Becoming an Entrepreneur: My Journey Through The Good, The Bad and The Downright Dysfunctional
If anyone understands what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, you’ll completely relate to what I’m about to say. If not, you may learn a few things. I could start out by defining a cliche, like certain facets of starting a business, or providing advice about how to sell your ideas and become a world-class consultant or speaker (who hasn’t seen a Facebook ad for that lately?).
But, what I’d prefer to do is to be real and talk about the good, the bad and the downright dysfunctional things that occur when you are trying to start your own business. Why? Because I think that there isn’t as much honesty as their should be when it comes to “building the business of your dreams”.
So, let’s get real here.
You May Fall Into It
I’m not going to pretend that becoming an entrepreneur was something that I planned on doing with my life. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve always wanted to run by own business — in theory, but had no solid plan to start.
As a kid, if I didn’t have a plan to become a doctor or a government worker, I wasn’t going to amount to anything; or at least that was life according to my Sicilian grandfather who went straight into General Motors for 35 years after marrying his high school sweet heart at 19.
I was a dreamer and started dreaming of becoming a writer at 4 years old with my grandmother’s typewriter. I actually found my first poem the other day and it definitely lacked imagination — outside of the fact that I was in love with the color yellow.
To this day, I am not a poet.
After starting what my family referred to as the “perfect job” as a 20 year old government worker, I realized that the more paper I pushed, the more brain cells I lost. After 5 years, I had to get out. I had convinced myself that I was going to die with nothing to show for myself but a boring, meaningless and monotonous life. There had to be something more out there, and I was going to find it.
After leaving the government, I spent several years of working in multiple industries. When I finally left to become a full time entrepreneur, what I didn’t realize is that leaving the comforts of stability would lead me falling into the meaningful chaos that I would define as entrepreneurship.
There are three primary reasons why I found myself falling into entrepreneurship:
- Any industry that I had worked in had forced me into a silo of ignorance. I was only being exposed to one, singular vein of business and became easily distracted by emerging trends outside of those silos and wanted to learn more than what I was being exposed to.
- I had no ability to utilize my creative expression or to learn. After constantly being told that my “drive” was bothering others and I was told not to rock the boat, I found myself in what I considered to be the last entrapping situation I ever wanted to encounter on the job.
- I found myself being “managed” by individuals that I had no respect for. I know what you’re thinking — I must have been a difficult person to work with and I’m projecting my issues onto management. The reality is, when you’re being asked to cook books and execute unethical business practices, saying that puts a “damper” on your job is an understatement.
Point three is the reason why I fell into entrepreneurship. I fell because I left positions that asked me to break the law, dampened my spirit and turned down creative thought. Shocking? Actually it happens much more than you think — the simple truth is that no one wants to talk about it.
Right out the gate, when I started my consulting company, I killed it — just like Wonder Woman. Boom — bad guy (aka business problem) dead on contact. Knocked out. On to the next project. For months, things were going super well. I was working with new businesses, seeing numbers climb and even worked with some MMA guys. Awesome, right?
When I fell into entrepreneurship, I felt like I was finally at the top of the world. I was my own boss. I knew what I had to do. I created my own resources and I was ready to attack any problem I faced.
Working primarily in digital marketing, I loved what I was doing and did well. Breaking barriers with small business and teaching them the building blocks of what it means to be functional, I loved my job. However, I came across one major problem… or maybe a few.
Saying that your first year out on your own is feast or famine is an understatement, despite how well I did. My first year was actually quite a financial struggle. Without having the grapevine and utilizing the internet, accumulating new clients and keeping the ball rolling would have been impossible. THIS is why most people consult at a more tenured position in their life.
At the end of your career in the public world, you’re typically able to refine your network in a way that benefits your endeavors. The “bad” part of my experience is simply that while I had a decent network — it wasn’t the right kind of network.
So what does that mean?
- Your network is everything. To borrow a commonly used phrase from one of the most influential networking experts I’ve ever met, Harvey Mackay, your network literally is everything. Even though I always wanted this to be false, if you don’t have the right connections, you won’t get the kind of business you need to be successful. Having connections that are void of value, no matter their position in society, is useless in my book. It took time for me to do this, but by connecting with the right people with complimentary interests— I made it.
- Be yourself. The key to enhancing your network is one, important thing: be genuine. Generally speaking, people are not dumb and can tell if you’re being fake or have no idea what you’re talking about. My passion for knowledge and to help others is what helped me succeed — not my lack of knowledge and wanting to make money. I’ve always been famous for saying, “We either click or we don’t. Either way, there’s purpose in everything”. Sometimes you may not meet people that you click with, but don’t try to change yourself to grow your network. Those relationships are void of substance and will result in a bad return.
I could sit here and highlight more bullet points like a true guru, but I’m going to stop here just so I don’t taint my soul with cliche writing.
Bottom line — there’s always going to be a “bad” in your journey to entrepreneurship. The bigger point of action is how you deal with it and extracting the good.
This — this is the toughest, most honest part of this article. It’s not easy to express this without being completely honest, but the most dysfunctional part of entrepreneurship is having to deal with completely dysfunctional people.
In my situation, as a consultant, I came across multiple situations where the whim of my client’s emotional state determined the outcome of our project(s) — resulting in mostly successes, but some huge failures. If you find yourself working with someone who has an imbalance in their mental decision making department — run and run fast in the opposite direction.
This is the dangerous part of having a sub-par network and is also something that is unavoidable. People who are emotionally unstable (anger problems, overly aggressive, overly sad or weepy, or even emotionless) are dangerous and will wreak havoc on your goals. Run from these people as quickly as possible and run quickly. I wish I had.
Now don’t start bombing the comments section with politically correct rhetoric about the reality of emotional imbalance — that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about avoiding working with people in positions of authority that have no idea how or when to use it appropriately — something that many times is dictated or acted upon by emotional instability.
The Bottom Line
Believe it or not, there really is a point to all of this. Is this an essay or magazine article telling you how to achieve your best life now? No, it’s most definitely not. This is an article providing you with a few key pieces of advice from real life to help you along in your journey through entrepreneurship.
It’s not always pretty, but it truly can be one of the most invigorating dares you’ll ever accept.
If I can suggest one more thing, it’s to never, ever be afraid to tell someone “no”. Whether it’s your business partner, or multi-million dollar client, “no” is the most effective and beneficial word you can implement. This is especially true among the emotionally unstable crowd. They will want to try and do everything, and if you don’t set boundaries, your plans for success will be ruined.
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