Why do so few of us follow our passions in life? Most of us go to work, to jobs we don’t love, working tireless hours for someone else’s vision and dream. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll have a great boss who motivates and inspires you to do better and friendly colleagues that support each other, as you all face daily internal and external challenges. And when your day is done, you get home feeling neither high nor low, just fortunate to be employed.
For those that aren’t so lucky, it’s a challenge to even get through each day. You dread waking up and having to go into work, your boss has an inferiority complex and makes your life very difficult, you’re part of a culture where you always feel like your job is at risk and are surrounded by colleagues that are so infused with fear, they stab each other in the back to get ahead.
While the first example sounds much better than the second, neither should be acceptable. Life is too precious and short for us to spend even one second of our day not doing something we love.
So why don’t people take "leaps of faith" to do what they love? Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not knowing where to begin. Fear of not making money. Fear of losing insurance coverage. Fear of upsetting their family. The list of fears goes on and on. Those fears are certainly warranted, but at what cost?
"It took me twelve years of sprinting up the corporate ladder, living to work, moving six times, relationships being destroyed and compromising my values and beliefs to finally wake up and realize, I had jeopardized everything I was passionate about: traveling, getting married, having children, and becoming an entrepreneur. Now, I don’t want to come across as a victim because I definitely could’ve had better balance in my life. However, I was so fixated on getting to the next level each time, despite feeling constant stress and anxiety, that I lost all sense of what was important to me," explains James Adamy, CEO of Ju-mp. He, like me, left a cushy corporate job to start a business he is passionate about, helping professionals network with the right business mentors and coaches to solve professional problems.
Six years ago I took the leap from someone else's dream to start building my own company, Due. Here are tips I've learned from experience and from the mentors and coaches who have guided me through the process.
1. Mitigate fear.
Why do we feel fear? Fear is a product of uncertainty, and any entrepreneur knows that a startup is filled with uncertainty. So, in order to mitigate fears, we must put strategic plans in place that have tangible outcomes. Plan several months prior to help ensure a seamless transition.
Sometimes the best way to mitigate fear is by walking through each worst case scenario, and realizing that the failure isn't so bad. As long as you plan for the worst case, you can take better measures to avoid them.
Sometimes we even fear success. Starting a new business may lead to more work, more money, more opportunities, which can also lead to less time, losing friends, and a dwindling social life. Think about creating a work-life balance to embrace the success rather than fear it.
2. Develop a network.
Immediately become immersed in your new passion outside of work at every opportunity. Attend local meetups, seminars and conferences, and reach out to people on various professional and social networks. Do everything possible to start meeting people who can potentially become clients and/or business colleagues. You'll need to start thinking strategically about experts and the right people to be as lean as possible.
3. Learn and develop new skill sets.
While many of the skills you learned in corporate America are transferable, a startup is a whole new challenge. Read books and blogs, take online courses and find mentors/coaches who will help you through the challenging times.
Often following a passion means trying something you're familiar with, but the business and leadership aspects are a little more challenging. Managing a team in corporate America and rallying under-paid, equity owners in a startup are two very different challenges. Skilling up in finance, negotiation, operations, and every hat a CEO needs to wear is a surefire way of guaranteeing success.
4. Run your personal finances like a startup.
This will never be exact, but put some rough numbers together for the following: How much are my startup costs? When do I anticipate generating revenue? How much? Overhead? Can I get a loan?
Once you come up with your number, add a few more months for your runway and use that to establish how much money you’ll need in the bank before you part ways with your current organization.
There are two costs you need to consider, your own personal financial situation, and the finance of your startup. Start cutting back all the unnecessaries in your life to get your personal "burn rate" down to a minimum, then calculate a year's worth of runway to provide a windfall. Bootstrap your own personal life to start adapting to what it will be like owning a startup and applying principles to your own finances.
Having a support system is so important for success. Knowing that you have family and friends cheering you on can make all the difference in the world. If for some reason that’s not the case, you can always fall back on the like-minded individuals you met at conferences, meetups, etc.
Related: How to Finance a Startup Today