When I quit my job at a Top 4 consulting firm in London a few years ago and moved to India, I knew I wanted to switch gears and work independently rather than become a salaried employee again. The process, though exciting in theory was actually very scary. Entrepreneurship was a buzz-word then that was getting everybody excited. What people didn’t highlight was the dark side.
So you’ve finally made one of the most difficult decisions of your life and started your own business: congratulations on making the leap!
Ok, now what? No one ever tells you how daunting it’s going to be.
You hear the success stories of Mark Zuckerburg, Steve Jobs (who needs college?), other Joe Billionaires and you think – why have I wasted so much time on doing things the right way? Top marks to get into college, top marks in college to get a good job, work hard at the job to get a promotion, etc… Well, truth be told it’s because not everyone is a genius. More importantly, we don’t all discover exactly what it is that we want to do for the rest of our lives at the age of 17.
For the rest of us, that process is a journey, one that is experienced on a path of experimenting with different majors at college, maybe taking a few months off to travel and ‘discover ourselves’ or working at a range of places with a diverse set of people for many many years until we finally realise that there is more to life than this.
Once we finally figure out that carving out our own path is what we want to do, not all of us are fortunate enough to pursue this dream. It is only due to our extensive support network (partners, families, friends), and savings or financial support from loved ones that we can take the bold move of letting go of our safety net and taking a plunge in the deep, dark unknown waters that we call ‘entrepreneurship.’
And once you finally make that plunge, that cold water hits you like a slap on the face. And then a few weeks pass and you begin to panic and feel like you are drowning. You are filled with self-doubt. What am I doing? You ask yourself, ‘why on earth did I let go of that net in the first place?’ You reminisce about all the ‘good times’ in the office: the lunches with friends, the free drinks at the company socials, the guaranteed pay cheque and benefits at the end of the month and perhaps most importantly, it’s the prestige you miss. Deep down, you know you hated every minute of working for that ‘Tier 1’ company but there was a certain satisfaction you had when you announced at dinner parties, networking events, amongst your in-laws friend’s, and every other Tom, Dick and Harry “that I work for so-so company.” Everyone had heard of it.
Suddenly that’s been replaced with “um, I’m starting up my own thing.” Remember when you were a graduate in college and you met alumni at networking events. Who was more impressive? The investment banker from the top firm or someone who said they were ‘trying out something new’ or ‘following their passion.’ Your automatic thought was ‘ohhhhh he must’ve not made it through the big firms, what a loser. I hope I don’t end up like him.’ Now you wouldn’t even have enough extra cash in your pocket to buy yourself and the aforementioned loser a drink at the local pub.
Oh my. How the tables have turned.
My point here is not to depress you. It’s to remind you of WHY you are where you are.
So here’s a lifejacket:
5 reasons why you are better off now:
- Your job SUCKED. If it didn’t – you wouldn’t have left. (I don’t need to elaborate on this point any further)
- You HATED your BOSS. Remember when you used to daydream about poisoning your boss or saying @$!% YOU and leaving? Well, you finally had the courage to make that happen. (Hopefully not the poison bit). Take pride in it. Whenever I used to get discouraged, I reminded myself of how my manager used to politely ask me to ‘fetch her shoes’ from her locker. Conjure up a similar memory (I’m sure you have many) and keep it handy. You will need it. Now you are your own boss. It’s scary because there’s no one telling you what to do and by when to do it, but remember it’s also immensely liberating.
- You were UNDERVALUED. You are WAY more valuable than what you were earning (including the fringe benefits of dinners, drinks, company retreats, etc). You don’t believe me? Divide your annual salary by the ACTUAL number of hours you worked. It will depress you.
- The environment was UNINSPIRING and STUNTED your GROWTH. Remember all those new ideas you had that would get shot down? In my previous organisation, “out of the box thinking” was synonymous with “let’s take a really safe and guaranteed-to-please idea and present it in a new way, without deviating from the branded colour palette, of course.” It’s no surprise that the senior leadership rejected the new and bold. Anyone who stays around in a toxic environment long enough will stunt his/her creativity. I could feel that happen to me. I just couldn’t think outside the confines of the accepted framework. That’s when you know it’s time to BREAK the damn box and shoot out of there.
- Share your BRILLIANCE. You have an amazing idea. You NEED to share it with the world. Or you will always regret it. You were proud to say it out loud that you worked for SO&SO company but how did you feel when you got home? Did you have sound sleep at night? Did you wake up with a smile on your face? I bet not. Learn to be happy living for yourself and not others. I know it’s hard. But remember, if your idea works those same people who mocked you will praise you as if they were the ones who were behind your success story. Here the cynics will say, ‘But what if my idea doesn’t work, and I fail?’
Does it really matter?
Remind yourself that an idea not working isn’t the same as saying you met with failure. “Failure isn’t the opposite of success; it’s part of success.” If you don’t fail you don’t learn. Failing would be if you never had the strength to get in the deep, cold water in the first place or if you simply gave up once the waters got rough. Maybe you need a different strategy to navigate the waters next time but at least you know that you have the gusto to stay afloat and not drown. More importantly, you are captain of your own ship and can choose where you need to go. The possibilities are endless.
Remember, you are not alone.