I was recently chatting with a good friend about my time with Wild Creations, the company I co-founded and continue to manage after its recent acquisition. As a generally affable guy, she asked me if I had always been happy running a business. I recalled the early years of the business and the difficult time I had dealing with the consuming stress, anxiety, doubt and regret.
It had a name. I called it my "dark time."
So, no, I had not always been happy running a business. From the onset, I had unreasonably high aspirations and expectations, which were quickly dashed (along with the entire global economy) when the financial markets collapsed. We were less than a year into our endeavor, and we were struggling to keep the business open, much less pursue our aggressive growth plans.
Compounding the pressure was my father's mortgage, which we had used to finance the start-up.
While working through all of the challenges and trying to keep the company solvent, I sunk into a dark personal hole, pushing away friends and family and living a miserably unhappy and depressing existence for a while. I was a nervous wreck, constantly getting sick and contracting bronchitis on more than one occasion.
Did I mention it was a pretty dark time?
I rambled on for a while longer and explained how I had eventually grown out of it and became quite comfortable with the challenges of entrepreneurship. My friend grinned, leaned forward and said, "It sounds like you went through a heart break."
At first, it sounded silly. The more we discussed it, however, the more spot on the symptoms appeared. Looking back at this "dark time" and, more important, the personal growth that followed, the similarities were remarkable.
If you are willing to endure the symptoms of a broken heart in business a few times, then here are a few reasons why you should consider entrepreneurship.
You will be wiser and stronger The first time you have your heart broken is typically the most difficult. After the long and painful healing period, however, you always emerge a little wiser to your choices and a little stronger in your resilience. In business, this is absolutely true as well. Remember, that which does not kill us makes us stronger.
You will be more likely to try it again After that first heartbreak, falling in love again may require some time. You will, however, find love again, and in fact will understand better what you seek (and are trying to avoid). The same is true for business. Finding new passion and enthusiasm gets easier when you better understand what you drives you.
You will recover again ... and faster The most interesting thing about having your heart broken the second (and subsequent) time is the speed at which you bounce back. While never easy, you will find strength in the knowledge that you have recovered from it previously. Recovering from business failures gets much less stressful for the same reasons.
You will become a more valuable catch. One of the less flattering characteristics of young love is insecurity. It can often lead to disagreements and misunderstandings. You build confidence, however, in every new relationship you pursue. In business, nothing inspires confidence more than the knowledge that you are able to rise from failure.
You will appreciate the experience more Do you remember the first time you thought you were in love? Because you had nothing to compare it to, good or bad, you probably often had doubts. After you have been through a couple of relationships, however, you start to truly appreciate the good (or, as the case may be, the absence of bad) in every new one. The same is true for business, both in terms of the experience and the people with whom you share it.
Looking back at my friend's original question, I would say that I am not so much affable these days as I am experienced (or, as the case may be, weathered and callused). Facing the immense personal challenge in the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, as difficult and dark as it may have been, better prepared me for dealing with the heartbreak of future failures and, more important, how to better avoid them.
So, while Alfred Lord Tennyson may not have meant it in the business sense when he penned it in 1850, the well-known phrase for which he is credited has a great application in business as well as love: