Entrepreneurship is a Process, Not a Decision

You don't always decide who you'll end up being... you become it in time.

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. tweet

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.

  • http://PointContentWriting.blogspot.com Anna B

    This is great! I sometimes feel wimpy that I am doing my business on the side while working full time. This really helps validate my decision. All of the ‘quit your job and take the leap’ hype you see online can make you feel like a wimp sometimes! :-)

    • http://www.about.me/benterry Ben Terry

      comparison is the thief of joy. keep working hard and do what works best for you and your goals.

      • http://PointContentWriting.blogspot.com Anna B

        Very true. Thanks for the encouragement to continue to find my own path. I wish you the best!

  • Josh Tandy

    Thanks John,

    Keep pushing the hard, unsexy truth that those who have “made it” didn’t just fall out of the sky.

    • http://www.about.me/benterry Ben Terry

      The unsexy truth is what people don’t want to talk about because its like you said it’s “unsexy”.

      Many want the sexy part of being an entrepreneur and not willing to do the little things that are necessary. Thanks for sharing, Josh.

  • Christina Faith

    Awesome article. Entreprenuership isn’t something you jump into. Having a regular job is a neccesity until your business begins to monetize. I have been on both sides of the spectrum. The grind of business and work is far more difficult on your body. However, the grind of business with no money can easily cause your passion to fade.

    • http://www.about.me/benterry Ben Terry

      You bring up a great point Christina about the effects on our health. We need to work hard but we also must rest hard so that we can focus on the essentials.

      John has a great article on having a unique focus and not being another mediocre worker —-> http://john.do/unique-focus/

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Agreed. I think DRIVE is the big word. So many seem to want to be entrepreneurs simply because they perceive it as freedom but what many don’t realize is that most entrepreneurs do it for much more than freedom (since many work way more than 40 hours). It’s an internal DRIVE that causes us to start on the side, work late at night after our families have gone to bed, get up early, etc. Makes me think of a quote I heard… “If it’s important you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.” Entrepreneurs are about finding a way and making a way but they do it smart… most build a bridge before they need to cross it.

  • http://www.mikezserdin.com Mike J. Zserdin

    John, great words on the fact the entrepreneurs you know build their deal long before they invest in their deal full time. Lots of layers of wisdom in that observation.

    Great thoughts. Great reminders.


  • http://theannoyinglife.com/ Kevin Martin

    To be a good entrepreneur is to experiment, but one needs financial security (a stable income source) while experimenting to support himself and his ideas. I hear what you’re saying John!

  • http://projectwhitespace.com bethany jo lee

    Hi John, this is just the message i needed today. I was feeling tired today because i am doing just this: working full time and working on my own side project. Sometimes i wish i could quit my day job so i can invest fully in my own thing but i am not to that poinn. Not even close actually. I do need the capital right now so i can keep investing in my own project. I just wrote a post about this actually–about investing in your own dreams. You can’t do that financially if you don’t have money coming from somewhere and we are our own best financial supporters when it comes to just getting started. Thanks for the reminder, and that this is all just a part of the process.

    • http://PointContentWriting.blogspot.com Anna B

      It’s tough, isn’t it? I am doing the same thing, and it can be exhausting. However, I know it is worth it, and will be even more worth it when I can take that step out on my own knowing I’ve built a solid foundation in my business.

  • Kyle

    Great post, John! Thanks for reminding me that it takes work to get my business up.

  • http://bakedsocialmedia.com/ Russell Allert

    Great post. I think the term “entrepreneur” needs to cast out. It comes with way to much baggage and perceptions these days.

    Just do something and sort it out later. Enough with the labels already! :)


  • http://about.me/chrislangille Chris Langille

    This post really hits home John. I’m doing the exact same thing.

    9-5, then working on my own thing at night. Taking that leap isn’t easy as people make it out to be.

  • Justin Ham

    The young gentleman is a very lucky man to have had this experience. I bet he’s listening and doing all that you said.

  • http://www.everydaylanguagelearner.com Aaron

    Great post and very encouraging. I often get the picture listening and reading to some that the “cubicle” is for losers and lert behinds. I love the thought of you “continuing to add value” at the job. Too many seem to check out so they can do what they want. Good stuff all around. Enjoying the process!

  • http://www.danapittman.com Dana

    Wash, Rinse, Repeat. I started my first business over 10 years ago. But this remains true. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. It’s the action of working and reworking your ideas, your plans.

    Great post.