Entrepreneurship isn't All Sunshine and Roses
Reality #1: Being an entrepreneur is about repeated rejection.
Entrepreneurship is a lonely road to greatness. People think they can handle rejection. They think if they didn’t get into their first choice for college or if it took them six months to find a job, then they have the tenacity to make it as an entrepreneur. This is your passion, your life work. This is your pride, your baby. And you’re told over and over it’s not good enough. It’s not what they want. It’s not what they’re looking for…For an entrepreneur, seven rejections are the tip of the iceberg. Speak with any entrepreneur who has raised capital and scaled a business, and it’s not uncommon to hear stories of hundreds of rejections. Even the best entrepreneurs are told no. Even the biggest companies struggle in the beginning. Even the boldest ideas get ignored. Do you really know how rejection feels? Are you willing to take the hits over and over and keep going, even when people are telling you to give up? That’s what it feels like to be an entrepreneur. You have a vision that they don’t. There’s a disconnect. You know you’re right. You know they’re wrong. They don’t have the clarity that you do.
Reality #2: Being an entrepreneur is about wearing many hats.
You have a choice of what you do for a living. It may not be your dream job, be the job you want right now, or have the salary you think you deserve. But you have a choice to work for somebody else, or to work for yourself. The entrepreneurial path isn’t for everyone. There are a lot of reasons why. It may not be financially practical. You may not have that killer idea. You may not want the time commitment. Whatever you choose, own your career. Take responsibility for your actions and know that you do have a choice…It’s easy to want to be an entrepreneur. But what does it really mean to be an entrepreneur? What’s your niche? What’s your differentiation? What’s your competitive advantage? Your schedule as an entrepreneur won’t be easier than it is now. You’ll work harder and longer hours as an entrepreneur than you do in your current job. I guarantee you that you’ll work five times harder than you do now. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re the boss, the employee, the supervisor, the board of directors, the secretary, the janitor. You’re everything because everything is dependent on you. You need to have that foundation to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Reality #3: Being an entrepreneur is about having the freedom to dream and executing on ideas.
Almost everyone says they want to be an entrepreneur. But it’s not for the reason you think. Too many people think that entrepreneurship, principally, is about getting rich. Entrepreneurship can be a pathway to substantial wealth, but that shouldn’t be the driving reason. The best part of entrepreneurship isn’t financial. Entrepreneurship is about a meritocracy of ideas. The best executable ideas win. You can beat people stronger than you, smarter than you, older than you, richer than you. The only thing that matters are your ideas coupled with your actions.
If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, do you think anyone cares where you come from? Do you think you’re going to sell more products because you went to a certain school? Do you think your company will get a higher valuation because you have “connections” on Wall Street? No one cares. None of it matters. Entrepreneurship is the ultimate playing-field leveler. It reduces hierarchy, seniority, and bureaucracy with the flip of a switch. It’s about the flexibility for anyone to chart their own course. Entrepreneurship is about building and creating something with your bare hands. It’s the freedom to develop an enterprise on your own terms, to leave the herd, and venture out on your own.
Beware of the Serial Entrepreneur Trap
Be wary, though, of the difference between an entrepreneur and a Change Chaser. It’s easy to call yourself an entrepreneur, or even a serial entrepreneur. The moniker sounds impressive: “serial” means this isn’t your first rodeo. You’re experienced and successful. A veteran entrepreneur. Many wear the label proudly on their LinkedIn profiles: Serial Entrepreneur. It sounds better. It looks better. It resonates. The problem is that too many serial entrepreneurs aren’t serial entrepreneurs—they’re Change Chasers. So, are you an entrepreneur or a Change Chaser?
Serial entrepreneurs do exist. Many are Daring Disruptors who continue to push the envelope. However, there are fewer genuine serial entrepreneurs than appear on LinkedIn. A serial entrepreneur isn’t someone who has founded multiple companies. A serial entrepreneur also has built, scaled, and often successfully exited multiple companies. A serial entrepreneur is a creator and an executor. Starting companies and then starting more companies doesn’t make you an entrepreneur. It may make you creative. You may be an effective idea generator.
You may be a trend follower. But you don’t get to wear the serial entrepreneurial badge because you’re a founder. There’s more you need to do to earn the title. Change Chasers jump from job to job, business to business. If opportunity knocks, Change Chasers answer. Unlike serial entrepreneurs, Change Chasers only scratch the surface. When things get difficult, Change Chasers are nowhere to be found. They’re onto the next adventure. However, that’s where serial entrepreneurs are different. It’s the period after turmoil strikes when serial entrepreneurs shine. They manage strife; they pivot; they rebuild. They fix the business model and weather the storm to ensure their business scales and succeeds.
It’s easy to confuse the two, but only one is the real entrepreneur. Make sure you know the difference. This way, you’re not stuck with the wrong label. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, when you lead a life with purpose and choose a meaningful career, you’ll create alpha at work and harness the power of the Lemonade Life.
Adapted with permission from The Lemonade Life by Zack Friedman, copyright Zack Friedman.