A central theme in the entrepreneurial world is challenging the status quo and questioning conventional wisdom in search of new and better ways of doing things. After all, if you’re just going to follow the pack, you may as well just get a real job and call it a day.
That’s why nothing raises the hairs on the back of my neck more than everyone moving in lockstep to the same drumbeat. When a thousand shrill voices tell you to do the same thing, that’s a sure sign of groupthink. It’s also a good time to get some earplugs and do some critical thinking.
Today, there is a pervasive and nearly deafening mantra insisting that you quit your job and become an entrepreneur. The collective says you should do it today because every day you wait brings you closer to a life of poverty and regret.
But that’s simply not true. The idea that you can’t have a fulfilling career, be remarkably happy, and even get rich working for someone else is perhaps the most ludicrous, disingenuous, and irresponsible myth I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a lot.
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Don’t get me wrong. Entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding. Starting your own business may be the best decision you ever make. But it’s not for everyone. There’s a lot to consider before you take the plunge and a lot of myths to expose, starting with these.
Myth #1: It’s the only way to get rich. One article I read argues that, because the world’s top billionaires are entrepreneurs, that’s the only way to get really rich. There’s simply no data or logic to support the premise that any given person will make more money running their own business. Also, did you know that Microsoft created some 10,000 millionaires? Something to consider.
Myth #2: You should follow your passion, not the money. Yet another article says money isn’t everything and you should follow your passion. That is true, but who says you can’t do that working for someone else? Most entrepreneurs actually find their passion while working for others. That’s the best way I know to gain exposure to opportunities.
Myth #3: You’ll be happier. Last time I checked, the question of what makes you happy is entirely up to you. Most people are actually happier without the headaches, risks, burdens, hurdles and uncertainty of having their own company. Maybe they’re less happy now that everyone’s making them feel guilty about it.
Myth #4: You won’t have a boss. Wrong. Everyone has bosses. CEOs answer to their boards of directors, customers, and shareholders. Entrepreneurs also have to answer directly to regulators and bureaucrats at the federal, state and local level. Trust me, they can be pretty bossy.
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Myth #5: You’ll have more freedom, control and work-life balance. If you’re on your own, chances are you’re going to find yourself wearing all sorts of hats and working 24x7 for a very long time. Work will become your life. There’s nothing wrong with that, but not everyone feels more freedom and control that way.
Myth #6: Corporate America is evil. Here’s something I bet you’ve never considered: Every corporation – even big ones like Apple and Intel – started out as somebody’s small business. So what’s the difference? I had a fabulous career working for companies big and small in the high-tech industry. So have thousands of people I’ve known over the years.
Myth #7: You’ll be more fulfilled. You know what just about everyone loves to do? Great work that accomplishes goals they can be proud of. You can do that working for a big company, a small company, or your own company. Fulfillment has nothing to do with business ownership. If you want to manage, lead, or run a business, you’re better off learning the ropes in a good company before starting your own.
Myth #8: There are no jobs; technology and outsourcing killed them all. Shockingly untrue. If technology destroyed jobs, then what do you call the most lucrative and fastest-growing industry on Planet Earth? That’s right: technology. If you can’t find a job, chances are you lack in-demand skills or education, in which case, yes, you might want to consider starting a small business.
Myth #9: The middle class is dying. Maybe that’s true, but what’s that got to do with you, me, or anyone else? If the assumption is that, by working at someone else’s company, you’re destined to live hand-to-mouth, I can just as easily argue the opposite is true. Web 2.0, for example, squeezes entrepreneurs while employees at big companies like Google, Apple and Facebook make beaucoup bucks.
Myth #10: Quit making excuses; just do it now. If you’re struggling with the decision, there might be a very good reason for that. Maybe it’s not a well-informed decision and you feel you’re being pushed into it. Or maybe the timing isn’t right or you don’t have enough cash stashed away to survive. If your gut tells you not to do it and your instincts are usually right, you might want to listen.
Funny thing is, every article and book I’ve come across that tries to push people into entrepreneurship regardless of their circumstances was written by people who got their start working for others, didn’t quit their day job, were just plain lucky, or were so talented or well-educated that they would have made it no matter what they did.
Look, what you do with your career is your own business. Make it your business to make an informed decision. Do what’s right for you, when it’s right for you. Have faith in yourself. Everything will work out fine.