The startup journey is not all unicorns and schools of greatness. Being a “successful” entrepreneur is probably the hardest goal you’ll strive for in your life.
Not so long ago, I left prison with $200 and a fancy pair of Wrangler jeans. Prison is a mental grind, but being an entrepreneur is even tougher. Immediately, I had to start figuring out how I was going to make some scratch. This wasn’t 1917, and $200 would possibly last me three Starbuck’s trips and two meals at Wahoo’s (for the record, I actually turned that $200 into a six-figure business, but that’s another story).
I was building businesses before my little vacation, and I wasn’t exactly employable at that time. Not even McDonald’s hires ex-felons. So, I was back on my entrepreneurial grind.
As a fellow entrepreneur or somebody thinking about starting a business, I’d like to keep it real with you. Mind you, I feel like I was born to change the world through business, as you may too.
Being an entrepreneur is one of my life's greatest purposes, and I am not trying to deter you, simply wanting to be honest about what it takes and looks like. I’m still pro entrepreneurship in everything I do, and it’s the reason I started a Facebook group of now more than 10,000 other entrepreneurs (including the crowd favorite Noah Kagan) to chat, ask questions and learn from one another.
Regardless, my position doesn’t change. Being an entrepreneur is hard as f**k. Especially if you’re the type of entrepreneur that I am, where your everyday income is dependent on the company’s revenues and growth. Not to mention, I’m juggling multiple businesses in hopes to parlay my startup odds. Some people agree with this strategy, others don’t. But pay them no mind, you’re going to do what you think is best because “following your gut” is the best thing you can do as an entrepreneur.
Here are the things that suck most about entrepreneurship:
I’m not a person prone to stress, and have a very positive outlook on everything. I learned early on in life how to deal with stress through different outlets such as working out, eating healthy, strengthening my mind, etc. I’ve had plenty of life experience that taught me how to deal effectively with stress. Unfortunately, that only helps a little.
Anyone that is building a business, where clients, employees, users, families and spouses or whatever is dependent on them is going to have stress. Stress as an entrepreneur is just part of the job title. Not to mention, your days are going to be volatile. One day will be the best of your life, the next will be the worst. You’ll have to learn how to effectively and positively deal with this innate stress.
What relationships? I hope you have a supportive and understanding spouse, and even then, it’s going to be tough. You’re going to be totally consumed with your work, mission, co-founders, users, clients, product, service, the list goes on. Your relationships become the daily interactions you have through your business.
“We don’t eat to live. We live to eat.”
Here’s the truth: You’re most likely foregoing immediate cash gain for the potential of long-term growth and autonomy. (Autonomy is a myth as an entrepreneur because your entire life gets consumed with your startup, and your clients, users, team and investors all become your new bosses sucking up all of that “freedom” you’ve been dreaming of.)
If you’re looking to become an entrepreneur because you want money, just realize that may not be the motivating factor you need to overcome the obstacles you face. Food for thought.
This is another big tradeoff. You're trading your time for the opportunity to chase your dreams. Even 40 hours in a day wouldn’t be enough. You’ll have to figure out how to maximize every moment. You’ll have to learn how to disconnect in your own ways because there’s nobody telling you what to do or how to do it.
You’ll have to figure out how to manage your time effectively and not get wrapped up chasing down awesome new product ideas on Product Hunt, or sifting through hours of endless entertainment on Instagram with The Fat Jewish.
5. Your new bosses
Say hello to your new boss. Clients and/or users are the lifeblood to your business. So in return for their value, they now own your soul.
Learn how to set realistic expectations or you’ll get chewed up and spit out. I have a web- and mobile-development company called Agent Beta. Learning how to build a business, manage client expectations, manage the sales process and execution and everything in between was super difficult. You’ll have to figure out how to handle all of the business activities, while also managing client/user expectations.
Startups would be easy if you removed all of the people you had to deal with.
Most nights I work until about 1 to 2 a.m. I get up around 7 to 8 a.m. I make sure I train every day for one to two hours (heavy and hard to combat stress). That’s not a very effective sleep schedule. Not only is that enough sleep for my body on a daily basis, but compound that with my intense workouts and my body is majorly deficient in hours needed for full recovery (as sleep is the best way to recover when working out).
Random side note: Part of the reason prison inmates are so strong and jacked is because of the amount they can sleep. Prison gets boring, and the people who don’t stay super productive (reading, writing, learning, etc.) end up sleeping large amounts of the day away. Most everyone works out, so their bodies get super optimal recovery times with the large amounts of hours slept.
Despite all of this, I wouldn’t trade being an entrepreneur for anything in the world. What’s even better is when you start to see success, or you’re a part of a startup that takes off, or when you start accomplishing your goals and getting emails from overly zealous users and customers. There’s a side of entrepreneurship that’s unrivaled to anything else in the world.
So it’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be abso-f**king-lutely worth it. Stick it out. Learn to deal with the punches. Set your goals high. Help others. Never give up. Go change the world. Accomplish your dreams. And watch out for The Fat Jewish -- that stuff is addicting.