I’m currently reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. It was gifted to me by a friend and it could not have come at a better time. An aunt told me once that you read certain books when you need it the most and as I write this, I am in an intense season of work. More on that later.
There is this unglamorous underbelly of entrepreneurship that I don’t think people talk about. This book does a great job at acknowledging the hardships that come with entrepreneurship while also providing tactful ways of getting through it. highly recommend – #notanad.
If you think entrepreneurs only work specific hours or spend most of their time booking their next vacation, you have the wrong idea. Entrepreneurs are some of the hardest-working people you will ever meet. We work 24/7 because you have to. When it’s your company or a mission you’re passionate about, you spend the blood, sweat, and tears making it come to life.
On a more personal note, I firmly believe that life is cyclical. Certain seasons will demand specific versions of you. In this current season, God is calling me to work. It’s been nonstop, 7 days a week, lots of late hours, and little to no balance. I’m not saying this to glamorize the grind because there is nothing cute about it. I’ve sat at my computer many of these nights and have bawled my eyes out (trust me, I’m an ugly crier…it’s not cute).
I’ve said ‘no’ a lot to friends of mine who want to hang out because I worry that I have nothing else to talk about other than work. I’ve pushed away from the things that are distracting. The pressure of succeeding and having financial freedom is a heavyweight to carry. But in the end, I know its worth it.
I know this narrative isn’t novel to just me but I don’t see enough people talk about hard this journey is. On social media, all you see are the highlights. You see the headlines of people raising millions of dollars but don’t see the countless all-nighters they had to pull or the iterations of decks they had to change to tell that compelling story. You see the glory, but never the grit.
When you want something so badly that you’re willing to do anything for it, there is no stopping the pursuit. The process is more important than the result. It makes the outcome even sweeter when you know you’ve put in the time to make it happen. Again, the entrepreneurial process is defeating.
“The Hard Things About Hard Things” paints a realistic approach for getting through it. In the first few chapters it talks about “The Struggle” and I swear I never felt so seen. This page in particular was a turning point for me because I was in the thick of a span of all-nighters and I felt like no one around me understood.
You have to be okay to starve sometimes
It’s either feast or famine and part of the sacrifice is that you are willing to give up something. Whether it’s your time, income, freedom, money, equity — whatever is. For me it’s looked like juggling between finishing undergrad (which I am a semester away from doing so), working odd jobs to supplement my income, to taking on projects because I knew it would benefit me for the future. I’ve done this to be able to supplement growing Boss Business Market, The STEM Station, and my own personal passion projects all without my degree.
I’ve worked an array of odds jobs over the years. Whether it was working for a dog breeder or a fitness studio to internships and random freelance gigs in between. When business was slow, I still had to make rent and support myself. Ultimately, I made it work. Everything is figure-outable and failure isn’t an option.
Why? because I love it.
Am I insane? Probably but it’s worth it to me.
Part of me loves the hustle. I love doing purposeful work and I have this conviction in what is meant for me. God is calling me to do something greater than just for myself. I see past the struggle. When it got crippling (as often as it did) someone around me always was able to see past it for me. You need that sometimes and that’s okay.
Conventional paths bore me, I like the chaos of being thrown something that is completely unknown and having to figure out how to swim. There’s a novelty in that but it’s lonely. Frankly, I didn’t how to get into this world and was fortunate to have someone trust me enough to help figure it out. It’s easier if you have the help and are in the weeds together. I now have friends now who will stay up with me while they work at night so it feels less isolating. It’s almost like being in college (which I still am) late in the library, working your ass off for a paper you procrastinated on. But now instead of procrastination, it’s the volume of work.
There’s always work that can be done
One of the more stressful realities with having your own venture is that you are the sole person responsible for its success. Even when you have a team, you’re the one who has to lead and guide. It’s your responsibility to be the HR manager, run payroll, and ensure your team is happy with the work they’re doing.
In entrepreneurship, the work isn’t explicit. There’s always work and a long list of it. It’s hard to know what the loose threads are so you can discover. Even then, there are challenges to overcome. Struggling to find the work that needs to be done is a huge step in this process.
The initiative is something that can be taught. Over the years, I’ve learned to not only keep focused on what I have to do but what else needs to be done. How can I be more useful? Who needs help? What are we missing? This is a dangerous trap because it can result in you in a rabbit hole with over 60 tabs open. It’s not a matter of what can be done but more so where can you provide value?
You have to know where your talent is best effective. In the areas, you lack, either find people who can help (which is time-consuming) or spend the time learning it yourself (which is also time-consuming). I try to surround myself with people who know more than me. I know where my strengths are and I outsource to where I am limited. For example, I thrive in creative strategy, it’s exciting to work but when it comes to design I opt for tapping into our talent pool. It’s okay that other people have strengths that I don’t. At the end of the day, it’s about solving the problem at hand and not overextending myself when I don’t need to.
Generally, people are willing to help.
Not many people will understand
Everyone is busy. We all have things to do. Time is so valuable and how you spend it, may not always make sense to other people. I say ‘no’ to a lot of things because I have to make sure I am prepared enough for my work. I am generally someone who likes to stay in with the exception of nice dinners and a killer sunset. I value my free time and my energy because I know (especially in this season) that any additional energy I have can be used elsewhere.
There are not many people who will understand this path because they are on a different one. Many people have questioned why I didn’t finish my degree sooner and it’s because 1. I’m a terrible student and 2. I’d prefer to work. I’ve worked every year since I was 14 years old.
Your journey isn’t for everyone so be careful about who you let in. Not everyone wants to see you win and not everyone will understand. Those friends who love you will show up not just in the glory but when it’s time to get your hands dirty. Hold those people close because you’ll need them. You’ll need them to see past your circumstance when things get foggy. They will be your champions while others may serve a different purpose.
It’s not for the faint at heart
If you know me or meet me IRL, I’m a pretty sensitive person. I cry at most things (movies, cute animals, saying goodbye to people) so you would be surprised to hear this from me. In all seriousness, this journey is really isolating and can really tear at your self-worth. I’ve cried… a lot.
You will often watch people pass you
You will learn the hard way that you are not what you do
You will shed blood, sweat, and tears and still not hit that goal
You will spend many nights alone at your desk searching for help
You will probably need to take 1-2 jobs just to make ends meet
You will spend a lot of time wondering why things haven’t happened yet
And believe me, when I tell you, they will.
I talk to my fellow peers and entrepreneurs all the time about some of the weight that comes with building something different. Simply acknowledging the perils that come with entrepreneurship hopefully means we can have an open discussion around how hard this journey really can be.