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Sacrificial Rites

In the ceremony we call entrepreneurship, it's often family, friends and finances that end up on the altar.

You hear countless "happy" stories about single moms who've turned family recipes into multimillion-dollar businesses, or Disney and Microsoft dropouts who used their corporate training to turn themselves into Internet icons. It's no wonder there's been an entrepreneurial craze lately-creating and running successful companies looks so darned easy. Forget self-help books-entrepreneurial success stories are some of the most inspirational things in print today.

Glaringly absent from most of those cheery stories, however, are the mental stress of not knowing whether you'll have to steal that next roll of toilet paper from a public restroom because future income is so uncertain, the ill will of loved ones who didn't make your to-do list, and the recurring migraines from two hours of sleep per night and a diet of fast food and coffee. Instead, they're glossed over with a thick coat of "But now our sales are (insert commendable figure), and our client list is 100 strong." It's not just the media's fault. Getting a business off the ground is somewhat analogous to natural childbirth: The pain is so excruciating, you begin to doubt you'll make it through-you might even cry out "No more!" But when you're presented with that beautiful bundle, those tortured thoughts become sweet memories . . . most of the time.

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This article was originally published in the February 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Sacrificial Rites.

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