Think Being an Entrepreneur Means Never ‘Working’ a Day in Your Life? Think Again.
There’s a common image of successful entrepreneurs in their early years: working out of a friend’s basement, subsisting on a diet of ramen and pulling all-nighters until one day, just as they’re about to exhaust their last resources, something turns. As romanticized as those success stories seem, there’s a danger to perpetuating that image as the sole means to achieving our goals. I’m excited to share with you some realities of entrepreneurship as I’ve experienced them — ramen optional.
Myth 1: Love what you do and it will never feel like work.
That’s a lovely sentiment, but it will feel like work. It is work. I love the day our students graduate from their hospitality training. I love when our students tell me their lives have changed because of the education they received. I love watching our students begin their careers in ways that fuel their passions. But work is work, and it takes a huge amount of time, energy and meticulous planning to make it to those moments.
When I do my taxes, it feels like work. When I wake up at 7 a.m. and force myself to my desk, it still feels like work. When I’m rushing around New York to pitch myself and my company, it feels like work. Love what you do, yes, but realize that the life of an entrepreneur, while privileged, inspiring, emotional and rewarding in many ways, is not the easy path. You will wear every hat, learn every department and become an expert in every aspect of your business, not only by choice, but by necessity. The “we” you refer to when pitching to clients, is often just you. You will be the one that drives your own success, and you will need to find the motivation to make it happen, which requires work — a lot of it.
Myth 2: Entrepreneurs must be fearless.
There will be a time when you get that client, that contract, that call — the one you’ve been waiting for. And all of a sudden, you procrastinate. The deck, the proposal, the email that you’re normally so quick to send is taking days to send and you’re fast approaching (or much past) the deadline.
This is fear. For many new endeavors, getting started or pressing on is a struggle with far more noes than yeses. We get used to not getting called back and motivating ourselves to keep going regardless. We get comfortable doing what we do without results. And then it happens, we get the opportunity we’ve been working for, and we freeze. That moment is both terrifying and defining, but much easier to handle if you know there will be fear in the mix.
A positive response comes with change, demands and pressure that can be immobilizing, if momentarily. We’re all told one in 10 startups actually succeed, so we know and take solace in working against the odds. But, what happens when you dosucceed? We suddenly need to think past the fear, think past the vision of getting that call, and create new visions not only of what this newfound success looks like but use the process of imprinting as you visualize to touch what success now feels like, tastes like and sounds like. Visualization and imprinting are key resources whether first thing in the morning or before a call, meeting or sending a contract.
The fear will still be there — it’s natural and we need it to feel alive; we need it to motivate.
Yet we expect it, we recognize it, we face it and we visualize past the fear to success. As former Entrepreneur Editor in Chief Amy Cosper says, “When fear shows up and threatens your curiosity and enlightenment, look it square in the eye, acknowledge it, own it and move on.”
Myth 3: Teamwork makes the dream work.
Days on days on days you’ll spend alone. Sometimes you’ll join a co-working space to feel like you’re not alone. Or a café. Some days that will work. And some days you’ll go in, you’ll sit at your desk, you’ll look around at people talking, working or laughing together, and you’ll go home, feeling even more lonely. So, you need to get comfortable with yourself.
You need to accept that, for now, it’s you (and likely your laptop). There will be days when you have calls and meetings and you feel like you’re in the outside world, and there are days when you pretend that you only have a window for a call when really your entire calendar is blank. These are the days you hold onto that vision. Spanx founder Sara Blakely used to imagine herself sitting on Oprah’s couch — and finally, in 2000, the media mogul named Spanx one of her “favorite things.”
For me, it’s hundreds of hospitality schools and beautiful, minimal Saira Hospitality workplaces all over the world. It’s reminding yourself of the one email or call you had where someone recognized the importance of the work you’re doing. These are key to remember. These are the motivators. When you smile and say thanks, you’re thanking them for keeping you going during the many days of solitude ahead. Most importantly, even at your loneliest, you are still going. You need to love your own company. You are your own company, and that’s enough for now. Enough to make it a success.
Myth 4: Success only comes from working 24/7.
For years, I watched my father, a dedicated philanthropist, come home late from the office, exhausted, and my mother disappointed again that he had missed dinner with my sisters and me. From his example, I assumed you had to work until you were exhausted, miss out on family time and travel endlessly to be successful. This was a time before Skype, QuickBooks and Squarespace. It’s not the same world it was then, and the tools we have now make it possible to live a work life with balance. Sometimes we can work a few key hours a day and still be successful.
I haven’t mastered the four-hour work week, but I am trying to shed the guilt for the times I don’t work 12-hour days. I have to hold onto the belief that I can still be successful, perhaps even more so when I’m not stressed out 24/7. Nothing in life comes easy. But, what if it can be a little easier? What if success means more than money?
We own our days. We are our own bosses and as much as we will do whatever it takes to close a deal or sign a client, we still choose what we do and when we do it. When we take calls, when we go in. Sometimes I sneak in a yoga class midday. Why do I have to sneak it in? There’s a stigma about going to yoga midday or women who meet other women at lunch. “Women who lunch,” they call us.
But that’s the beauty of it. We work when we want to, and we also work when we don’t want to. We work over weekends or holidays, through the night or when the client signs at the last minute. So, why do we deprive ourselves of one of the joys of being an entrepreneur? Balance your life, when you can. Take the yoga class. Reawaken the other passions you had before you became an entrepreneur.
Taking time to reset is essential. Instead of feeling guilt or shame, feel gratitude for the ability to be able to reset yourself so you can come back to the desk stronger, because you’ve chosen a life where you can show up at work late. Because when is late anyway?