In the 10 years since he published his first international bestseller, The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss has spoken at a ton of conferences and events. One of the questions he gets asked most often at these events, he says, is about how to ditch the 9-to-5 wage-slave life and become a successful entrepreneur.
As he put it in an interview with Inc.com: "How do I quit my job and jump into the abyss and build wings on the way down?"
His answer: "You don't! You shouldn't do it!"
This might sound strange at first blush coming from someone like Ferriss, who made a fortune preaching about how to hack time and productivity. But it reflects an attitude shared by some of the most successful people in the world. (Daymond John of Shark Tank, who started his mega clothing brand FUBU from his house while working as a waiter at Red Lobster, has a similar message.)
People seem to know the story of how Ferriss wrote his first book based on his experience of becoming burned out while running an internet startup in the early 2000s, but perhaps the story of how he came to start that company to begin with is more relevant. After graduating from Princeton University in 2000, according to The New York Times:
Ferriss moved to California, taking a job in sales at a data storage company. Frustrated by his salary and what he considered to be inefficiencies at the company, he began spending his days surfing the Web and building his own Internet business. About a year later, he was laid off.
Fortunately, by then he'd founded his startup, BrainQUICKEN, which in turn started his meandering path. But the point is that he didn't simply leave his day job in frustration to start something of his own; he hacked it, working nights and weekends until he was making $40,000 a month.
We've seen over and over that there are only accessible two ways to accumulate great wealth in America. The first is to already have a small fortune, and invest it aggressively and wisely. The second, for those of us who weren't born with trust funds on inheritances, is to start something new--something you can own.
The trick, of course, is that many of us are scraping by to begin with, or feel as if we are--spending so much time simply trying to earn a living and get ahead incrementally that the notion of launching something new seems impossible. That's the trick, however: finding ways to find more time to work on side hustles and startups until you're in a position to launch something new.
Because the point of entrepreneurship isn't to embrace risk-taking. Instead, it's to work hard to mitigate risk to the point where launching entrepreneurial ventures is, at the very least, no more risky than staying in a career where you're working for someone else. And that likely means staying put and sacrificing, at least until you have enough income from your own venture to replace whatever you'd lose by quitting your day job.
As Ferris puts it, "Work on your company--evenings and weekends. And if you're not willing to do that, you shouldn't be an entrepreneur." Small and steady wins the race--especially if you're bootstrapped.