To Endure as an Entrepreneur Prepare to Exceed Your Pain Threshold

Everyone dreams of success when they launch a business and everyone eventually wakes up to the harsh realities.

learn more about Ryan Howard

By Ryan Howard

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The first lesson for every entrepreneur is know your rock bottom. Know your threshold for pain.

Years ago I was watching the HBO show "The Wire." In this particular episode, a woman speaking at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting about her addition to heroin said, "When I started my addiction I set a rock bottom in my head that I would never go past."

She told herself that she would never live on the street to support her habit. Then she did. She crossed that line. She thought she would never steal to support her addiction. Then she crossed that line. She believed she would never sell her body to support her addiction. She eventually crossed that threshold, as well.

What I learned in the process of starting Practice Fusion is that your company will be an addiction. Upfront, before you start, think about how far you're willing to go. Are you willing to sell your car? Sell your house? Give up seeing your friends (because you won't have the time or money to go out with them anymore)? Are you willing to give up time with your family, to miss out watching your children growing up?

Related: These 7 Lessons From the Ancient Stoics Are Relevant for Entrepreneurs Today

We were constantly fledgling the first few years after starting Practice Fusion. During this time I sold my house to initially start the company. After that ran out, I sold my car to pay a developer who held all of ourcodes hostage until we paid him.

I owned another house where the tenants paid me rent that I used to pay my employees. That house I let go into foreclosure. Much like the heroin addict I watched on "The Wire', I was an addict and my drug was my startup. Just like all addicts, I was in massive denial and lying to myself. I told myself that it will be okay. All the while, I had sold off the majority of my possessions, was in serious debt and was MIA to my friends and family.

When the stock market crashed in October 2008, creating the most challenging environment in history for raising money from venture capitalists, reality finally hit me. We were going out of business this time. I had been in a motorcycle accident a few years earlier, where I had torn the rotator cuff in my shoulder. Serendipitously, the settlement check for that accident came in January 2009. I used the check to make payroll instead getting my shoulder fixed.

Related: 7 Tips to Stay Afloat When Times Get Tough

When we finally closed our first round of seed funding in April with the Band of Angels, I was four years behind in my taxes and needed two root canals.

Everyone thinks about the potential upside of the starting their company. Right now, in Silicon Valley, it's the it thing to be a CEO. There's a lot of glory that comes with the title, even if you haven't built anything of value and are sleeping on your friend's couch. The reality is there are sacrifices required that you won't fully realize until you are midway through your journey. Some people simply can't cope with the failure and depression and pay the ultimate price by taking their lives.

The lesson here is, before you go too far down this road, ask yourself, "What am I willing to give up to pursue my dream?" Then know that whatever that rock bottom is, you will most likely have to go past it. That's your T-pain! (In case you don't know who T-Pain is, click here).

Related: Don't Give Up -- the Fourth Quarter Can Turn the Whole Year Around

Ryan Howard

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder Advisor

Ryan Howard is is the founder of 100Plus and Practice Fusion. He partners with founders and lectures at UCSF and UC Berkeley on the realities of navigating the venture capital minefield, maintaining control of their companies and gaining liquidity. You can contact him at

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This 61-Year-Old Grandma Who Made $35,000 in the Medical Field Now Earns 7 Figures in Retirement
A 'Quiet Promotion' Will Cost You a Lot — Use This Expert's 4-Step Strategy to Avoid It
3 Red Flags on Your LinkedIn Profile That Scare Clients Away
'Everyone Is Freaking Out.' What's Going On With Silicon Valley Bank? Federal Government Takes Control.

How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.


Working Remote? These Are the Biggest Dos and Don'ts of Video Conferencing

As more and more businesses go remote, these are ways to be more effective and efficient on conference calls.

Growing a Business

The Best Way to Run a Business Meeting

All too often, meetings run longer than they should and fail to keep attendees engaged. Here's how to run a meeting the right way.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Business News

Amtrak Introduces 'Night Owl' Prices With Some Routes As Low As $5

The new discounts apply to some rides between Washington D.C. and New York City.

Business Solutions

This Highly Rated App Could Help Business Owners Stay Organized

Get your business in order with this personal organizer app on sale for $60.