What's worse than charging full-speed to kick a football, only to have it pulled away at the last minute, sending you flat on your rear end?
Getting bamboozled into doing it over and over again!
But that's exactly what Charlie Brown does in the comic strip, Peanuts.
Lucy invites him to kick the football, he hesitates, remembering how he wiped out the last time, but Lucy always comes up with a way to convince him that this time will be different.
It sure looks a lot like what entrepreneurs go through: get an idea, build it, get customers, raise money, run out of money, lather, rinse, and repeat... until you either sell the company, shut it down, or make it big.
Charlie Brown: Loser or... Future Winner?
To many, Charlie Brown is the archetype of the loser. He's fooled, not once, not twice, but over and over again. He's beyond shame and possibly even insanity.
Just like many entrepreneurs.
Only half of the companies in the United States make it to their fifth year, and yet according to the 2016-2017 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, 29% of American adults are in business and 64% believe entrepreneurship is a good career choice.
Are entrepreneurs as delusional as Charlie Brown?
Why do we try at all? And, having failed, why do we try again? And again?
Why Charlie Brown and Real Entrepreneurs Keep Trying
Charlie Brown keeps trying because he thinks, "What if Lucy doesn't move the ball this time?"
In the same way, entrepreneurs keep trying because we think, "What if we succeed this time?"
That's what makes us different from non-entrepreneurs. Other people see the risk of failing and want to minimize it.
Entrepreneurs think the bigger risk is to not take a chance at all, to not be there when the stars do align.
For us, the only way Charlie Brown can lose is if Lucy doesn't move the ball... and he fumbles the kick.
This is why Charlie Brown gives the kick his all. If the ball stays there, he wants to make that ball soar as far as it can go.
So Charlie Brown may be a loser but he's got the resilience one needs to succeed in business.
What to Do When You've Fallen Flat on Your Butt--Again
In business, you will stumble. You will fail from time to time; that's normal. Entrepreneurs need to be able to get up again and keep on going. All this failure is important information that helps us navigate towards success.
Nevertheless, when it happens, it hurts. We pour ourselves into our business, after all, and when the market doesn't respond positively, we take it to mean that maybe we're no good, that we're not worth as much as we thought.
Entrepreneurs need to be able to dig deep inside themselves and say, "This didn't work out, but I will try again tomorrow."
The lesson here isn't to keep kicking and falling. Entrepreneurship is risky by nature, but that doesn't make it okay to take stupid risks. We should still be intelligent about the risks we take.
And remember, it's not always the right time to kick.
Sometimes, you're wiped out. Or there are many other things going on. Births, deaths, moves. Whatever it is, you're distracted. Or you just don't have the energy to make a go for it.
It's perfectly okay to say, "This looks like a great opportunity, but I don't have the bandwidth for it. I'm going to pass."
That's certainly how I felt right after my first startup caved in with the economy in 2008.
The opportunity probably won't wait around, but you'll find or create a new one when you're ready.
In the meantime, recover and recharge for the work, long nights, and uncertainty that lie ahead.
You see, entrepreneurs are a lot like Charlie Brown. No matter how badly burned we get from the last failure, we always get up, brush ourselves off, and make another go at it.
Because having the chance to send that football flying is so worth the risk of falling on our rear ends.