My parents are amazing. I can confidently say I couldn't have found success without them.
But, when I started my first business, the toughest thing was convincing them that the entrepreneurial journey (rather than a degree in engineering or an MBA program) was best for me.
How did I win them over?
The key to convince conservative parents to support your entrepreneurial dreams is to prepare them in advance. Make sure they know this isn't a spur-of-the-moment idea. Otherwise, they could be caught off guard, try to protect you from what they see as certain failure and even go so far as to disown you in an attempt to make you see reason. Here are five critical steps to achieve entrepreneurial freedom and increase the chances your parents will respect your ambitions -- even if they don't support them.
1. Figure out your own version of success
Parents who are fundamentally risk-averse will probably never fully support your entrepreneurial dreams. Their role as parents is to keep you safe and ensure you don’t have to go through the same struggles they did.
Jay Kim, host of the popular Asia-based podcast The Jay Kim Show, was the son of two first-generation Korean immigrants. His father’s first job in America was making $2 an hour as a janitor, which he gladly took to ensure Kim could have a stable future.
“I spent the first half of my career trying to please my parents, who had struggled so much to give me the best chance to succeed. The problem was that their version of success involved me climbing the stable corporate ladder, whereas my version was being my own boss,” says Kim during our conversation.
Kim advises not to waste years of your youth trying to please your parents. If you’re a true entrepreneur at heart, then betraying who you are will lead to unhappiness for everyone in the long run. If you have a strong vision of what you want to achieve as an entrepreneur, then start working immediately towards that goal.
2. Don’t quit your day job
Once you’ve figured out what you want to pursue, don’t run out and quit your day job immediately unless you want to give your parents a shock. Instead, be the best employee you can while building a track record of success. Conservative, hard-working parents want to see that you can cut it as a professional and that you’re not choosing entrepreneurship because you’re lazy or can’t hack it in a traditional career. If you’re crushing it at your day job, your parents won’t question your work ethic or discipline.
Be patient. Keep your day job, be successful, and exercise your entrepreneurial muscles as much as you can get away with, and prepare for the day when you can show your parents that you’re quitting the 9 to 5 because you want to and that you can go back to it and be successful anytime you want.
3. Pay your dues
Gary Vaynerchuk knew he was an entrepreneur at age 10, when he made up to $1,400 on weekends selling baseball cards at New Jersey malls. Vaynerchuk couldn’t have cared less about building a track record in school -- he got only four A’s during all of high school, and all of them were in gym. When his dad pulled him out of the malls and put him to work filling bags of ice for 15 hours a day at the family liquor store, Vaynerchuk knew he had to prove himself. Instead of fighting them, he put his entrepreneurial gifts to work.
“I was willing to pay my dues and was thankful my parents came to this country. Even at that age, I knew what they did was special, and I wanted to support their thing,” said Vaynerchuk on the Jay Kim show.
Vaynerchuk helped grow the family business in a major way, and his performance showed his parents that their son was a gifted entrepreneur. If you’re chasing a crazy dream and seeking your parents’ support, you might have to pay your dues at work or in school before you gain their trust.
Related: Need a Business Idea? Here are 55
4. Have an honest conversation with your parents
Before creating his I Will Teach You To Be Rich online program, Ramit Sethi grew up with liberal Indian parents who were still “10 times stricter than American parents.” Sethi says that when it’s time for the big conversation, your strongest argument is what you’ve done in the years leading up to that moment. Have you shown discipline at work, in school, and with your money? If you’ve done the work, the conversation should be easy. The key, Sethi explains, is not going in guns blazing and laying it all on the line. Your parents won’t understand the context of your decision and will merely push back. On the Jay Kim Show, Sethi advocated for what he calls a “judo approach.” Start the conversation like this:
“I’ve been reading about entrepreneurs. A lot of people are running side businesses now, and that’s something I’m curious about. What do you think?”
Instead of forcing your decision on them, you’re asking them for advice. No matter their reaction, your parents and their ideas deserve your respect. Just don't take their caution too much to heart -- it's rooted in the fear of seeing you get hurt.
5. Be prepared to rough it on your own.
If you’ve created a track record of success in school or at your day job, paid your dues, had a respectful and honest conversation with your parents and still haven’t received their blessing, then do what Ryan Holiday did: Grit it out.
“I reject the idea that your parents let you do anything once you’re 18,” Holiday said on the Jay Kim show. “You make your own decisions, and you own the consequences.”
Holiday had a huge blowout with his parents when he decided to drop out of college and pursue opportunities he had at a talent agency with best-selling author Robert Greene. His parents tried every tactic imaginable to change their son’s mind, cutting off Holiday’s financial resources and, most devastating of all, withholding affection from him. Holiday endured a few years of turbulence, but once his parents saw the success he was enjoying, they changed their minds and offered their support.
The preparation you do today will increase the odds your parents will support your dreams in the future. Even if they don’t, you should always follow your own path and keep on grinding. If you work hard and stay patient, your parents will eventually come around.