How to survive the entrepreneurial rollercoaster
Entrepreneurs tend to be a little bit crazy. Starting a business takes a touch of insanity, but running a business can sometimes send you over the edge. You put everything you have into your business, face challenges you never could have prepared for and on top of it all are constantly scrutinized. How do you stay sane? After two years of being on the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship, these are the things I’ve found help me manage the dips and stay focused on the loops.
Learn to be patient: Patience has never been my specialty. I come from a hyperactive, scream-over-each-other-to-be-heard type of family, where if you don’t move quickly you are likely to be left behind. This life in the fast-lane mentality had propelled me forward in both my education and career so I applied it to my startup, setting ambitious goals & keeping busy with an endless list of daily tasks. I became increasingly frustrated, however, when my efforts weren’t yielding the immediate results I expected them to.
The past year has taught me a lot about the value of patience. St. Augustine said it perfectly: “Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience.” Eventually, I realized the same tactics that had always worked for me in highly structured environments weren’t completely applicable to my bootstrapping startup. I’ve learned to be happy making progress each day and to celebrate the small hurdles.
Open your eyes and ears: Sometimes I consider the amount of opportunities around me and am blown away. The crazy thing is that these opportunities have always existed, but I was always moving too fast with tunnel vision towards my next goal to notice them. Instead of listening to my environment, I always tried to make my environment listen to me. Once I opened my eyes to all of the wonderful opportunities out there, any lingering doubts about going out on my own vanished.
Explore other activities: When you’re passionate about your job, it’s easy to let it consume you. You may feel perfectly content working on your business all the time, but eventually it will have adverse affects on your life. You risk burning out, isolating yourself from opportunities, and damaging relationships. Don’t feel guilty about spending time doing other things. Personally, I find running, reading and movies to be great outlets, and blogging is extremely cathartic. As difficult as it may be, try to dedicate 100 percent of your attention to these various activities. I’m guilty of working on my computer through movies and bringing my BlackBerry on bike rides, but it makes a big difference to truly escape.
Accept the possibility of failure: Now I know that some people read this and think, “If you go in with that attitude you are destined for failure.” However, I have found this to be the most liberating lesson of them all. The first few occasions when things didn’t go exactly as anticipated with my business, I couldn’t help but go into panic mode. I hated the lack of control being thrown in my face. I soon realized, though, that entrepreneurship is very much about accepting chaos and learning how to respond. By accepting I cannot control everything, I have actually re-established control of my own environment.
Hold on to your optimism: Easier said than done, right? People are constantly offering their pessimistic perspectives, and when you are going through a rough patch in your business, it can start to get to you. Hold onto your glass-half-full attitude for dear life. Where does pessimism get you? People pick up on negativity and it can hurt your business. One thing that always centers me is thinking about how proud I am to have built my own business from the ground up. I know that no matter what happens, no one can take that accomplishment away from me. If you haven’t launched yet, visualize how great that will feel.
But be realistic: When I first started my business, I had unrealistic expectations. The overnight success stories are an inspiration to read, but of course they are the exceptions, and many times what seems like an overnight sensation took years of work (one of my favorites to read about is the brand “Life is Good”).
Plan ways to support yourself: Whether it’s getting investors or holding another job. If you are just considering being an entrepreneur, make sure you are okay with making sacrifices.
I hope my experiences can help you navigate the bumpy (but amazing) ride of entrepreneurship. Best of luck.