I was coaching a younger gentleman in his early 20′s recently and he’s trying to make the jump into entrepreneurship as he understands it. At least once he said that he want to do what I do (or at least what he perceives that I do).
He said confidently:
John, I want to be an entrepreneur.
I chuckled and quickly told him that entrepreneurship from my experience was less of a decision and more of a process because there simply wasn’t a point in my so-called career path where I decided that this was it and that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
I also shared that my story seems to be more of the typical story rather than the “lightning bolt” experience or a rapid conversion from being a 9-5 employee into the sweet milk and honey startup land. It was a process, a discovery of sorts. I continued to create value where I was and I worked on my projects at night and on the side.
I even shared with him an apparently surprising truth: I had a full time salary, a real W-2, even as recently as a few years ago. I was working for “the man” and working on my startups at the same time. How could that have been possible? I knew that I was changing paradigms quickly and I quickly shared a few additional thoughts.
I told him a few things that really opened his mind to working in a startup and/or even creating his own – you can think and believe strongly that you’re made to be an entrepreneur but you’ll never really know until you try for a consistent amount of time. You have to experiment (and experiment wisely) and see if you have the chops and sustaining interest to make it.
You need to observe and note your decisions daily and weekly to see if they are in-line with where you ultimately want to head. For example, after a long and perhaps busy (and brutal) day at the office where you are earning that valuable full-time salary, are you going home and playing video games or munching oreos on the couch while watching Dancing with the Stars?
Or are you digging in and using that time away from work on your side projects, your side business, and building the web apps that you so desperately want to build?
It’s telling, really, that all the entrepreneurs that I know were building their businesses way before they ever went full-time. I know I did. I was building applications into the wee hours of the morning after my office job and was doing it safely and wisely as my salary was supporting these unproven ideas.
He needed to do the same, take all those notes in his notebooks and actually follow-through with a few of them and see if they stick. Perhaps even a few of them will grow. He needed to learn to begin the process today and start the journey of becoming fluent with not just the vernacular of startups and entrepreneurship but the lifestyle.
Because it’s a very difficult (yet rewarding and fun) life to live! You just need to ask my wife about that one and she’ll tell you straight.
This young man had a lot to learn (as we all do) and I told him to keep the doors wide open to full-time jobs as he entertained new opportunities – he’ll need that experience (and capital) to make his future startups a reality.