2: Lies We Tell


Lies We Tell

Be gentle with others, give yourself tough love

We all share common challenges when it comes to the tough road of entrepreneurship, but we also give common comforts to ourselves to push into another day.

In short, we lie to ourselves.

You don't know if the rockstar client will come through, a successful fundraise will happen or even if a larger competitor will snuff you out. There has to be a suspension of disbelief--otherwise, you wouldn't attempt to run your own business in the first place. Passion sometimes needs a little help trumping common sense.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with having faith in the future, but it is crucial that we recognize the times when we're placating ourselves for self-management. Here are the biggest comforts I say to myself. Perhaps you can relate.

I'll stay up all night/skip today's meals because that's how you crush it

Entrepreneurs will have you believe that skipping that night of sleep or "crushing it" all day without eating is the key to success--there is even a startup or two dedicated to the idea. Sacrifices need to be made (I definitely walk the walk on that one), but there is no real correlation between depriving your body of needs and creating the next unicorn startup. In fact, you are more likely to burn out. Pushing yourself beyond your limits should be viewed as a contextually necessary evil, not as a default.

Consider this: If you do successfully reach that fundraising/monetization/users goal, then you'll have another goal after that and a business that will demand even more from you. I know many an entrepreneur who flamed out before reaching even the first milestone, defeating the whole purpose of moving forward. We often work harder than we should because we want to feel like we're crushing it--and that feel is more important than the actual impact. There is a difference between killing it and killing yourself.

I'll get work done on the plane/vacation/break

There is always more work to do: Another email to send, another pitch to perfect, and another glitch to correct. A major challenge is allowing ourselves to get away. The second part of the challenge? Letting others allow us to get away.

We assume we'll get work done on the flight in or during our travels, so we start pushing work into that so-called free time and start making promises that we may not be able to keep. It usually has one of two outcomes: You actually begin to relax after you realize how exhausted you are, but carry the guilt of making promises you won't keep, or you stress yourself out juggling the demands of travel and the needs of work, not really resting and, likely, not doing your best work because you are tired. Sometimes when you try to do two things, you actually fail at both.

I'll start this project/this business when I have more bandwidth

There is always tomorrow--until there is not. Like becoming a parent, there will never be an ideal time to launch your business. You will always need more resources than you have, more time than you got, and more energy than you can muster. If Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and other visionaries waited until everything was perfect, then we wouldn't be talking about Jobs, Musk and their contemporaries right now.

As wine seller turned successful entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk said in an impassioned message: "I worked weekends and holidays every day starting at fourteen years old to make [my business] happen. I think back to all the time I put in of real, hard work before I saw any of the benefits." Don't wait for a red carpet.

I'll save my business/my finances if I can just net this one client

One client often isn't enough to save your business. Worse, if you put all your focus on netting one client, all things tend to fall to the wayside (even if you do get the client).

For instance, if your company gets any acquisition or investment interest, it is easy to start focusing on the potential payoff rather than the day-to-day work and the long-term strategy. And if it falls through, your company will take a while to get back on course--assuming it ever will.

I'll work with this PITA client one last time

Stop lying to yourself. Money, sympathy, or even status quo can compel us to repeat a client who is a pain in the ass (PITA). When we get another opportunity to work with the client, we tend to forget about the issues that stressed us out in the first place--like parents deciding to have another kid. It's not until you're knee-deep in the same situation that you say, "Ah, that's why I swore I'd never work with them again."

Assume that you'll get another, better client (or clients) to replace them. Our fear is often driven by the feast or famine cycle: Keep every client you have, as you don't know when you'll get another one! In reality, we can't actually get new, quality clients if we're spending all our time inefficiently catering to our ill-fitting ones.

I need to quit my job/end my relationships so I can truly dedicate myself to my big idea

Kids will come, money will go, and jobs are necessary, but time is the one asset you can't get back. Waiting for a big chunk of time is usually a waste of time. You fall into the extreme thinking trap: You need to go big or not go at all. There are certain times when you have to leap, but that's usually after you've already recognized an opportunity and have done the homework... and that work takes time.

Keep in mind that Twitter, Yammer, and other billion dollar companies began as side projects founders did while focusing on their day job. Imagine if they waited until they could "go big". Plant the seed today.