I remember when I decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur–it was the day I realized that no job I could ever get would keep me engaged in a meaningful way. Unless, I suppose, I was able to work at a company that offered unlimited flexibility and creative control.
In my early 20’s it always happened around my six month mark, when I’d start to feel the boredom strike. If the job was simple enough and I couldn’t find any particular ways to improve the processes involved, it felt very empty to me. In my younger days, that meant disengaging with the job and eventually, just not doing the job very well.
Starting a business changed all of that–all of a sudden there was no end in sight, no limit on the processes that I had to master. The work was never done and there was always some aspect of learning curve to tackle. It opened up an entirely new world of what work could look like for me.
Up until that point, I had learned that the way I did things, often quite differently, was completely wrong. School taught me this–I found myself only ever wanting to fit in, to look the same as the people around me, and just do what I was told. Because I wanted to fit in, I’d just sort of follow along with the way my teachers told me to think, accepting that it was the right way to do things.
You may be familiar with the below cartoon–in this case, I felt like the elephant.
College helped further affirm that I wasn’t very good at climbing trees. I remember sitting in lecture halls during my freshman year wondering how any of it was going to work–things just weren’t clicking for me.
Entrepreneurship is a mold-breaking opportunity–it widened the playing field to where I saw that the tree I was continually asked to climb was just one small part of life as a whole. It was just one test of a particular type of intelligence, one that largely reflected learning how to follow directions really well.
In business, you have to do the opposite.
If you do the exact same thing as everyone else in your field, you have no competitive advantage. When it comes to marketing a business, blending in is the absolute last thing you want to do. In almost every area of life oddities are rewarded–they’re what makes us stand out from the rest and allows us to be chosen over others.
Those oddities may provide a strategic advantage over our peers, even though it may be initially perceived as a flaw.
The Struggles Are Amplified
The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is that the things you struggle with are amplified. If you thrive within a structured environment, you’ll be required to create your own that meets your needs. There is no longer anyone to tell you that you’ve done a good job for the day, you can head home content with your work complete. There’s no one to decide how productive you are, no quarterly review to determine your eligibility for a raise.
There is only your effort, your goals, and your definition of what a successful day looks like. How much is enough? When can we be done for the day? If you struggle with figuring these things out in a day job, taking the leap will blow these struggles wide open.
If You Want Something Different
If the structure that society has set up for gainful employment isn’t working for you, if you want something different, you should build something. Something you care about, something you’d like to see in the world if it doesn’t yet exist. If the “correct” way to do something isn’t the way you’d do it, but you got the answer wrong on the test anyway, try making your own test instead.
You don’t have to quit or take the salto mortale right away, but start building something and see where it goes. It takes a very long time to undo the damage done to our psyches throughout our lifetime. I’m only just beginning to learn that I can challenge authority when I don’t believe something is right. Just because someone says that’s the way it is, doesn’t mean that’s actually the case.
Do what feels good, do what feels right.