You might be an entrepreneur if…you keep working on your business despite everyone around you telling you it’s a failure and you should just get a real job.
“Have you ever thought about just shutting everything down and going and working for someone else?”
That’s the way people usually phrase it. Oh they mean well, but they don’t understand. I heard a piece on Marketplace the other day about Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks that struck to the heart of it.
The relevant part was this:
…in 1986 with my wife pregnant with our first child, her father asked to come over and see me and he went for a walk and this is in the early stages of the kernel of the idea and I was not drawing a salary and we were really struggling, and we were trying to raise money and having a hard time. And we were going for a walk and he said let’s sit down. We sat down on a park bench and he said to me with my daughter seven-eight months pregnant and she working and you not bringing in a salary I want to ask you to do something and that is to give up this dream and hobby and get a job. And I remember I started to cry because I was so embarrassed. But I couldn’t do it.
And that was a moment where I remember walking back where I just had this conversation with myself saying what am I going to do, and I felt so certainly personally responsible for everything he said and I couldn’t disagree with anything but I could not give up this dream. And walking back I said to him you know I heard everything you said and I’m highly respectful of it but you’re just going to have to trust me that everything is going to work out; I can’t give this up.
That sums up in so many ways how I have felt on so many occasions. I’ve had people tell me it’s my responsibility to give up, to get a real job so that my wife isn’t supporting us. What makes it hard is that I know they’re right, and yet there’s something inside of me that’s also telling me that I’m on the right path, that this is going to work out at some point.
For better or for worse, I can’t give up on my dream. It would be like running a marathon and in sight of the finish line stopping, saying “You know, I’m close enough, let’s just call it a day” and then walking to the sideline and drinking a gallon of water and eating a steak. The principal difference is that I’m not sure where the finish line is, and everybody around me believes there is no finish line at all and that I’m running crazily with no end in sight.
Maybe there is something that could happen that would make me give it up. I don’t have any kids, but if my wife got pregnant that would complicate things. If I had a bad accident that would be a challenge. If the economy fell hard and nobody wanted websites any more that could change things. But for the time being I still feel like all the elements are there for success, I just need to figure some things out and it will come together. But just quit because I’m not making enough money to pay myself? Never. But it’s not because I’m ambitious, motivated, or greedy. There is simply a drive inside me and I’m afraid that if I quit and got a job working for a large beauracracy that drive might be suffocated, and without it something inside me would die, and when I think about it then not drawing a salary for a time doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.