Having completed a decade (discounting the two years of shit show that life was) of being on my own, there are a lot of learnings, more failures than successes, and an eternity of misery, (yup! you read that right) I decided it deserves its own blog post. Well, yes! This is where I tell you a truckload of depressing stuff and then affirm that it is all totally worth it, so brace yourself.
So here are 10 things no one talks about when you are an entrepreneur.
1. Early success does more harm than good.
Early success is a traitor, it makes you believe it’s easy and you’ve skipped the struggling part. WRONG! You won’t know what hit you and it’s twice as hard to recover. How did I come across this gem of knowledge? I lived it! I am a typical example of early success. Got media coverage even before I launched. I was featured in a top magazine (for free) within the first year of launch. I had multiple bloggers write about my venture on their blogs. And at some point, it all dies down, and things get slow and you don’t know why. I didn’t have the time to make a strategy or plan because things were happening. And when it dint, I was lost, not knowing what I did wrong or what I was supposed to do next. Slow and steady, keep it sane.
2. Your product/service will suck!
I said it! Whoever said they developed a fantastic product on the first try is bluffing, or is experiencing beginner’s luck. Not sustainable. Read point number 1 and put in the work. It’s okay if your product or service sucks. In fact, it is important for the growth of an entrepreneur if that happens. What is more important is to be committed to constant improvement until you get it right. And if you are already out in the market, see how you can compensate your customers fairly when they bring it to your notice. You need to make bad products, learn from them, and better them until it becomes good.
3. Brace yourself for failure.
You know we were getting there. Failure is a part of being human, not just being an entrepreneur. And it’s ok if you fail at something, acknowledge it and it’s ok if you don’t want to make effort to improve at it. (yes, read that again). Well, let’s say you failed at running ad campaigns for your business. And you acknowledge that you messed up and you can’t seem to figure out or have the mind space to keep trying. Delegate, hire someone, or do something which you don’t have to do yourself. Consecutive failures are an indication that you are trying and that is commendable. Lots of people give up the first time they fail.
4. Build a SULK – RECOVER – MOVE ON routine.
No one likes to fail. Like all the management gurus, I wish I could say make friends with failure. I can’t! Because I haven’t gotten there. I know failure is a part of life, I know it’s inevitable. But I haven’t gotten to like it or make friends with it. Failure sucks! And I want to whine and sulk about it. I cannot just man up and get over it. So I have a sulk – recover – move on (SRM) program.
If I am feeling bad about it, I want to acknowledge it, give it time, get over it and only then move on. Never ever, never ever ever! Brush bad feelings under the carpet and move on. It will pile on and stink so bad one day, that you will lose days and weeks trying to recover from it. So have a sulk – recover – move on a program like me, and you can be as efficient as ever. I also use my SRM program in situations outside of work and it really helps keep me sane.
5. The graphs are always a sine wave
There is no “it only goes upwards from here” time! It doesn’t exist or it’s temporary. You may have created a fabulous product, but the revenue may not be as fabulous. Hitting your money target, but may be dissatisfied with something else. You can be at the peak of your career, build a good team, make good money, and be ready to launch yourself to the next level the global pandemic can smack the living daylights out of you and two years later you have to start all over again from scratch! Yes, life is like that. The whole point of this blog post is to point out things that you may be going through and to say it’s perfectly ok, just keep going. Happens to everyone, so no big deal. The sunsets and rises every day. Just keep going.
6. Work cannot always be the priority
And that’s ok. Life is a lot more than just work. Don’t subscribe to the toxic hustle that you have to be at it all the time. Family or close friend is unwell or hit a rough patch? Give it the time and attention it deserves. Be there for the people who are there for you. Life is about all the things you love and work is just one part of it. Family and friends can deal with their life on their own? Deep dive into work and get some shit done. Don’t be afraid to shift priorities.
I’ve felt bad about being away from work and dealing with the curveball life threw at me, but then I realized, I am much more peaceful when I deal with those things head-on and then get back to work. Then I changed my attitude towards things. New challenge – deal with it without feeling bad – get back to work with no regret. PEACE! In the last 10 years, what I have really learned is that it’s all about the attitude and very little about the resources you have.
7. Don’t wait till you make it to live your life.
Let me launch this product, then I will take a break. I will complete this work, then I will take a vacation. Let me deal with this challenge first, lunch with a friend can wait. Well, well well! Sorry to break it to you, sweetie, that holy time is not coming! Trust me on this one, I am living with one who thinks he will catch up with all the work and then do something fun. And it’s been eight years he hasn’t caught up yet. Seriously! It’s easier to grow succulents on the moon than convince the man to take it easy!
Anyway, I cant live like that. I don’t. I see a tiny window of opportunity where I can go live for a few moments, I take it. Sneak a lunch with girls in between a working day, schedule a self-care time when I have a couple of hours free, or do a gallery visit if it falls in my path when I am out at work. The truth is, there is no completing the to-do list, there is always something to do. And if you don’t consciously take time out to live your life all along, you will lose years chasing your goals, and will it really be worth it?
8. You need to schedule “Thinking” time.
And if you are in a creative business like mine, you need a lot of it. I see a lot of people work work work and not really stop and think. Thinking time is important, as important as sleep is to your well-being. In your thinking time, think of what is going right, and what needs to change, build strategies, and make new plans. Use the thinking time to innovate. When you schedule thinking time, you grow faster. You don’t schedule thinking time, you are a self-employed business person who does the same thing over and over again with zero variation. Just like the golgappa wala that is outside a building for years with the same thela and same amount of puris and same customers. Stagnation is the biggest cause of unhappiness.
9. You can’t do it all on your own
If growth is what you want, then you cannot be a control freak and do it all on your own. Build a team, delegate, automate, and convert free subscriptions of what matters to paid ones to boost efficiency. Know that it takes effort to move from level zero to level one, and it will take very different strategies and twice as much effort to move from level one to level two. It will be the same as you, and you need to add a differentiator to get there. Be on continuous learning, and sign up with a mentor. What you can do by yourself in three years, you can do in six months with the help of the right mentor. Be open to it.
10. Have a peer group
Human beings are social animals, we need to feel we belong somewhere. Find a peer group that is discussing strategies, makes plans, evaluate failures, draws learning, and encourages each other to move ahead. Seek a group of fellow hustlers of both kinds, who are doing better than you and who are doing less than you. Your knowledge can help someone to grow and someone else’s knowledge and experience can help you grow. Remember, you get what you work for and no one and nothing can take that away from you. And it’s a lonely journey to grow alone, so strap in with your peer group and set that rocket on fire.
This list was supposed to stop at 10, but you know I am all about extra, so here is one more.
11. Get a good night’s sleep
There are days you need to burn the midnight oil, I get it. But getting a good night’s sleep every night is very crucial for anyone who has to put their brains to use all day long. Elon Musk may be ok sleeping six hours, but if your body needs seven or eight hours of sleep, give it that. Depriving your body of the optimum rest it needs does more harm than good. You don’t gain extra hours for work, you lose the time your brain and body need to rejuvenate, and you become less efficient.
I’ve heard people say sleeping is a waste of time. Do you know what is a waste of time? having to deal with your toxic aunty because you feel obligated is a waste of time. Mindless scrolling is a waste of time, not sleep. Give your body the rest it needs or one day it will demand for it in the most unloving ways and it ain’t pretty.
I will add to this list as and when the brain wave hits. I know there is a lot of scary depressing stuff I have talked about here, but here is the part where I tell you it’s worth it. The feeling of having built something for yourself with the weight of your own spine is priceless. Being financially independent and being able to do more when there is a need is priceless. And having the confidence that you can double your income, just by putting in the work, is beyond priceless. So hustle away my sisters, brothers, and fellow earthlings! You owe it to yourself!