Just to be clear - this isn't one of those "three easy steps to magically transform yourself into a success" articles. And after reading this post, you will still have to do the same hard work to overcome the barriers you face in your own journey if you want to move forward. (For deeper reading, I highly recommend The Hard Thing About Hard Things and Startup Life.)
What you will find in the next 700 or so words is an honest look at what it can cost to persevere when things get terrifying and difficult and what I've learned that actually matters - because if we don't start there, nothing else we get right will really matter.
When I first started on my own journey as an entrepreneur, I was enamored with the idea of being an entrepreneur and told myself I could build a business in my spare time without giving up who I was at the time. I believed I could become a successful entrepreneur on my own terms.
But there was this moment when I decided that what I was doing mattered - and that it mattered enough for me to go all-in. I saw clearly the potential to empower the lives of others through our technology and believed in that bigger purpose enough to get braver, work harder and sacrifice more.
It was in that moment that I stopped playing at being an entrepreneur and got serious about building a business with an incredible team who were just as committed to success as I was.
Far too often, I think we fall in love with the idea of being someone instead of falling in love with solving a problem. We say instead of do, and we don't commit fully to riding out the more difficult emotions of fear, self-doubt, worry, disappointment, frustration and anger when things get really hard and go wrong.
Here are a few things I've learned thus far, although I am far from finished with my own journey.
- Go all-in. There is no playing at entrepreneurship.
- Don't settle for the feel-good emotion or fool yourself into believing that visualizing something greater is anything other than planting a seed; dig deeper and get serious about moving forward.
- Don't beat yourself up over mistakes - learn from them.
- Don't quit too early because you mistake learning for failure.
- Attention is not success. Investors are not success. Revenue and customers are success. Never, ever forget that.
- Avoid the tendency to celebrate failure - it leads to mediocrity and giving yourself an easy out when things get hard.
- When you hit a barrier, be sure you're solving the right problem - both in your business and within yourself.
- Be willing to sacrifice. And sacrifice some more.
- Understand your limits - and whether your limits are setting you up for failure.
- Be sure your loved ones are willing for the journey, or you will pay the price of losing relationships or failing at your business when you're forced to choose.
- Assess your motives. If you want to be famous instead of solve something important, do something outrageous to get your five minutes of fame. Plenty of entrepreneurs are never famous but build incredible companies that are successful.
- Don't believe the lies you tell yourself that hold you back.
- Be fearless but not foolish.
- Understand that the price will be higher than you imagine - emotionally, financially, physically, mentally.
- Seek advice from people who have made it to the other side of what looks like impossible - and be willing to hear their hard truths.
There is no easy path to becoming a successful entrepreneur, but what I will say is that the difficulty of the journey is, in itself, worthwhile. It reveals our weaknesses and insecurities and, more importantly, our resilience and courage.
The plants in my garden are all dead and have been for several years. I've had to let go of a lot of things that used to fill my time - but I also know that it was in letting go of those things that I gained the bandwidth to focus on what needed my attention and time to move forward.
It's good to remember that succeed or fail at building a business, the journey through the proving ground can be invaluable if we're willing for it.