One day I go to work ecstatic with joy. I’ve had a great week with record sales numbers for my first startup! Life is going great. Then I receive an email with bad news. It appears my company might be finished. The very next week I could be broke and begging for work— maybe even homeless — unless I pull off a miracle. I work every day and night throughout the week to pull it off and stay in business, floating high in the sky.
Welcome to the roller coaster of entrepreneurship. You will have highs, and you will have lows. If you think your experience will be any different, you are unrealistic. Get ready for the roller coaster.
I wish I had had this advice when starting. For some reason, many people have this idea that they will launch and have a smooth, steady climb to a huge win. It’s important to realize that every day of your startup is an average day, and every day it will surprise you.
Founding a startup is the ride of your life, so you better give yourself the best toolset to deal with what life has to throw at you.
The first step will be to identify what you want from your experience. Take a step back and ask yourself: What do you want, and what do you need to get there?
Take a side step and figure out if you know a friend who has what you are looking for. For example, if your big goal from the startup experience is to buy the house on the hill, own a business, or start something impactful, go out and find a person who has accomplished that. If your main ambition is to make something people want, find someone who has built software that has a huge following. Figure out if that makes them happy. Ask him or her what they knew or wish they knew before jumping in. There are narratives in this world that are easy to follow but are meaningless unless you help write them. You have to actually want what you will get out of the experience.
I started a worldwide movement that has changed thousands of lives. If someone else wanting to change the world were to come to me and ask how I felt about this, I would just kinda shrug. The event and movement I started took off like I planned. My work on the project was core to its success, but it was also small compared to the hard work donated by thousands of people around me. The movement now has a life of its own. I was lucky enough to create it, but it does not fulfill my life.
The success alone is empty. What matters are the people I help, the friends I celebrate with, and the people with whom I can build and plan out what’s next. Although it may go against the stereotypical business goal, I want to live my life for the people I care about, and not just for my own benefit. It’s about thinking beyond yourself to realize something greater. Figure out what you really want, and reaching your goal will be easier than you think.
The highs and lows of startups are enjoyable when you figure out what you are working toward. Know that they are there, and smile when they come, as they are part of the path to building something you know you can achieve.