Entrepreneurship Is a Disease -- But It's Worth It
It's just something entrepreneurs have to live with.
I was at my wife's company's holiday party last year and I walked around thinking to myself how much I wanted my own company holiday party. I was fraught with jealousy. Why? For the simple fact that it wasn't my company holiday party. I barely enjoyed anything.
I always listen to my jealousy because it shows me what I want. And I want to be an entrepreneur more than I want to breathe. The longer I am in the entrepreneurship game, the more I see the price of inaction. I'm suffocated by inaction. I must do. And I must do all the time. It's in an entrepreneur's DNA. Investor, serial entrepreneur, five-time New York Times bestselling author and CEO of VaynerX Gary Vaynerchuk agrees and put it to me this way, "I lived my whole life under a cloud, I couldn't do anything else but be a businessman, which later became 'entrepreneur' when I learned the term." He admitted to me that he's felt stuck since third grade because of it. I couldn't agree more.
Adding fuel to the entrepreneurial fire, during a recent trip to Italy for my honeymoon, sales lagged and because of it, I was having panic attacks. My chest hurt. So, taking it as my fault, one night, unbeknownst to my new wife, I stayed up after she fell asleep so I could get some work in. I worked all night and finished with two sales -- finally, I could relax. I've heard so many times, "You just need to relax." But, here's the thing: Accomplishing my goals is my definition of relaxation.
Holidays and weekends annoy you.
I hate weekends. Why in the world would I look forward to the days of the week no one will return my emails or calls? My weekends consist of me going into the office and working. If I don't, I feel suffocated.
Earlier this year, I felt bad that I may be taking time away from my wife so I put a TV in the office for her to watch Netflix while I work if she wants to come. We also got her a shiny, new computer so she would enjoy coming to work on Saturdays and Sundays, too.
Mondays are my jam! I look forward to getting a slew of emails and messages early Monday morning. Never prior to becoming an entrepreneur did I feel this way about Mondays. Don't even get me started with holidays -- celebrating even more days off in the week? Are you kidding me? Thanks, calendar.
You are isolated and alone.
I can't tell you how many times I've felt alone and misunderstood. Like I was wired differently. When I was called flighty or when I got bad reviews at a job (why the heck was I in accounting?), I felt like they just didn't get it -- just didn't get me. You have no one that truly understands what you're going through. There are some people that pretend they've been there before, but the truth is they only have their own version.
Get comfortable with it. Period. Admit the inevitability of it to yourself and you'll be better off. Make no mention of the many tears shed on Mulholland Drive on rides home.
You lose friends and hobbies.
I have no appetite for hobbies. I don't. My hobbies include going to my office on Sunset Boulevard, looking at the sign out front and dreaming about my name being on it. That and going to the LA Zoo with my wife. Because we really enjoy it ... and because I can message or email on my phone every now and again.
Where's the time for other hobbies? In my opinion, if you're not where you want to be in life and you're not happy you don't deserve the right to play golf. All the time I'd spend not talking business with my partner, I would be thinking of all the things I needed to get done at the office. If I play golf, it's because someone I do business with wanted me to go with them. Otherwise, save it for retirement.
I hate to admit this last part, but I feel every time I meet a friend for a drink I somehow make the conversation about business. Then, inevitably, that friend complains and I stop hanging out just to catch up. I'm not alone in this "unhealthy" behavior. Elon Musk would agree. Just this past June, Musk celebrated his birthday in a factory, alone. "Appreciate all the good wishes. First bday I've spent in the factory, but it's somehow the best," he tweeted. "All night -- no friends, nothing," he later told The New York Times. The problem rarely seems to get fixed or is seen as a problem by the entrepreneur when results follow the effort. And a lot of times this kind of output and sacrifice does get rewarded. It can serve as behavioral conditioning to continue operating in such a way. Most likely a direct benefit for his effort, for the first time ever, Tesla met its goal of making 5,000 Model 3s in a seven-day period.
You can't hold down a job.
Aka you get fired a lot. I can't work for anyone else. I've gotten fired from most jobs I've had. I have problems with authority. So much so that I'm jealous of people that can work for other people. I see it as a skill, a skill I will never have.
I play catch with a tennis ball in my office when I can't concentrate. My mind wanders during conversations and it focuses me. I can get away with it because I'm the CEO and my employees probably feel like they have to play catch. If I were an entry level employee at a large company, what then? I grab a tennis ball, throw it across a cubicle, it comes up in my review. My manager asks why I did that. I tell her I'm bored and that I've been looking for jobs. And then we mutually agree to part ways. On to the next one.
The worst part is ...
The harder I work and the more I see the payoff, the more I discount others' work ethic. The more I become intolerant of other people's weak efforts and lack of sacrifice to get what they say they want. If I hear someone has time to grab a drink with a friend, and that same person tells me how bad they want a Tesla, in my mind I move them into the entrepreneurial version of fat camp.
Everyone can sacrifice their hobbies and they should for the things they want. People want to get to heaven but don't understand they need to die to get there. I know this is a "bad" feeling to have. I feel bad for feeling this way. Other people love the weekends and love holidays off with their family. To each their own. If you're happy, I'm happy for you.
But, because of this, I gauge competition differently. Now, the competition is not with other people, it's with myself. I am on this never-ending quest to prove to myself that I am as good as I think I am. And I am more than willing to prove it out, health consequences be damned. And my logic doesn't seem sound, given that working long hours has proven to make you less productive. Even knowing the consequences of my mindset, I can't seem to help it. But, it may act as the fuel I need according to Michael Freeman, executive coach to entrepreneurs and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine. "These mental health conditions are accompanied by positive traits that enable entrepreneurs to excel," says Freeman. For example, "If you have ADHD, two of the positive traits are a need for speed and an interest in exploration and recognizing opportunities," he says. "[You have] an ability to act without getting stuck with analysis paralysis." See "I'm suffocated by inaction. I must do. And I must do all the time," above.
It's all worth it.
This pursuit makes it all worth it. I wouldn't do anything else. If I could go back, I wouldn't do anything differently. It makes me so happy to know I'm still in the race for what I want to be. My life isn't over. My dreams are still in front of me. And I will never settle for less than what I want.
But, that comes with a burden to bare -- that holiday party feeling. And because of that feeling, I am willing to put in the back-breaking, eye-bleeding work to make it so. If it hasn't happened, it's not because it won't, it's only a matter of when. Because with this disease it truly is do or die.