Tuesday, 2 February 2010

#7: Be an emotional starfish.

Throughout Jan/Feb I've been posting the "12 entrepreneurial lessons I learnt from 2009" series.

Installments so far: Introduction,
Lesson : #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6

Almost needfully, most people starting a business vastly underestimate how much it will cost, how long it will take and (assuming you make it that far) how audaciously difficult and achingly lonely the path to success is going to be.

It's an exercise in trial and error, which means you've got to try & you’re going to fail and it's going to happen a lot.

On a fairly regular basis people are going to tell you that you're wrong. You are wasting your time. All the sleepless nights, skint months, anxiety attacks and nerve wracking pitches are for nothing. At times it'll seem, and probably be true, that you work harder, for longer, and for less material reward than your peers. Moreover, when they switch off on a Friday evening, or for two weeks in August, you'll still have half a mind on work and one hand on the smartphone. You'll begin to wonder if your passion for the project has clouded your judgement and maybe the rational thing to do is wind it down. You may even, god forbid, consider making that antipodean step into .. ‘traditional’ employment.

And I admit, I do have moments, whole minutes even, where I wish I had taken a more conventional option; gotten a stable job with regular hours and a wage that arrived, in my bank account, each month. Found a nice house with a manageable mortgage, taken yearly holidays to destinations you can buy guide books for..

Enter the casual supporter. Worse, perhaps, than the doubters - the casual supporter will appear every so often to get your hopes up, tell you your enterprise has promise, a product that will fly off the shelves, and though they cannot personally help (though they'd love to of course) you've got to 'just hang in there.' Which, as we all know, is easier said than done.

Meanwhile, you've got to retain critical faculties, keep working on and, no, you're not allowed to let it drag you down.

Blessedly, one of the things which distinguish entrepreneurs from the rest of the working world is their wonderful ability to tie a neat tourniquet around each wounding disappointment and ride right back into battle as if unscathed. It never ceases to amaze me, the strength we can find and the odd places we find it, how often we'll lose it, stress-test it to breaking point and (seemingly irreparable) find it intact again when we need it most.

True entrepreneurs are emotional starfish, seemingly endlessly regenerative.

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