So you’re an entrepreneur. Maybe you decided to change the world. Wanted to put your dent on the universe. Revolutionise something. Maybe you just wanted to stick it to the man, man.
But then you discovered something you weren’t expecting. This is hard.
You know it’s hard when you find yourself working late and missing dinner with your family, again.
When you don’t know why you started your company in the first place.
When you run out of money, again.
When you’re constantly exhausted.
When you’re always lonely, even when you’re surrounded by people.
When you struggle with non-work conversations. When you’re all consumed.
When, even if you do everything right, you might still lose everything.
Other CEO’s seem to be doing great, getting all sorts of traction. Lots of energy. New customers. You’re doing great too. Are you? Then why does it feel like you have no idea what you’re doing?
When things are going wrong, its soul destroying. When things are going right, you’re wondering what’s going to go wrong next.
A Harvard Business Review article last year pointed out that “entrepreneurs are 30% more likely to experience depression than their non-entrepreneurial counterparts”. A lot of those successful, energetic founders that are owning it feel the same, it’s just that not many talk about it. You know why – how would talking help? You can’t talk about it to employees – you’re their fearless leader. You can’t talk to your co-founders – why would they work with someone who’s not up to it? You can’t talk to investors – surely they’d just fire you. When the entire success of your company is on your shoulders, this is a pretty big deal. Close friends and family would listen, but would they understand?
It’s especially hard for tech entrepreneurs with all the pressure of the unknown. New business models. A market that doesn’t exist yet. Venture capital (if you’re lucky). But the same feelings are the reality for many low-tech entrepreneurs too.
So what’s your point?
I’m not saying that it’s ok to feel like this – I don’t know if it’s ok. I’m not a doctor. It’s probably not ok.
I’m not saying don’t give up – sometimes giving up is the best option*.
What I am saying is that others are having the same experience, it’s not just you. I’ve felt all of these things, almost constantly, since starting my first business (which failed). I’m not giving up on what I’m working on now, I’m not burnt out, but it sucks.
The point is that it’s really important to talk about this stuff. Not (just) to get things off your chest. Not for attention. But opening up might help some else going through the same things. Just by reading or hearing about someone else’s experience, a lot of your own self-doubt can disappear.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t bad. I’m not saying don’t do it. It’s awesome. You should still quit your job and make that Facebook-but-for-pets app you’ve been talking about for years. Do it. Just remember, it’s hard, but it’s not just you.
In Part 2 I’ll give a couple of (other) ideas on how to make it a bit easier. Both from personal experience, and things that seem to work well for others.
*Get advice before you shut your business down, and never let a failed business stop you from starting again.