I’ve joked about entrepreneurialism being a disease, a curse, and possibly even an addiction. It’s no joke. It is involuntary, and wreaks havoc on your body and mind. At times, being an entrepreneur makes it difficult to be in the moment, or maintain a healthy work-life balance. It requires that you take risks, which often times include those closest to you taking the same risks, whether they agreed to or not. Entrepreneurs are innovators, problem solvers, have a high need for achievement, but most of all…are change junkies. I absolutely love challenging the status quo, and exposing complacency. I love to disrupt rhythms to find a rhyme or riddle for that matter. Change is the catalyst to solving any problem, no matter the size, scope, or genre. But change has a price, and it’s too high for most to consider. For me, fear remains a constant reminder of my past and potential failures, but my disease is what drives me to change, grow, and repeat. Life is collection of experiences, not things. Without change, your collection will remain small.
Recently, I’ve been quite discouraged. My income is hemorrhaging, I’m lacking in creativity, I’ve got writers block (fun to say that,) and many of my most recent deals have gone South. But…I feel alive, and as crazy as it sounds, it’s times like these that require a tremendous amount of focus, determination, and work. And I don’t mean mental masturbation…I mean get on the phone, get in front of the right people, ask for the order kind of work. With cash reserves diminishing, that time is here for me and my house.
As I prepare to change my situation, I challenge you to do the same. Let’s be change junkies together! I promise, we’ll live to tell about it.
Many times over my entreprenuial career I’ve been asked what the secret to success is, and most often my response would be…”you need to work hard, work smart, leverage your time…” or some other lame arse answer. Although all of that may have something to do with it, for me, I think what has allowed me to be successful is a combination of the following, among other things.
Risk Perception – No one in my family had ever graduated from High School, much less college. It wasn’t something anyone talked about. Frankly, had I not played baseball at an above average level, I would have most likely never went to college. I sold candy out of a backpack in Junior High, cut lawns in High School, and started my first business when I was a sophmore in College. I never thought that any of this was abnormal. It wasn’t until several years later as I started to become more worldly did I discover that my course was a bit different than most. However, it would also be fair to say that my risk perception was primarily due to ignorance rather than fearlessness; at least earlier in my career. The point is that I never perceived any risk to any of my initial endevours; I didn’t know any better or any different. Thank God!
Failure – Fear of failure is what prevents most people from taking action. For me, experiencing failure is what has allowed me to survive and thrive. Failure is part of learning. No one has ever been great at anything the first time they’ve tried. Failing in business can certainly carry a heavy stigma, especially if bankruptcy is involved, however, life goes on. I don’t like to fail, but having experienced it many times, makes it a bit easier to accept, learn from it, and move on. I’m grateful for my failed experiences.
Narcissism – Earlier this year I was ordered to be evaluated by a pshycologist. The results indicated that I am slightly narcissistic. For someone who has spent a considerable amount of time aspiring to be a servant leader, and who values humility above all other human qualities, this was a bit difficult to learn. I plan to dive down into this more in another blog, or possibly in the book, but for now let’s just say that I am coming to terms with the fact that there may be some truth to the doctor’s opinion. I am not admitting nor denying, just keeping an open mind. There’s no doubt I have always had a lot of confidence, which should never be confused with self worth. I have an average IQ (115,) but although never tested, I would say that I have an above average EQ and SQ. Put all this together, and you may have a narcissit, or just a healthy balance of confidence and intellegence. I’m hoping for the latter.
Timing – I responded to a late night infomercial to become an independent Internet consultant when I was 19 years old. I managed to spread the $3k sign up fee over 3 credit cards and 90 days later the company was bankrupt. I had sold only one web site, which the company I was selling for was going to build. Considering the fact that they were now out of busienss, I had to make other arrangements. I taught myself HTML and managed to put together a website for my customer on my own. Three years later, I had 100 employees, and was the president of a company I helped take public and had built thousands of websites. Timing is everything.
Action – I have an attitude of action and a high sense of urgency. Paralysis of analysis can be fatal. The guy that cuts my hair is a brilliant entrepreneur that has never owned a business. I encourage him all the time to stop talking about it, and do something. Taking action can be difficult, but you can’t steal second with your foot on first. Do something.
Long before I knew the value of people, system and processes, sustainable financial models, culture, brand building, etc., I could only do one thing, and that was to take action. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, or want to be a world champion bobsledder, you must take action. No one is going to do it for you, and unfortunately, there is NO SECRET SAUCE.
At 21, I was the president of a company that I helped take public. We had a couple of hundred employees, several offices, and not unlike most Internet companies, no earnings. A year later, I decided to buy my first home. The purchase price was much more than I could afford, and it took three mortgages to get the deal done. I had five cars that all had notes, and a lifestyle I could not afford. There are probably posters still floating around with my face on them, and the caption, “Live the American Dream; Spend More Than You Make.” Needless to say, less than three years later, I was broke. All of my cars were repossessed, and I narrowly avoided foreclosure. Over the next several years, I painfully managed to pay off all my creditors and become debt free. Thank you Dave Ramsey.
More than a decade later, I found myself in a similar situation for a much different reason. I bet it all on a company that I knew would be successful. However, my lack of experience, and market conditions, put me in a very compromising situation. I owed millions, and the economic vacuum that existed within our company would not allow us to pay down debt, and make money simultaneously. I had two options; sell the business, or file bankruptcy. Each had it’s advantages, and although there were two options, I had only one choice.
Being an entrepreneur, and being a good money manager are two very different things. The former requires vision, dreaming big, and action. The latter requires discipline, determination, and a plan. However, both require math, as does just about every aspect of our lives. I have to work very hard to stay disciplined in my spending, however, in order for us to rebuild America together, we must develop and maintain healthy personal and professional budgets. It doesn’t mean we can’t have what we want, but it may mean we have to wait. Waiting isn’t so bad.
Today was the last day of the last job I will ever have. I remain serially unemployable. For the past four months, I’ve wrestled with whether or not I should attempt to stick it out for the entirety of my three-year employment agreement, or surrender to the freedom that comes with being, once again, an entrepreneur. My decision to leave was illogical, unwise, risky, and perfectly liberating.
I’m thankful for the time I had the privilege to lead an incredible team of people who bled yellow and black. You know who you are, and I sincerely thank you. Keep doing the right thing!
Although I don’t have a definitive plan going forward, it should not surprise anyone that it will involve a big dream, a team of talented people, and a purpose and goal of doing something that can only be done together. It’s not what you do, but who you are that matters most.