I am new to entrepreneurship. While I’m not new to the kind of work I do, I am new to doing it solo, outside the comfortable underpinnings of a corporate job. I've been asked a lot of questions over the past few months about how I've come this far, especially given the enormous challenges I've faced in the past five years. I have found that in undertaking an entrepreneurial endeavor, there is one fundamental question that you must ask yourself, every day:
Are You Willing? Let me explain:
In navigating an entrepreneurial journey, you will have periods of intense ecstasy and growth. You will also experience haunting loneliness and self-doubt. Thus you must continually ask yourself:
Are you willing to be rejected repeatedly? Are you willing to relinquish your time in the pursuit of something with no guarantees?
Are you willing to sacrifice? To intentionally not receive or go after everything you want? That’s right, you have you purposefully decide not to pursue as much as you want to. As Mark Manson has said: the answer isn’t to do more, but to want less.
I can tell you with great confidence that “doing more”—buying into the romanticized notion of 14-hour days and sleeping in your office, is not only unproductive, it’s idiocy. It's what Esmé Wang refers to as the fallacy of 'go big or go home'. You want more accolades, more accomplishment, more prestige—you want to be the best, so you convince yourself that the only way to approach what is in front of you is to do it all, even though doing so is nearly always a recipe for disaster. In my case this way of tackling the goals I set for myself is an impossibility because of my epilepsy, but regardless I still find myself wanting to do more all the time.
I know that this desire will never fully dissipate—it’s hardwired into our nervous systems—but every time I come up against it I immediately return to the task at hand, and focus. I focus not only on what I’m willing to do, but what I'm willing to give up, release, even ignore.
And do you surmise that working from home is God’s greatest gift? Trust me, it’s not. There are times I’m enthralled by it—delighted that I have the freedom I have to do as I choose—while other times I am stifled by feelings of isolation.
There's nothing sexy about sitting in your room, 8, 10, 12 hours a day, the clock always one step ahead of you, mocking in its ability to perpetually outrun you.
Working for yourself often feels as if it is one part luxury, one part prison.
As I reflect on what I've built, having left my corporate job this summer, having paid off tens of thousands of dollars in debt, having traveled to Utah to spend three months training at one of the most elite gyms in the country, and having just released my website to the world: I ask myself:
Will anyone give a shit? Will my work be noticed, and consequently, remembered?
Will I aid anyone in their journey? Will I serve people and build my business at the same time?
Will I honor the opportunities in front of me, or shirk in the face of fear and procrastination?
The answer to all of the above is both yes and no.
You must choose to give of yourself, each and every day, without any assurance whatsoever.
No promissory note exists in the sphere of those who commit to the road less traveled.
Sometimes I feel entirely cognizant of what I’m doing, while other times I feel as if I’m shackled by ignorance.
You must develop resilience. This is a practice. You awaken the artist deep within your soul, and cry out. But you do not do so only internally; this robs the world of your gifts.
You do this via action. The action is almost always fractured, fluid, impermanent.
But it creates a paradigm of self-reliance; you begin to see that the awakenings you wish to provoke are literally only possible with your active, ongoing, relentless creation. This is not done via observance or even by cautious participation; these are the ways of the dilettante.
You must foster the development of a warrior’s focus. You do this via commitment, incessant pursuit, broken, protean action. You cultivate a daily willingness to bring solace to a world much larger than you, knowing full well that you may not receive even an inkling of commendation.
Are you willing to commit not to hours, days or even months of persistent engagement, but years?
Are you willing to accept that the work itself will by no means guarantee happiness; that your reaction to the occurrences in life—including the huge successes—will at once astonish and confound you?
I’m beginning to see that this is normal. The pain always stabs at me; the successes delight my soul.
Beware of any entrepreneur, any creator, that tells you they know exactly what they’re doing. They don’t.
Some of my friends and mentors in this space are wildly successful, famous, world-renowned. Not one of them had a gloriously smooth ride, or figured everything out before they found great reward. The myth of the overnight success, the lucky benefaction, is just that, a myth. Please do not believe otherwise. Thankfully, some of the hugely successful people I know in this space are recognizing this, and beginning to speak out. For example, Julien Smith—the innovative CEO of Breather—recently wrote a piece addressing this very issue.
The ride is both absurd and glorious—engendering both beauty and madness—so get used to it. Adjust and adapt; you have the capacity to do both far more than you think. This alone will bring about more inner confidence.
Are you willing to attempt to build relationships with people that might hate you?
Are you wiling to show your scars, reveal your wounds, etching a tapestry of your pain for the world to see?
Are you willing to engage in a degree of risk that will never cede to the ages? Knowing that no matter how much money you make, or success you attain, you will always face a degree of trepidation?
If you are, know that you are in for the ride of your life. You will have the opportunity to be an active participant in something so beautiful and challenging you'll begin to carve out a legacy of notable endurance.
You will possibly experience the greatest bliss that life can offer, and the best part is that you never really know where this bliss will arise from.
It's no accident that the motto of the gym I'm training at is "The Mind Is Primary." Every day I'm pushed to use physical means to achieve psychological ends, and it is incredibly effective.
Bear in mind that given my physiological challenges, I can't even tie my shoe with my right hand.
In my time training here, I've met MMA fighters, former pro athletes, and military personnel. I've also met amputees and men afflicted with PTSD. All of them have an almost inhuman discipline; not because they're perfect, but because they're fully aware of their weaknesses, and relentlessly focus in on them.
I am not anywhere near the level of those that train me, and I am nothing but thankful for it. Years ago I would have been ashamed of this. Now I feel enormous gratitude to be surrounded by folks with so much more skill, so dedicated to their craft. This alone serves as fuel for my endeavors.
So I sit here, both tremendously confident in my decision to do this—to put myself out into the world in a huge way—and also fearful. But no matter.
I look my fear in the eye and smile. It will always be inimical to my goals; I don't pretend otherwise. But it can never rob me of my capacity to choose.
I simply have to choose to declare myself, with intention and vulnerability. To do otherwise—to hide, to shudder, to delay, would be incredibly selfish of me. I spent much of my 20s doing that. It didn't work, and left me unfulfilled. Thus the choice is clear. Grab this endeavor by the balls and commit. The results are out of my control, and that is perfectly fine. Indeed, it’s welcome.
My actions, however, are entirely in my control. I give thanks for this fact, every day, and move forward. Despite the risks—no, because of them, I love what I am doing. It's not all rainbows and sunshine, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I am cultivating my gifts, and offering them. There is perhaps nothing else so rewarding.
So sit down, stand up, drive away, fly away, and create something. Give of yourself more than you attempt to receive. Speak your mind, with both care and courage. Prepare deliberately, then launch just before you feel ready.
And let me know how I can help.