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.






Success Takes Tough Choices


Like most of us, I want my life to be a success.  None of us wake up stoked to head into a job we’re not that excited about, nor a relationship that seems to be draining and unequal.  It’s normal for us, as humans, to want more.  There are a ton of Buzzfeed articles and crap online to help us feel good, ie “Top 10 Ways You’re Succeeding Now!”.   It’s rare, however, to find real guidance and security.  That’s because success isn’t just simple; it takes planning, change, and repetition.  In short, it’s difficult, and that leads many of us to skirt along the edges where we feel good enough without the hard work.

Some of us though, want more.  And that means being real about where we are and what it takes to reach the next plateau.  You see, life isn’t just a smooth transition and it doesn’t owe us a thing.  Life doesn’t even need to be fair.  It can throw a giant middle finger in your face and laugh as it flies past you at speeds that seem insurmountable.   What then does one do in order to take control and get that dream job, or find that spectacular life partner, or be financially sound at an age young enough to enjoy it?   It takes tough choices.


As my own life creeps toward success, the repeating theme is having to face facts and overcome difficulties.  Both of these are uncomfortable.  That then is why most of us don’t reach our pie-in-the-sky goals.  Sure we could tell our boss to shove it and wake up tomorrow to follow our dreams, but that takes sacrifice, and at least now we have a reliable job and comfortable life.  So is the thought.  While each of our lives are unique, there are a few simple truths I’ve learned over the years that contribute to success if you’re so willing to make the arduous venture:

  1. Learn to love what’s uncomfortable.  Many of life’s greatest assets sit just beyond a difficult time.  If the best in life were simple to obtain than all of us would have it.  Those who’ve made it to the top didn’t just wake up there (well, not most of them).  They struggled.  This is why I’ve learned to pay attention when a lack of comfort presents itself.  Often times that nagging discomfort is a cheat-sheet into how to improve ourselves.  Learning to not only acknowledge but appreciate that lack of security is what drives us to change and drive forward.  This means you can train yourself to love that discomfort.  It’s like hitting the gym; the first day is DEATH, the second day is unpleasant, and yet somehow after consistent action we learn to love it.  It drives us and we feel out of place without the pain and effort.  Same goes for your personal life.
  2. Build a long-term destination and keep going in that direction.  Life is going to kick your ass, sometimes so hard it knocks your equilibrium out of whack.  It may put you in the gutter for a while, or drive you so far off course you’re not in the same spot as before.  C’est la vie.  But having a long-term goal is like a compass where you can brush yourself off and get back in the right direction.   Financial advisors give this advice constantly; don’t allow the winds of the time to direct you.  Set your end goal and stick with it.  The market could crash, a stock could fail, but stay consistent and over time your investments grow.
  3. Be ready to not be ready.  My last relationship was going great… until it wasn’t.  There wasn’t some huge change.  She wasn’t abusive in any way.  One day my gut just starting screaming at me to change and I wasn’t ready for that.  If you’ve ever been fired from a job you enjoyed and were good at you’ve also experienced this.  Sometimes a curveball gets thrown and if you’re not ready to not be ready it will throw you for a loop.  This isn’t just a fluke, it’s relatively normal.   Yes, it’s unruly, and yes, it’s hard to prepare for, but simply understanding that sometimes you’ll just not be ready for things to change will help you harken back to the first two points in this article.

In the end, the only thing that sits between us and success is… well, us.  Excuses are weak and action is strong, so stop worrying about where you are now or the temporary setback you may face when having to make a tough decision.  Choose the life you want, get prepared, and go get it.


Success is Nothing Without Failure


People fail.  Failure sucks.  I mean it really sucks, especially when you’re one of those striving to be the best.  What’s funny (in a non-amusing way) is we often seem to fail again, and again, and again. We spend a good chunk of our lives dreaming about what could be.  Where can we go?  Who can we be?  What can we accomplish?  It’s sad when circumstances come crashing down from above.  But what if that crash wasn’t really a negative?  What if we’re looking at it the wrong way and failure is needed for success?  That change of mind may actually help in our next venture.

Success is coveted by all of us so why do so few reach it?  Why don’t they go through the same crap we do?  News flash!  They do.  Most of your idols didn’t just make it there.  They overcame great failures on a myriad of occasions.  What separates them from the rest is their tenacity to keep pushing forward. They shun doubt and go for it again. Our greatest heroes are not typically born on top, they’ve hit bottom and still managed to find crawl, leap, press towards their hilltop.  While keeping that in mind, let’s glance at some of the best who found themselves in the same position we’re in today:

-Smithsonian Mag

-Smithsonian Mag

KFC’s Colonel Sanders:  Lesser known by his full name Harland David Sanders, the Colonel actually faced many setbacks.  He was fired from a dozen jobs.  He was once a lawyer who assaulted his own client in court (probably not the best way to earn repeat business). His first foray into restaurant ownership ended up failing and left the man broke.  It wasn’t until 65 years old, with hardly a cent to his name, where he found an investor and began KFC, becoming the legend he is today.  If not for the lessons of past failure he wouldn’t have had the handbook to success.

Lincoln01Abraham Lincoln: Mr. Lincoln is known as one of the greatest men this country has seen.  It’s easy to look at his list of accommodations and feel everything he touched was gold. What most don’t know is his long list of defeat. In 1832 his run for legislature took a beating and Abe lost his job.  The following year in 1833 his new business venture collapsed. In 1835 his lover died which led to a nervous breakdown. 1838 found him defeated as Speaker and 1843 he was rejected entry from Congress. The next 10 years brought another 5 lost nominations, including a Vice Presidential defeat in 1856 and US Senate misstep in 1858.  Heck, if this man didn’t keep pushing forward he wouldn’t have become the human we know and love.  Finally in1860, when he was finally elected President, an even more prestigious position than what he’d sought came to light and an avenue to shine came forth.

A celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of company founder Henry Ford will be held throughout 2013. Go to for an interactive timeline of Ford's life, tours, a calendar of 2013 events and information about efforts to preserve Henry Ford's heritage. (12/11/2012)

Henry Ford:  Ford Motor Company is one of the greatest American success stories.  The company didn’t take a dollar from the Federal Government during the Recession of 2008, a remarkable feat and show of stability.  The funny thing is Henry’s success came after a number of failed iterations. His first venture with the Quadricycle saw all of his investment dry up without producing a vehicle. Detroit Auto Company raised another round of investors and produced a car but went bankrupt after 2 years in 1901 with over $86,000 lost (that’s over $2.1 million in today’s money). It wasn’t until a 3rd round his vision started to grow and Henry’s dreams began to turn into reality.

-Smithsonian Mag

-Smithsonian Mag

Thomas Edison:  Simply, his teachers stated he was “Too stupid to learn anything.”  He fought against teachers and schools who didn’t want to accept him.  That seems like a stretch for the man who invented the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the electric light bulb.

The point here is many of the greatest, most successful individuals took a hard beating in life.  Many of them were criticized for what they loved and did best.  What separates them from the everyday-man is their tenacity to get up and get at it again.  Without that last push they would not have become the legends they are today.  Keep pushing, keep being beaten down, keep hearing “No,” because you never know if the next thing is your greatest thing.


Success Can Not Be Rushed

Car02Timing is one of the biggest factors I’ve learned to let the universe control.  There are a lot of things that could, or would be beneficial ‘if only’…   Sometimes the world works at it’s own pace, and we learn, if sometimes slowly, to accept that fact for reasons unknown.

Success is similar.  Often times we wonder if, or when we’ll find it.  Perhaps it just needs it’s own time.  What if we struggle to appreciate and recognize the peaks and valleys?  What if our continued devotion help us inspire others to follow suit?

As with most things in life we will likely struggle to understand the moment.  Lacking perspective makes us miss accomplishments we provide each day.  Be slow and recognizer the moment.  I bet if viewed from outside eyes we’d all be more successful than we think.


Showing Up For Life


Today was another one that ended with my face buried deeply in my hands. There seemed an overwhelming amount of incompetent individuals with sticks perusing the bubble that is my life. Why in such a modern society does it feel like some folks still don’t seem to get it?   Today I share a few short (yet far from simple) lessons we need to learn – or re-learn for some of us – to help make the world a better place for both ourselves and others:

1) Do what you say you’ll do.

And don’t do what you say you won’t.   This simple statement could be the key to discovery and happiness for our species if only we weren’t so flawed.   We’ll innately fail and let others, and ourselves, down.  Because of this we need to be mindful of the things we speak into being.  “A man’s word is his bond,” and rightfully so.  Accomplish more, hurt less and get off your butt and into action.

2) Blame yourself for almost everything in life.

When we’re younger we don’t have control of the things that surround us, but as adults we do entirely. The people we hang around, the money we make, our inner and external health… Learn to hold yourself accountable.  Learn to create solutions.  Change starts at yourself.

3) Treat others with respect.

Because karma is a huge bitch.  Don’t be surprised when the world comes crashing down to expose it’s innards.  Keep in mind that your actions come back around and putting that extra foot forward for another can reap benefits when you really need them.  Small things seam meager yet equate substantially.