most importantly though, they can’t teach how to have an unwavering commitment to an idea that you believe in. You will have friends, family members, people you respect, and people smarter than you tell you that you should quit what you’re doing. You will prepare for weeks for a meeting with a potential investor that will end up with you and your idea being picked apart. You will constantly be short on cash, low on sleep, and wondering how people ever get anything done only working 8 hours a day. Sick days don’t exist, holidays is a sauce on eggs Benedict, and your significant other will be so attention starved that they will lose weight.
All the while, in this state of perpetual stress and discomfort, you will have to pour your heart and soul into every pitch you make about your business. Even after pitching your business 12,335 times, your 12,336th time will have to be your best one yet. Even when coffee is but black water in the face of your sleep deprivation, you will have to push on and believe that what you are building is worth it. Through this struggle, through the stress, through the relationships lost, there is no guaranteed prize, there may be nothing but a crumbled dream at the end of the journey. But, if you accept this, and are committed to a journey with many ups and many downs, then in my opinion you have made your first significant step towards entrepreneurship.