I knew it would be hard to get people to call me back; I knew the original idea would change; I knew I would have to scrap, claw, and hustle for every sale.
I never realized how hard it would be just to get out of bed in the morning.
I have been a full time entrepreneur, working on my startup Radici Travel for 39 days. During that time most of my MBA friends have posted photos or updates detailing their European Adventures or the satisfaction of getting a fat paycheck after two lean years. In contrast, I know that I have about 2 months of runway left before I need to shift a little more of my focus to Uber driving so I can continue to work day in and day out without pay. I live in constant fear that the idea is not good enough, that my execution is all wrong, that I simply might not be cut out to build something from nothing. The psychological roadblocks are the toughest to get through because there is no one to force me to get out of bed and get to work, no internet use policy to keep me off time suck websites, and no boss to get on me if I am not achieving goals. Entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic by nature and we often hear the success stories with the obligatory “it’s lots of work…it’s really hard” caveats, but it all works out. This can be both an inspiration or a dagger depending on where the mental compass is pointing that day.
I recently read Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things, however, and he has a whole chapter on the Struggle. How every entrepreneur faces these psychological challenges and lists many of them out. (You can read excerpts here).
The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.
The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer.
As I read these, too many of them rang all too true for me, but then I got to the last lines:
Every great entrepreneur from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg went through The Struggle and struggle they did, so you are not alone. But that does not mean that you will make it. You may not make it. That is why it is The Struggle.
The Struggle is where greatness comes from.
The psychological challenges are omnipresent, they aren’t going to go away, but it isn’t just me and it isn’t a reflection on my abilities. As I high school runner in the last race of my career, I broke through a mental barrier to shave 3 seconds off my 800m time in one race, something that had previously taken me 2 years to do, and helped set a new school record in the half mile relay. The year before, however, I failed to qualify for the 1500m in my last chance of the season and broke a rib while coughing convulsively after the race. I might not make it, but I’ve never been one to not try. If I could get value from a failed race and a broken rib, I can certainly get my ass out of bed in the morning and push the business forward.