Oh boy, we live in a time where being an entrepreneur is looked at as one of the coolest things to be. And why not, right? The idea of freedom from the 9-5 and the old ways of living life, as well following one’s dream and being able to live purposefully are ridiculously enticing. In all honestly, that’s why I decided to become one.
I made my debut in the working world at the age of 16 making pizzas. Actually, hold up, now that I think about it, I had a newspaper route at the age of 13. I’d ride my bike all around Woodhaven Blvd, slanging newspapers in Queens, New York. Those were the days.
Like many of us out there, I’ve had all kinds of jobs. I like to think I was a pretty good employee. Never been a stranger to hard work. When I decided to finish college, however, I found myself on a path to becoming a teacher. Fortunately, I was blessed enough to become a Special Education teacher and taught for 6 years. Those were some of the best years of my life.
Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, would say I was living in my zone of excellence, the place where I did my job extremely well. It’s comfortable in the zone of excellence. It’s where most people including your family, friends and the organization you work for would like you to stay. It’s safe and comfortable.
However, I was noticing that there was a deep part of me that felt like I was dying a slow death. I was yearning to live my life in my zone of genius—the place where my special gifts and talents are drawn upon to live a life of passion, success and true contentment. So that’s what I did.
I’d like to tell you that its been great, and there are times when it is, and the little wins manifest and you feel like you’re moving forward, but the truth is the grind is very real!
In knowing this, I felt compelled to express the realities of transitioning into the life of an entrepreneur. No one really told me what it would be like. It’s so glorified on social media, but the truth is, it’s HAF! I’m sure you can figure out that acronym.
What is the grind like?
Obviously not everyone is going to have the same experiences I’ve had, but then again, some might be able to relate.
There are some late nights and very early mornings. Know that.
There are also days when you feel guilty because even though you simply adore your family and friends, there is work to be done. If you’re passionate about what you’re trying to create, you’ll find that is all you want to do most days. Finding a balance is key here. Sometimes there will be no balance, but if you’re lucky, you’re family and the one’s who truly care about you will understand and support you in your endeavors..
There are days when the mojo just disappears and you don’t feel like doing jack shit. And when you’re your own boss, you can get a way with taking days off. The problem with this is that it’s all on you. Not doing anything for a day or two in this game can set you and your business back days, weeks and possibly years if you don’t hold yourself accountable. Learn the importance of discipline. Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you going.
If you’re in start-up mode, there are days when your bank account is on the left side of the number scale and you honestly have no idea how the heck you’re going to put dinner on the table. You will find that you will have to be creative in figuring out ways to create cash flow. If you’re willing to do the work and put in the time, you will attract what is needed. It’s just how life works.
You will become fed up on all the business that pitch you just because you’re in business as well. Weeding out the one’s that are just trying to earn a quick buck verses provide value is a daunting task and can distract you altogether from your purpose. Stay true to your mission. Work with the businesses that align with your purpose, and your purpose aligns with theirs. Good business is when both businesses win. Period.
There are times when your friends want you to do shit for them for free. Though this can be annoying and sometimes hurtful, you are the one who has to make that call. I love helping my friends, but how much time is this going to take a way from fulfilling my responsibilities as a business owner? This is something I have to ask myself a lot. If it fits into your zone of genius—by all means, help a sister out! But be honest with them and most importantly, yourself.
There are also times when you will do things for free just because you’re trying to make your presence be known in the world of business and providing value. In actuality, you will be working for yourself for free for a while. I believe Gary Vaynerchuck describes it best when he discusses how patience and humility is huge in the game of entrepreneurship. I find when I remind myself to look at the bigger picture, my anxiety about this subsides.
There will be days when you doubt yourself and perhaps feel like you may have bit off more than you can chew. I have to remind myself almost daily that this is normal. I personally feel you should be a little scared most days. After all, you are creating something from nothing. This game is risky. Acknowledge that the doubts are there, but keep it moving.
There will also be the days where you will have to deal with the haters. The one’s who truly don’t want to see you win. They come in all shapes and forms, too. Sometimes they come in the forms of friends, family and and even mentors. I find it does me well to just stick to the script. Stay in your lane. The second we give the haters any attention (hard not to sometimes), we become distracted from what’s really important in life. Remember there is enough sun out here for everyone, so go get it!
There will also be days when you naturally compare yourself to others who are killing it in the game. It can become depressing if you go too far down that rabbit hole. I say naturally because this is something society has pressured us to do since we were old enough to walk—whether we realize it or not. This is where self- awareness plays a role.
It is so important as we navigate through life to examine and re-examine our lives as much as possible. I believe it was Socrates who said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I firmly agree. Know who you are. Become aware of your limits and then go beyond them. And remember there is no good that can come from comparing your two years in the game to someone’s 15 years in the game. If anything, look at those who are crushing it as an inspiration and a sign of hope. If they can do it, we can do it, too!
I realize that a lot of this might come off as depressing, but please know it was not my intention to make you feel depressed. It was to give you some honest insight of what it’s really like for me and for others out there who are trying to create something from nothing. I don’t want you to do it because it’s been glorified that it’s the cool thing to do and be. Do it because you know you don’t want to go another day without living in your zone of genius.
There are many great things about being an entrepreneur and I may actually one day take on that topic, but for now, know that anything you want to do in life is possible, but you better believe that the grind is real. If it doesn’t involve the grind then it’s probably not worth it.