The entrepreneurial stress test

November 23, 2010

— Neil Patel is a serial entrepreneur that blogs about business at Quick Sprout and is the co-founder of KISSmetrics. The views expressed are his own. —

It’s been roughly 10 years since I started my entrepreneurial journey. There were definitely good times as well as times where I felt like ripping my hair out. However, looking back to when I first started, even though I made a ton of mistakes, for some reason they always led me in the right direction.

Now, you could say that it’s because I am persistent, but I wouldn’t agree to that being the reason. Scrappiness is another quality that people believe I have, but again I don’t think that’s what got me to where I am either.

So how the heck did I get to where I am today?

Stress. That’s right, I stress out like crazy. Obviously I’m not the only entrepreneur on the planet that stresses out, in fact, if you were an entrepreneur and didn’t stress out, something is wrong with you. At the same time, even though there isn’t anything unique about “stress” in and of itself, the skill that helped me get to where I am today was my ability to manage that stress.

People often think the hardest part about being an entrepreneur is putting in 60 or even 80 hours of work a week, which isn’t true. Anyone can work hard for a longer period time, but very few people can handle all the stress that comes along with entrepreneurship.

And yes, I know what you are thinking… you’re the one putting the stress onto yourself. You don’t have to be one of those stressed out entrepreneurs if you don’t want to.

You’re right. You don’t have to be stressed out, but living a stress free life won’t make you wealthy.


I hate to be harsh, but your entrepreneurial journey is never going to be perfect. Just like anything else in life, there will be good times and bad times. “Everything is hard before it becomes easy.”

If you aren’t pushing the boundaries, you aren’t growing your business fast enough. And when you push the boundaries and start walking on that fine line, you’ll probably end up making mistakes and experience problems you would have never imagined.

For example over the past 10 years I’ve dealt with:

  • Working for over 6 years without paying myself a dollar
  • Having to layoff employees
  • Having to fire one of my closet friends
  • Losing a million dollars of borrowed money before I was 21
  • Paying back all of the money I lost
  • Dealing with lawsuits
  • Dealing with health issues that are caused from stress

I could probably keep going on and list out another 100 stressful moments from my life, but I think you get where I’m going with this. I am not trying to make you feel bad for me, but instead I want you to understand why those stressful moments pushed me to the next level.

In order to take yourself to the next level, you must begin to feel uncomfortable. If I didn’t step out of my comfort zone by adding all that stress in my life, I never would have taken any of those risks and probably would have wound up working at a company like Microsoft making a $120,000 salary. It’s definitely not the worst gig to have, but obviously I ended up making the better choice.

If you too want to be a successful entrepreneur, you will need to make a shift in your mindset. You can’t be wasting your time whining about doing things like laying off your employees and cutting budgets. Keep your chin up, understand that the stress is part of the process and deal with it.

If you can’t cope with the stress, then you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur.

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