"Here is a picture of me cavorting with supermodels in the French Riviera, all while listening to pings from my Blackberry each time money pours into my bank account!"
"I was an oppressed file clerk, bossed around by tyrannical managers until I spent $399 on a 12-CD audio program. Now in just two short weeks I have two assistants just to paint my toes, and my former manager just called my cellphone, begging to come to work for me."
"Here is my large car, parked in front of my large house with my large boat in the garage. None are as large as my bank account, which just keeps filling up, despite the fact that I only work 3 hours a week."
Am I the only one who guffaws at this picture of entrepreneurship?
If I were to inject reality into this image based on the last 10 years I have worked for myself, my commercial would be more like this:
"Here is a picture of me at 5am at the Southwest terminal at the airport, pregnant and nauseated, throwing up on the curb as I prepare to fly to my client’s office."
"Here I am at 3am at Kinkos, on my 7th sugar/caffeine roller coaster of the evening, near weeping as I try to get my Word document to print out as it did on my home computer so that I can finish my materials for tomorrow morning’s meeting"
"Here I am trying to close a big deal with a senior executive, scared as hell but trying not to show it, and hoping that the spinach salad I had for lunch is not stuck to my teeth."
You see, although I think it is a tremendous idea to build a business with "passive revenue streams" and live a life of fun and leisure, I don’t believe that it is possible to become an overnight success with a few magic techniques or systems.
Finding work you are passionate about takes time. Building up the knowledge, skill and experience to be truly great at this work is a labor of intense love and sweat. Creating a business out of this work and building infrastructure, community, customers, fans, advocates and mentors requires patience.
My perspective on this is greatly influenced by many years training martial arts. To spar at an advanced level, you must prepare your body, mind and spirit through rigorous, sometimes tedious and often painful training. You do tens of thousands of sit-ups and push-ups. Your feet get battered and blistered and callused. You get pushed around by countless advanced students who whiz by you and make you feel awkward and clumsy. But after awhile, you begin to appreciate that the true joy is in the training. Feeling your breath tear in your chest as you go farther physically than you ever thought possible is an affirmation of being alive. By the time a decade goes by, you realize that the more you know the more there is to know. It never ends, but it keeps getting better.
Growing a business is similar. Making thousands of dollars a day is an exciting milestone, and it is an amazing feeling to watch money accumulate in your account. But the real goal is to create a life of meaning and purpose. Laying on a beach drinking margaritas all day is a standard of achievement created by people who feel stuck in jobs. Most interesting people who can afford to do this all day don’t … they fill their lives with interesting, important and meaningful activities. (Can anyone see Bill Gates parked on a beach after he leaves Microsoft?)
I am unabashedly, totally and passionately committed to entrepreneurship. I can’t think of a higher level of joy than getting an email from a totally satisfied client who describes how our work together was life-altering, or sitting back and marveling how one creative thought from a late-night brainstorm can reach over 10,000 people in one week.
I won’t turn down millions of dollars if they choose to come my way – I will have so much fun giving lots away and investing in other endeavors (plus, there is the sustainable home to be built in Sedona!). But the real joy is knowing that I can create the exact structure for my business that fits my stage of life. When I was a single gal I delighted when clients paid for fancy rooms at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City or two-day stopovers in Paris. Now, I can inhale the sweet smell of my baby son’s hair as I traipse down the stairs for lunch after spending the morning writing about things that I care about. I have these options because I worked very hard for them.
Please don’t be fooled by the easy-living fantasy of entrepreneurship. The hard-working reality is so much better.