The heart and soul of an entrepreneur lies in two things: the need to solve problems and the desire to change the world. Now, that might seem like a very glamorous thing to many people, but, what people don’t realize is that it’s not. You have to be ready to give up your entire life and learn to live, eat, breathe, and sleep your endeavor.
I’ll be honest, every single day I’m stressed out, my personal life is almost completely gone. While I still maintain my work hard, play hard philosophy, it’s impossible to sustain. You have to give something up and most of the time it ends up being your health (I’ve put on about 15 pounds) and personal relationships.
But, there is a reason I do this. and that’s that I’ve always wanted to do something of consequence. I like solving problems, I like being creative, and I like building. It wasn’t about making a “shit load of money”, granted that is always a silent driver. If that was it, I’d be running an online marketing and customer acquisition agency and I’d do pretty damn well. The percentages are always favoring against you when you’re trying to change the world. But, those three worlds are the most important thing that drive me: “change the world.”
Again though, changing an industry forever isn’t easy. There are obstacles like extreme inefficiencies, corruption in government, the difficulty of working with industries untouched by technology. The chips are stacked and the only thing in your favor is a relentless motivation to actually solve a problem.
The reason I bring all of this up is because people should understand what they are up against. As an entrepreneur running his first venture backed company, I have learned a lot about what to expect. I have learned so much about how to pivot to challenges faced and how to deal with the emotional challenges of running a company. Because, truthfully, the most important thing when running a startup is mental toughness.
Being able to handle adversity and come out on the other side of it as a better company, and more importantly, a better person. Knowing that you might into trouble raising venture capital but then pulling it off. (Go Rand and SEOMoz team!) Knowing that you’re going to make mistakes and being okay with not being perfect from the start and adapting quickly. After all, perfection to me, is giving it your best and “leaving it all out on the field.” Remembering to test everything, try everything, and kill a lot of projects because they end up not being effective. Compare this to sports and athletes. specifically an NFL cornerback. They are basically told to have short term memory about your performance. If you get beat on a play, come back, and play better defense on the next down. In basketball, the same goes, get beat on a drive to the basket, man up on the next play. At the end of the day, it’s stepping up and going hard all the time. Every hour, of every day, of every week is important. Being able to test, have a short term memory about things that didn’t work, and gunning it after those that do is how you succeed.
The reason I believe sports is so similar to building companies is the best athletes in the world have three characteristics they share with entrepreneurs: work ethic, mental toughness, and ability to handle adversity.
At your core, you need to believe that it’s not about the money, not about the ownership % (one day I’ll share that story), but rather, about the ability to build something that makes a difference. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your startup won’t be either.
Work as if every single day could be your last. Remember you are solving problems that no one has before. And, most importantly, you are changing the world.