Small business or self-employed: finding the courage to trade Mike | June 21st, 2010

If there is anything I have learned in my life as an adult (as arguable as that second half of that statement may be), it is that everything is about the tradeoff. We swap our personal independence for love and comfort when we marry; we barter away more of that autonomy when we have children; and we make a zillion tradeoffs every single day of our professional lives. Some of these transactions (because that’s what they really are) happen naturally and organically as we mature and the requisites of our lives evolve, but others are truly arrangements of choice, the results of serious internal negotiation.

This is typically the case when a worker becomes an entrepreneur, when an employee becomes self-employed, or when a subordinate takes the leap and buys the business from the boss. The courage to make this transition in life is common to entrepreneurs, small business owners, and self-employed workers whether the decision is tempered by choice, necessity, or circumstance.

Many of us fantasize for years about what it would be like to control our own destiny, but what holds most folks back is the simple fear of the unknown mixed with the toxic dread of failure. Motivations are key – sometimes an entrepreneur is created in the aftermath of a layoff. Driven by necessity, some find themselves with no better option than to hang out their shingle and get to work hustling to find clients or customers. Others are driven by their own pure passion for what they want to do. The courage required is the same, whether the decision is driven by ardor or by hardship.

The common elements tend to be the same across a range of entrepreneurs: they have identified a need in the market and envisioned how they can meet that need. A problem defined, a solution concocted, and a business born. What is certain is uncertainty. Long hours, loneliness, and the ever-present threat of failure. The statistic we hear over and over: half of all startups fail. Half. Half. Half. Shut up already and let us work; whatever the risk of failure, whatever the inevitability of collapse, whatever your relatives say to warn them, entrepreneurs are driven by something greater than the peril: they cling to their conviction that they can make their business work.

 

Image: Sun Wukong (the magical monkey and main character) from the traditional Chinese tale, “Journey to the West” Credit: Nod Young

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  • scintilla

    What a brillant blog!
    A new day has come for entrepreneurs. Some of the trade-offs you mention are no longer necessary.
    Make a living? Have a life? Now you can have BOTH.
    http://www.bothpro.com

  • scintilla

    What a brillant blog!
    A new day has come for entrepreneurs. Some of the trade-offs you mention are no longer necessary.
    Make a living? Have a life? Now you can have BOTH.
    http://www.bothpro.com

  • Paul

    Well done! I needed that this morning! Our little startup http://www.cargoh.com is doing well, and it is unbelievably rewarding, but I would be lying if I didn’t have days where a job as a Starbuck’s barista didn’t seem like a good idea! Fortunately those moments are short lived.

    Thanks again.

  • Paul

    Well done! I needed that this morning! Our little startup http://www.cargoh.com is doing well, and it is unbelievably rewarding, but I would be lying if I didn’t have days where a job as a Starbuck’s barista didn’t seem like a good idea! Fortunately those moments are short lived.

    Thanks again.

  • Mark Coudray

    As a serial entrepreneur, I always find the security and failure issues interesting. Nobody has security in today’s world. Everyone is at risk in their jobs anyway. How many people do you know that have been pink slipped in the last 2 years?

    True entrepreneurs don’t consider failure. It only means you’ve found a way that doesn’t quite work and needs more refinement. Anything less than perfect performance is a partial failure. Get it mostly right and go. In today’s world you want to fail fast, meaning find the parts that need refinement as quickly as possible.

    Fear of failure has it’s roots in our educational system where passive, risk averse, worker bees are trained to “get a job.” Follow your heart. Find your passion. Figure most of it out and go for it. Success is built on enthusiasm, perseverance, and tenacity.

  • Mark Coudray

    As a serial entrepreneur, I always find the security and failure issues interesting. Nobody has security in today’s world. Everyone is at risk in their jobs anyway. How many people do you know that have been pink slipped in the last 2 years?

    True entrepreneurs don’t consider failure. It only means you’ve found a way that doesn’t quite work and needs more refinement. Anything less than perfect performance is a partial failure. Get it mostly right and go. In today’s world you want to fail fast, meaning find the parts that need refinement as quickly as possible.

    Fear of failure has it’s roots in our educational system where passive, risk averse, worker bees are trained to “get a job.” Follow your heart. Find your passion. Figure most of it out and go for it. Success is built on enthusiasm, perseverance, and tenacity.

  • C Henry

    “What is certain is uncertainty. Long hours, loneliness, and the ever-present threat of failure.” um, tell us something we DON’T know. So you’re answer to the statement ‘finding the courage to trade’ is, the enlightening ‘don’t fear failure’?

  • C Henry

    “What is certain is uncertainty. Long hours, loneliness, and the ever-present threat of failure.” um, tell us something we DON’T know. So you’re answer to the statement ‘finding the courage to trade’ is, the enlightening ‘don’t fear failure’?

  • Julian Cox

    ‘half of all startups fail. Half. Half. Half’

    Therefore half of all startups succeed (depending on how you measure success). So take the leap – you’ve got as much chance of being laid off from your current job.

  • Julian Cox

    ‘half of all startups fail. Half. Half. Half’

    Therefore half of all startups succeed (depending on how you measure success). So take the leap – you’ve got as much chance of being laid off from your current job.

  • Winter

    Wow i needed that for motivation especially to a guy like me who wanted to discover the world of freelance art wherein at the same time i could create my own project taking an investment of my time to improve my work and myself

  • Winter

    Wow i needed that for motivation especially to a guy like me who wanted to discover the world of freelance art wherein at the same time i could create my own project taking an investment of my time to improve my work and myself

  • Mike

    @scintilla: Thanks! I wrote about tradeoffs in a previous post – you can read it here: http://blog.crowdspring.com/2010/02/5-thoughts-for-startups-and-small-business-on-managing-work-vs-home-wrestling-match/

    @Paul: good luck with http://www.cargoh.com and don’t spend precious budget dollars on Starbucks or you very well may end up as a barrista. =)

    @Mark Coudray: True enough about the lack of “security” in today’s world. I am, however, not sure I agree with your statement that “True entrepreneurs don’t consider failure.” My attitude continues to be that failure is always lurking around the corner and that entrepreneurs can learn from it and be motivated by it.

    @C Henry Well I actually think that there are TONS of new and potential entrepreneurs out there who don’t have the slightest concept of what it will mean when they start their own company. Personally, I had no idea that the first 3 years of this effort would mean 7 day weeks, no vacations, constant questioning of whether it will be worth it. So far the answer is an unequivocal YES.

    @Julian Cox: Ha! So true and a great entrepreneurial ability to see the half-full glass…. =)

    @Winter: The investment of time in yourself and your business will always pay off in the long run. Thanks for the kind words!

  • Mike

    @scintilla: Thanks! I wrote about tradeoffs in a previous post – you can read it here: http://blog.crowdspring.com/2010/02/5-thoughts-for-startups-and-small-business-on-managing-work-vs-home-wrestling-match/

    @Paul: good luck with http://www.cargoh.com and don’t spend precious budget dollars on Starbucks or you very well may end up as a barrista. =)

    @Mark Coudray: True enough about the lack of “security” in today’s world. I am, however, not sure I agree with your statement that “True entrepreneurs don’t consider failure.” My attitude continues to be that failure is always lurking around the corner and that entrepreneurs can learn from it and be motivated by it.

    @C Henry Well I actually think that there are TONS of new and potential entrepreneurs out there who don’t have the slightest concept of what it will mean when they start their own company. Personally, I had no idea that the first 3 years of this effort would mean 7 day weeks, no vacations, constant questioning of whether it will be worth it. So far the answer is an unequivocal YES.

    @Julian Cox: Ha! So true and a great entrepreneurial ability to see the half-full glass…. =)

    @Winter: The investment of time in yourself and your business will always pay off in the long run. Thanks for the kind words!

  • Paul

    @Mike…..good advice thanks.

  • Paul

    @Mike…..good advice thanks.

  • http://nicolaj.com nicolaj.com

    Thx! Love this blog.

  • http://twitter.com/selfemployedguy Self Employed News

    If you can find a safety net i mean a regular gig or client, then you can be happily self employed..

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