I am writing this while sitting on the bus, on my way back home from a day business trip to NYC. My feet are blistered despite the half-a-box of Band-Aids that I used up during the day of walking/running from one meeting to another. My right eye is bloodshot because I have completely failed to get any sleep this week (OK, last week and the week before that also.) My voice is coarse from all the talking and my right hand is cramping from all the typing. I have a fugly-looking red welt in my right shoulder from carrying my enormous laptop around all day. And I am too scared to look in my inbox because I’ve not yet gone on one business trip when either (1) there wasn’t some crisis on the site or (2) something going on at home.
And this was one of the better days.
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to be totally exhausted and wiped out, but the reverse is true — you will be totally exhausted and wiped out as an entrepreneur. I’ve been doing this full-time for over a year now and as I’ve written about here before, it’s been, by a huge degree, the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my career, and to be honest, in my life. When I immigrated to the US with my family I went through hell, but I was 14, I didn’t have a family to provide for, and after the kids at my school stopped making fun of me and trashing my locker on a daily basis, and my father got a job so we could go off welfare, things got easier. I’ve yet to meet an entrepreneur whose life is easy.
And yet — here comes my BIG thought of the day — I think everyone should be an entrepreneur at some point in their life. I don’t mean that everyone should start a company. Being an entrepreneur, to me, means creating something from scratch, starting something that wasn’t there before, taking an idea and making it real. There are many degrees of entrepreneurship, from dedicating yourself to starting a business full-time to writing a book while you work your regular day gig. But I firmly believe that ALL forms of entrepreneurship require a great degree of creativity, stamina, ability to pick yourself up after getting rejected, and learning to be an optimist when the odds are stacked against you. And in my not-so-humble opinion, those are the things worth living through and growing through.
I’ll be honest with you, some days I don’t drink my own Kool-aid. I start to miss my old job, with its cushy paycheck and fancy office. I remember the good days, when I felt like one sharp cookie strutting around in my suit and patent leather high heels, and compare them to the bad days when I feel really stupid learning my way around running a company. Apples to oranges, but I do it anyway.
And then I go to have lunch with someone who knew me in my prior life. And invariably they tell me that I look and talk differently, more energized, more alive. They say they’ve never seen me like that. They say that they don’t notice the blood-shot eyes because my face lights up when I talk about what I do. â€œTheyâ€ are right.
I made a presentation recently to a group of investors and one of them emailed me afterwards. This guy is a super-duper successful entrepreneur who has started and sold several great companies. He wrote to me that he remembers this part of entrepreneurship, the early brutal years when it’s truly about day-to-day survival for you and your business, and that he misses it. “The high of getting through it is addictive,” he wrote. I printed out the email and put it in my planner.
Hi, my name is Nataly, and I am an entrepreneurship addict.