How Much Pain Can You Take? How do you know if being an entrepreneur is in your DNA?
Like professional athletes, entrepreneurs must train and prepare themselves mentally, physically and emotionally. Yet unlike athletes, entrepreneurs don't get to relax during the offseason. Starting a business is easy but building one, gaining traction, and scaling your idea into a viable business enterprise is a bloodsport. It’s a 24/7/365 extreme environment of wear and tear on the entrepreneur and those around them.
As a founder, you have to be on every day all day. That pressure to perform is even higher for young entrepreneurs who are constantly forced to prove themselves before customers, investors, and employees. True entrepreneurs that succeed over time are like UFC fighters who can run an ultra-marathon while being punched and kicked with a smile on their face.
Here's how to build up that much-needed endurance and tolerance to three of the most common forms of entrepreneurial pain. Learn how to win, in spite of the setbacks and your never-ending schedule and you will be one of the few that build a lifelong career in the startup game.
Tolerance is often built by learning to produce results with no cash reserves or sporadic and unpredictable cash flows. To get through this process with only a minimal amount of pain, program in small, achievable milestones whenever possible -- noting the costs and your expected return on investment next to each milestone. This process will help you track your revenues and expenses and help you figure out how much to reinvest organically into your business. It'll also give you a chance to stay cash-flow positive while you build toward the ultimate vision.
Tolerance comes from working through lawsuits, disputes, betrayals, and unintended-yet-catastrophic missed communications or a lack of alignment. The best ways to build endurance for partnerships and deals is to become a master communicator and listener. This is easier said than done, but it'll help to bone up on personal-development books and programs, as well as spend ample time networking. Whether it's with the barista at the local coffee shop or the bank tellers at your branch get into the habit of building relationships every chance you get. Working on your most basic interpersonal skills should, ultimately, teach you how to read people's non-verbal communications, as well as cultivate intuition about who to partner with. It'll also help you recognize when a partnership is heading south.
Tolerance also stems from going through hard times. True champions find a way to contribute from the sideline during those times. They make plans and take action to restore themselves to a competitive capacity again. Being able to honestly assess your contribution and ask for help is a fine line that will be adjusted over time, but you typically learn the balance by failing to achieve it in multiple prior efforts. But you might also be more helpful to your business if you take the time you need to work through your personal or physical setbacks. After all, the goal is to once again be a productive member of your team as quickly as possible.
BONUS TIP: Pick your spouse or significant other very wisely. It has been said that for a person with BIG DREAMs their significant other needs a BIG VISION and PATIENCE. Someone who is willing to “ride or die” while riding shotgun on this rollercoaster while you call the shots is a rare bird. They are the true “silent” warriors and often have an even higher pain tolerance than the entrepreneur out in front whom they love and support. Honor them by kicking ass even when you are flat on your back.
Changing your world, or the world at large is no small undertaking. Anyone can get a job and earn a check every Friday. But someone with the entrepreneurial dna can create value for customers, innovate, create jobs, make a dent in society, give back from abundance and truly live a life of continuous excitement and discovery. Some things, in the end, are worth the pain.
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(updated and revised by the author Chris J Snook from an article originally published in Entrepreneur.com in 2012.)