What does terror look like to you? A bad car accident? A terminal diagnosis? A child falling sick? Less than $100 left in your bank account?
I hesitated to write this article for a long time. I’m not easily frightened, but the things that do frighten me, frighten me a lot. Running a business is one of those things. Which sounds silly to most people, but hear me out.
When you own a business, everything is your fault. When something, anything, goes wrong, that’s on you. Which is why having so many things to manage quickly becomes a big problem. A hundred things could go wrong at any one time, and they’re all your fault. Every single one. Compound not just the errors, but the responsibility for those errors.
Even if you’re not a fan of accountability, it gets forced onto you. Ownership and business are a package deal. And that’s harsh. When was the last time you took responsibility for a mistake? Especially a big mistake? It sucks. Resolving the mistake is difficult as it is, but the emotional aspect of taking responsibility isn’t trivial, either. Pain is never painless. But when you’re the author of your own pain, that’s a whole new level of hurt.
From my limited experience, that’s what entrepreneurship comes down to: Emotions. If you’re not careful, business can supply an endless stream of negative ones. Like fear. And doubt. And anger. And because everything is your fault, the feelings are amplified.
Every good decision is multiplied. But so is every bad one. Every strength can be elevated, but flaws can be promoted, as well. The brightest parts of you can shine brighter than they ever have before. But the darkest parts of you are fully exposed, fully capable of wrecking everything.
For instance, one of my harmful habits is taking myself too close to the edge. A while back, I managed to get myself down to less than $100 in liquid cash reserves. And it looks like I’m on that track again — somehow, I never mastered cash flow. Most of you don’t have any idea how terrifying that is. But those who do now understand why my tone has been so different in this article, compared to my others.
I’m terrified of entrepreneurship. Constantly. Ever since I started on this journey, I haven’t quite been the same. I can’t sleep soundly. I’m always looking over my shoulder. I doubt every good deal that comes through the door, because “good deals” have bitten me in the derrière so many times. Maybe this wears off with time. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this. Maybe I’m just overthinking it. I don’t know. But what I do know is that this perspective is all too common among new business owners. Yet no one talks about it.
The success stories are plenty, but what about the flops? Failure is far more common, and far more important to study. And I assure you, I’m not championing “hustle porn”, here. I’m not being masochistic. I’m telling you failure is important as someone who’s tasted it several times too many. Learn from my fall, so that you won’t have to fall the same way.