I admire entrepreneurs. I admire them for the fact that they took real actions purely based on their vision and passion toward it. They want to take their vision to life and that in itself is a noble cause. It’s also a talent – which is so rare to find, to have the level of conviction high enough to put one’s life on the line and start a company. Entrepreneurs should be admired for their braveness and rarity because they’re the ones that move the boundaries and eventually change the world. Whether they’re to be successful or not is secondary because God only knows.
On the other side – the founders’ side, doing a startup is not all that fun. There are some moments and period where they’re so excited and passionate and where everything is a progress. Unfortunately they don’t last very long.
A company designed to grow fast is in fact like a rapidly inflating balloon – once the company gets started, all the vulnerabilities of the young company get visibly and harshly even more vulnerable. Founders start to feel all sorts of agony responding to and fixing issues coming from every possible angle: tech crashes, product falls apart, customers won’t sign up as fast as you want (or even need), people (even your best people!) get reluctant to work fast or make changes and sometimes you’ll be forced to make decisions you don’t want.
Trust me: doing a startup is not at all glorious, and I even used to make a joke about how doing a startup was like a magnet that pulls all kinds of craps the world could give! I hope the joke made you laugh because the sad part is that it’s not really a joke as startups do pull all kinds of craps! A startup might be small, but it’s still a company and your small startup has to face and deal with all the problems that any large company would get. As you could guess, it’s only worse because you don’t have the resources or systems to deal with them!
“Doing a startup is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.”
– Elon Musk
Elon puts this as “doing a startup is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.”
You’d do everything you can to figure things out but the answers seem to be deep down in the abyss. You are trying to figure things out but the world around you never stops spinning like crazy and more problems pop out even before you find the answers to the previous problems. This whole thing is so painful so you’d feel like you’re chewing glass and inside your mouth is a bloodbath! (In fact, if you’re not feeling this pain, you’re probably not growing fast enough)
I’m not exaggerating. Elon’s not exaggerating.
People know Elon as a successful serial entrepreneur. He is a successful entrepreneur who had made $180mn from his exit from PayPal. But then he put all the money in three companies – SpaceX, Tesla and Solar City, and borrowed money to pay rents. Imagine how many sleepless nights he’s had running the then-and-still problematic companies (perhaps this is why he started having so little sleep). Doing a startup is just painful for anyone – whether it’s you, me or even Elon.
So should you not do it?
Should you not do a startup? Maybe.
I generally do not encourage people to be an entrepreneur and start a startup. As said, it’s not all that fun. It’s not at all glorious, nor people care. You might just end up being a quitter if what you’re doing is something you don’t have a good reason to endure all the pain and struggles for. Unless you can think of the pain of eating glass as only a small price to pay in taking your vision to life, then you really shouldn’t do it.
But, if you believe what you see in your vision is worth bracing and enduring such pain and struggles, then you just might as well do it. No, in fact if what you see is so powerful and you’re called on to make it happen, you must be doing it any way.
As said people won’t care about you, what you see or what you’re going through for it but it shouldn’t matter. That’s only a human nature for most people – people react to and follow successes and get blinded by them just like many of us don’t even bother to understand Elon’s struggles with Tesla or Space X. There’s absolutely no embarrassment with your struggles you should feel. Once you turn those struggles and pain into your glory, only then people will see you and praise you.
If you’ve got the vision and the calling and if you couldn’t resist but just do it, we – your fellow entrepreneurs, welcome you to our very exclusive club of entrepreneurs. You will eat glass looking for answers in the abyss and it’ll be solely on you to take on and endure the pain until your glorious moment finally comes. But just remember: you’re not the only one so proudly take on hard moments as they are in truth only tests about who you are and what you’re made of.