Starting a Business is Like Eating Glass

On my way to California this week I was watching a conversation with Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla, Space-X, PayPal and more.  Elon, for those unaware, is one of the greatest minds of our time.  The conversation centered around advice for those looking to start their own business.  His response?  “Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.”  Wait, what??

“Staring into a void because you face the constant risk of you company failing.  99% of start-ups fail, so when you’re looking ahead it’s all a gamble.”  He continues, “Eating glass because you end up having to do the stuff you hate.”  He’s right.  Owners don’t often get to do what they’d like because everything ends with them.  All of the things nobody else wants to do funnels to the owner, and they don’t get to work on the stuff they want to work on but instead what the company needs them to work on.

Another line that distinguished itself is “if you need encouraging words [to start a business], don’t do it.”  That seems like a discouraging line, and perhaps it should be.  As most who’ve taken the plunge know, things are not easy.  It truly takes a drive and passion for what you’re trying to accomplish.  You must differentiate yourself, you must work hard, you must keep working hard, and even then there’s no single plan to success.

I’m currently on my 3rd startup.  What Elon stated is ecstatically true, which makes it hard when I see others start their own thing.  Of course I want them to succeed.  Of course I want to see their dreams come true.  As with many things in life, however, setting expectations can go a long way.  While many look on from the outside and think I’m a success, they don’t see the backend; the hard work and struggle that’s needed, especially when you only have so much money to work against, can be debilitating.

In closing, if you’re on your own path to entrepreneurship, take a moment to realize that even if successful you’re in for a strenuous journey.  It will take a toll on your relationships, mental state, and financial well-being.   You will be forced to do things you don’t want to do time and time again.  You’ll feel like a failure even when others think you’re a success.  If, after admitting these things to yourself, you still have a fire alive inside, perhaps it’s time to make the jump.