The Internet is both the best and the worst thing that happened to entrepreneurs. On one hand, you can start a business with very little money and connect with a lot of people within minutes via email. On the other hand, the Internet (or “Internet marketing gurus,” whatever that means) made everyone believe that running a business is easy and anybody can do it. Even the guy who wrote a book about working four hours a week works over 50 hours a week himself.
The problem of thinking that something is easy has to do with expectations. Imagine you go on a road trip with a friend. You ask how long the drive’s going to be and she says five hours. If you get there in four hours, you’ll feel the trip was great and that you got to your destination very quickly. But if she had said it would take three hours and it takes you four hours, toward the end of the trip you’ll start thinking “we were supposed to be there by now.”
Both trips took four hours; the only difference were your expectations. It’s the same with business: when you start a business thinking it will be easy and you realize that’s not the case, you get discouraged. I know so many people that call themselves entrepreneurs, but they can’t stick with anything. They work on a project for a few weeks, then they put it on the back burner and work on something else for a while, until they get bored and look for something new to start.
Very few businesses succeed in the first two years. This is especially true for first-time entrepreneurs. Why? Because running a successful business is very difficult and you need a very diverse skillset to do it right. Not only do you need to be great at marketing, operations and finances, but you also need to master key mental skills, like staying strong when things aren’t working out, or having the self-confidence to go to a client’s office and persuade them to hire your company.
My point is that although all these skills can be learned, it doesn’t happen in a few weeks. You don’t become a great guitar player or football player in a few weeks; the same is true for running a business.
Don’t jump from project to project. Pick one that you’re passionate about and don’t stop until you succeed. Get out of your comfort zone often; doing things you’ve never done before is the only way to grow. Ask for help; find other entrepreneurs with whom to share ideas and find a mentor or two to guide you along the way. Don’t let your pride convince you that you have to do everything alone; smart people ask for help all the time.
And most importantly, keep in mind that your self-confidence will keep building up the more you achieve. The first time I did public speaking, I sucked. The second time it was OK. The tenth time it was pretty good. This was partially because I picked up some new skills, but also because the more you do something, the more you start believing in yourself.
Find something you love and focus exclusively on it. It will be hard, but if you work your butt off, you’ll be OK. Ask for help and do what your business needs you to do (whether you like it or not). Are you dreading making that sales call? Be aware of how that makes you feel (“this is what fear feels like”) and make the call anyway. Your second call will be much easier than your first one, and after ten calls, your fear level will go way down.
But you can’t wait until it “feels right” to make the first call, because it will never happen. In fact, the more you avoid doing something, the bigger the monster gets. Being an entrepreneur requires you to do a lot of things you don’t feel comfortable doing. There’s no way around it. You can’t be an entrepreneur if you’re not willing to get out of your comfort zone, the same way you can’t become a professional cyclist if you’re not willing to ride a bicycle. You need to make a decision, and if you decide that running a business is not for you, there’s no shame in it. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. But if you’re willing to make some sacrifices and work hard, welcome to the club! There’s no greater reward than building a business, creating a great product, giving people jobs and having the freedom to work on something you love on your own schedule.