Anyone who has ever punched a clock before has had a fantasy about pushing away from their desk, standing up and tossing meeting notes in the air, and then proceeding to walk out of the door forever, in search of their own small business over the horizon.
I mean really. There is something so draining about office politics, corporate check-the-box meetings, and personalities who don’t play well with others. The rigidity of the 9-5 grind comes with one really, really powerful trade off: guaranteed income. And in today’s world, in which we don’t have to hunt food or trek across mountains when snow is on the way, money is power. The almighty dollar buys you security, validation, stuff (lots of stuff), and sometimes, self-esteem.
Despite that nice stability and flowing income, people still feel stuck and romanticize the concept of working for themselves. More times than not, I have heard, “I want to start my own business,” or, “I wish I could do that!” when I tell people what I do. It’s not all yoga pants and Instagram filters, but of course, since social media gives a highlight reel and acts as the primary marketing tool for folks whether they own a business or not- people get a fantasy version of what it takes to ditch status quo and work on your own watch.
Hard is a relative word. What seems hard for me may be a piece of cake to someone else with a different outlook or personality. Likewise, what seems easy for me may be extremely difficult for an onlooker. So while I could say that working for yourself is hard, that’s not fair…because it’s just that you have to agree to a different set of values.
For example, you have to be willing to be ignored and rejected. In my corporate job, if people ignored my emails more than once, I could talk to their boss. There is an obligation to respond. In self-employment, all bets are off. You are initially told no more than you are yes, and you are ignored by people who you have known for years. It happens. It’s not personal. And you have to keep going.
You also have to be willing to work wonky hours, most days of the week. I applaud writers like Tim Ferris who wrote The Four Hour Workweek, but for people who didn’t inherit a wad of cash and have to boot-strap their way to success, there aren’t even four hour days, much less four-hour work weeks. If you think 9-5 is a long time to be at work, then you aren’t ready for a 5am wakeup call only to go to bed at midnight because you’re putting together a proposal for a client. You claim yourself as a dependent to coffee in this life.
It may seem like I’m downing the self-employed lifestyle, but I’m just being real about the trade-offs. This last one is what really threw me for a loop when I first started working for myself in 2013.
Passion is not enough.
Nope. It’s not.
And this is coming from a dreamer.
Passion does not pay the mortgage. It fuels the smarts, the motivation, the determination, the resiliency, the work ethic, and the savvy, but all alone, passion won’t get you too far.
I learned that the hard way.
Passion won’t pick you up after rejection, nor will it make you keep going after you have put out your work that doesn’t succeed over and over again.
Passion by itself will swindle your savings account and make you feel like a failure. I wish someone had told me that it takes more than loving what you’re doing, so I could have stopped romanticizing entrepreneurship and had a realistic view of what it is, and why so many people won’t try it.
What you must have above all else is commitment, and that’s not a very sexy word these days. It’s must easier to jump ship or switch jobs, partners, hair colors, gyms- than it is to commit to the inner strength required to do something great…even if that’s not running a small business. You have to be willing to let your world be rocked and keep going. And that’s when life gets real.
The romance of dreaming about big things can only become reality if you choose to weather the storm and commit…and, this time around, I do not want to jump ships on my dreams. What greatness are you working on that is begging for your commitment?