A student in our recent Momentum Sprint program, Ally, found out through her Sprint that the audience that has been the foundation of her business isn’t going to be viable. The conventional wisdom in entrepreneurship spaces is that she should be really upset and that we should be concerned about her satisfaction with the program because it didn’t yield what we’d promised. Rather than growing her business, her Sprint showed her that it’s more resonant for her to get a job.
Everyone in the Sprint meeting, including Ally, celebrated that she’d come to this realization.
Part of the reason we were celebrating is because of how it all went. For the first time in her business, she managed to build and present something she believed in, something that both aligned with who she was and with what works. She also became aware of how valuable other parts of her professional history were, parts that she’d never be able to directly deploy in her business — her prior career as a police officer and leader is incredibly valuable and marketable, but she’d thrown out the baby with the bathwater when she left the police force.
She said something that was really telling during our conversation about it, as well: “I don’t think this whole entrepreneur thing is for me. Right now, the idea of getting a job where I can just do what I’m good at, get paid for it, and not have to be continually hustling for the next sale sounds really nice.”
Damn straight. And especially so for Guardians — police officers, firefighters, soldiers, EMTs, and so on — simply because we’re wired to be great at what we do, get the mission done, and go home. (I say we because it’s still very much a part of who I am, even though I’ve been out for seven years.)
We all know there will be parts about jobs we don’t like — the meetings, the commutes, the jobs you don’t want to do, the asshole colleagues or bosses you can’t not deal with, the salary caps, the bureaucracy, and so on — but there’s a lot about entrepreneurship and small business owning that isn’t all that great, either. Hustling for the next big sale is always there, at least with every entrepreneur I’ve ever talked to.
I’ve said it before at greater length: entrepreneurship and business owning aren’t for everyone. And knowing that is a great thing. (Tweet this!)
This reminds me of a conversation I was having with a mentee a few months ago. He works in a well-known company in town and is stuck with the job he’s getting paid to do for the company and the unpaid work that he’s doing for the company that he absolutely loves. He showed me a development plan he had made for himself and he had two possible end goals, one of which was to start a business doing just the part of the work he loves doing. Under reasons to start the business he listed “certainty.”
We talked about the plan, but when we got to that part, I told him, “Look, if you really want certainty, going down the business pathway is the worst way to go. There’s very little about being an entrepreneur and small business owner that’s certain, except that you have to learn to embrace uncertainty and get good at thriving with it.” If you’ve walked this walk, you know exactly what I mean — you may get certain kinds of certainty, but by and large you get it at the expense of larger swaths of uncertainty.
As we talked more, it turns out that he meant “clarity of purpose,” which is something you absolutely can get and reinforce within the context of the world of business and entrepreneurship. We had a fruitful discussion about how important security, freedom, and purpose were to him — among other things — and he mentioned that it was really helpful to know the bit about uncertainty because he hadn’t heard too many entrepreneurs talk about it.
Yeah, that happens. There’s much more talk about the marketable wins and high fives than there is about the 2:00 a.m. terrors, the days where you just want to hide under the covers because it all feels like too much to handle, or the anguish of having to let someone know that you can’t pay them what you owe them right now because you over-committed and under-sold. Those aren’t quite the “Living the Dream” images that’ll show up on the InstaSnap, especially for folks who sell to entrepreneurs.
But they are very much part of the life of a small business owner and entrepreneur. It can be like having kids, I suppose. Yes, there are many beautiful moments that make it all worth it AND there’s also cleaning out mac and cheese vomit from in between your couch cushions because your child absolutely had to sit on your lap to tell you she wasn’t feeling well rather than telling you while she was standing on the hardwood floor.
Back to Ally finding her path. She got a job with a well-known management consulting firm that embraces all she brings and actually has a work environment that she could only excel in because of her time in her business. She retained the flexibility to work from wherever she wants and when it’s best for her. She’s part of a team, has a lot of autonomy, gets to do what she’s great at, gets a regular check, is happier, AND gets to work on her previous business when she wants to.
We’re putting that in the WIN column. We’re also super proud of her for having the courage to take her next right step, which was not at all what she thought it was when she started. It’s amazing the difference an intentional, focused three months can make.
Could finding your path lead you to a new destination? If so, could you let yourself embrace it?