How Not To Fail: 6 Simple – Stupid Secrets Successful Entrepreneurs Lean On To Bear The Pain Of Building Their Businesses
What is entrepreneurship? Most entrepreneurs swear it is a gig where you give your all. And still some more. Those who have attained success warn budding entrepreneurs to beef up psychologically so as to be able to stomach the ridicule. This is because the paths to becoming successful entrepreneurs is a mine field filled with setbacks that punch you in the gut and kick you hard in your balls; all at a go. Having the fortitude to swallow what has come to be known as the dark side / psychological burden of entrepreneurship requires passion, but as Mark Cuban warns, not about following your passion.
Secret Nombre Uno : Successful Entrepreneurs are Wary of The Passion LieBut what is passion anyway? Is it the self-righteousness that makes entrepreneurs get evangelical as they profess their businesses as not just a business? Is it the emotion behind the mantra that makes successful entrepreneurs mask the actualization of their dreams as a higher calling? Altruistic acts so to say?
It takes one to embark on the journey to entrepreneurship success to know that passion is nothing but a remarkable pseudonym for fear.
“Fear is greater than love” Tupac urged us to not forget that. We oblige. Because, who better to look to for our daily dose of business tips from unlikely sources? Here is a boy who from the dark ebbs of intercity life hogged the limelight. A true playa, barely out of his teens, whose success reverberated in all the corners of the world. A young man who proclaimed only death could stop him. Going further to qualify his defiant statement with the defiant rider that his music would live forever. Still, as he actualized his dreams, coming full circle, he proclaims this about acclaim in the song Fame
One thing we all adore
Something worth dying for
Nothing but pain
Stuck in this game
Searching for fortune and fame
Number 2: Successful Entrepreneurs Understand the Language of Money
Business exist to make money. This statement shouldn’t be confused for an ode to narcissistic, toxic capitalism. Neither is it about throwing shade on the concept of social entrepreneurship. These five words defiantly occupy the position of our opening statement in our arguments on how successful entrepreneurs bear the psychological burden of entrepreneurship as they are (almost) doctrinal.
Successful entrepreneurs simply bear no illusions: Entrepreneurship is a play, at the core a personal quest, at redesigning the distribution of wealth.
Actually, this statement gives rise to the first characteristic an entrepreneur needs to posses so as to surmount the rigors of entrepreneurship. An in-depth knowledge of the language of money it is. Often, the first lessons on the need to understand money and get behind the pain of the glamour of living large, stems form facing the fears of a life of paycheck to paycheck.
Be warned though, being fed of the 8 to 5 is not enough. Many would be entrepreneurs quit their jobs and dive into the startup world not having appreciated exactly how hard it is to make prospective clients part with their money. The challenge at the core of entrepreneurial endeavor: making clients pay for your product. This act in effect, redistributing their hard-earned cash to you so to say.
Business Tip: Startups are their culture. Culture Makes Money
To help along with this, needless to add, the mission of every entrepreneur, we look to a principle of behavioral economics espoused in this Forbes article. The principle works best for endeavors that involve behavior change. We find it useful because the business of making money with a startup is about changing behavior: changing spending habits.
Norton, a behavioral economist extensively quoted in the article fronts for a strategy that desist from prohibiting behavior (diets is the example used) but rather designing a product that allows users to continue their behavior if they want to—but also sets up consequences. “The best interventions preserve freedom of choice,” says Norton.
From Amazon, Uber to Facebook and other companies built by successful entrepreneurs, the product is always a better way to do daily activities. Outside life science and biotech companies, for all the talk of disruption, innovation and entrepreneurship, it is hard to find a company that has made money with a de novo product. Really, successful entrepreneurs as those who seek not to reinvent the wheel, but rather re-invent how the wheel is used in everyday life.
Number 3: Embracing Control in Your Entrepreneurship Journey
Popular notions of entrepreneurship propagated by Hollywood is of successful entrepreneurs as individuals who can’t stomach bare minimums. Mavericks who don’t work their whole lives and enjoy extras like traveling at will.
As far as we know, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Aliko Dangote and other famous entrepreneurs still work their asses off. Is it because entrepreneurship is a life long profession? Has it to do with the control problem that startup founders face when they need to let go in order for their companies to grow? Or is it the oft fronted dogma that successful entrepreneurs don’t work because they are pursuing their passion?
Business Tip: Control is a brain fart
99.99% of the psychological burden of entrepreneurship centers around control. An entrepreneur is akin to a scientist testing out a new innovation. Only that they have limited tools to control for confounding factors that might influence results.
How do you control for unprecedented macro-economic events like the global financial crisis? Or political action like Pres. Donald Trump’s reneging the Iran Nuclear Deal whose ramifications are at a global scale – depressing the Kenyan tea sector as Iran is a key importer of Kenyan Tea?
How does an entrepreneur control for all the challenges of entrepreneurship? Beyond all the talk of forecasting and risk management, only one tactic works on the psyche of the entrepreneur. Once again, a principle of behavioral economics comes to our rescue. Behavioral economics has shown that people tend to overestimate their sense of control. This over confidence make them overeat when they face a setback.
Want to be a successful entrepreneur? Take a deep breath when shit hits the fan as it often will. Acknowledge your limits and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Number 4 : As Much as Entrepreneurship is a Lonely Journey, We are still Part of the Collective
Hold no illusions, entrepreneurship is draining. It drains you emotionally, physically and psychologically. Money is no substitute for being there as a spouse, parent or member of society. But success can help temper your occasional absence on birthdays, weddings or the even local neighborhood meetings.
Work-life balance is something all successful entrepreneurs grapple with. But the psychological torture of knowing that you were the only father absent during your daughter’s school play is especially gnawing when deep in the throes of building a startup whose success is still a long way off.
Successful entrepreneurs acknowledge this guilt (social norming), compartmentalize it and develop strategies on how not to be busy for the important things like friends, family and community.
Moreover, this should be tactfully done so as not to make your team at your startup feel like you are slacking off lest they also abandon the spirit of cooperation. All successful entrepreneurs understand the value of building community as part of their startup culture. On the converse, it is also true that a strong support system of family and friends cannot be sacrificed at the altar of startup culture.
Number 5 : Family, Friends & Community
We continue this conversation of achieving optimum work-life balance with this quote. It is attributed to one of the greatest basketballers of all time, Micheal Jordan.
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
We chose this quote because it’s something all successful entrepreneur have internalized. You will fail a dime a dozen. Fail with some of your entrepreneurial endeavors. Let down your family, friends and community. When you fail, some of your close ones will shun you. It will not stop when you succeed. Some more of your loved ones will shun you because: “you’ve changed”.
Business Tip: Be Wary of the Loss aversion & Regret Aversion Duo
Often, this conflict will bear down on your startup journey. You will get torn between striving for your dreams and losing what you have always had. Loss aversion that’s what behavioral economics terms this tag of war. Research has it that people are more averse to losing something more than gaining what they are inclined to desire.
By embarking on the journey of becoming successful entrepreneurs, startup founders stake it all. Their reputation, future income, time, health and even mortgage their houses and acquire debt. By the loss aversion principle, naturally the pressure builds up as the immense loss they face if they fail.
What is often discounted in all this is the family, friends and community premium. As we have seen, loved ones could be what all that is left after your entrepreneurship excursions. They could be the rock that holds you up as the storm entrepreneurship threatens to drown you. The drive to avoid the regret of losing it all (regret aversion) confounds the psychological torture of loss aversion.
Secret Number 6: Plan for Retirement
A common misconception of entrepreneurship is that it’s a path to early retirement. Pina coladas, margaritas and the beach whilst still enjoying the last remnants of the vigor of youth. But what if it doesn’t look up five years in? Eight years in? The dreams vapourise and condense as tears and fears that haunt the entrepreneur.
Blame that on the principle of hyperbolic discounting found in behavioral economics. The principle explains the tendency of people to value future rewards than immediate ones. When starting out as an entrepreneur, this phenomenon drives one with vigor forward. Setbacks suffered only seem to bounce off the entrepreneur as they would on Superman.
It holds until the starting capital starts to thin out and business successes is far spaced and maybe.
Time is less on your side and you often stay up late at night wondering why you took the plunge. When starting a company, the enthusiasm is high especially when the founder is young. Then, even the thought of retirement is a mirage. Caution that even during the highs of startup fever, safety net measures ought be part of the consideration.
Safety measures should include, but not limited to: health insurance and retirement. Even when the entrepreneur is ready to go without being paid a dime, and acknowledging that every dime count in actualizing their vision, at the very least, the company should cater for retirement & health insurance.