Career Advice, Now + Beyond

What they don’t tell you about entrepreneurship

If you want a lot of comfort and financial security, the startup life is not for you. 

I’ve started feeling like I’m not good enough. I just feel really sad.

It’s not just loneliness- to be clear, I haven’t isolated myself. I could be with my closest friends, and all of a sudden, start feeling gloomy. Today it happened while I was in a cafe, and as my friends were discussing their senior design project, I felt a heavy anchor of sadness.

My stomach starts hurting, and my throat feels like it’s constricting. I have a lot of thoughts I want to push out, but I can’t. I’m not going to make it. I’m a failure. I’m not really good at anything. Where am I heading, with my life? Am I fit for the startup world? Will I be able to successfully close the fundraising round? Will I make it?

Nothing seems to happen fast enough, and the only thing that’s flying at a pace I can’t keep up with, is time.

Time enough to answer all my emails, to send out proposals, to meet leads and clients, to close deals, to start new projects, to finalize projects, to check-in with different departments. It feels like there’s not enough time.

But there’s a lot of work to do.

I don’t know if I can make it, to the end of the year, quarter, month, and sometimes even day. At times like these, the only thing that keeps me going is one step. I need to take one step at a time. Sometimes that one step is getting through 5 more minutes. 5 and 5, till I get through an hour. Then another, then another.

Not every episode is this bad, sometimes it’s easier to get through. Sometimes, it’s a lot worse. At the lows, I’m thankful for the people that make up my support system. It’s sometimes easier to word out all my feelings of uneasiness and anxiety, and why I feel like everything is going wrong. Other times, it’s not as simple.

Some episodes I start reminiscing, and spiral down a path of should-haves, could-haves, and what-ifs. Those are the weaker moments. I know there’s no other path I would rather have chosen, but sometimes I do wish someone had told me what entrepreneurship would be like, in the most raw and unfiltered way. I know every entrepreneur’s path is different, but I had no idea what was coming my way when I entered this ecosystem.

It’s also the same naivety I see when I’m at startup events with students pitching startup ideas. They’re so hopeful and convinced they’re going to change the world, or their industry, or that their solution is the best damn one in the market. The confidence is great, and I absolutely love seeing it, but if it was that simple, every other person in the world would have “made” it, quite literally. Based on which article you read, 60% and 90% of all startups fail. There’s a higher chance of failure than success, and yet we’re all still so optimistic that we will inevitably make it to the success stat.

Entrepreneurship is a tricky road. I’m often asked to speak about my personal journey as an entrepreneur and why more students should consider it as a career path right after university. That’s where I’m wary- because I don’t want to paint an ideal image, when the reality is so far from it. I don’t want to discourage anyone (hell, I chose this for myself), but I worry about giving the wrong impression. There is a reason you see more older entrepreneurs than younger ones, especially in this region. Not everyone can afford to have a startup, when they’re right out of college. And, while there are increasingly growing resources and initiatives to encourage and build out young entrepreneurs, more often than not, there is a long long way ahead. If you want a lot of comfort and financial security, the startup life is not for you. It’s as simple as that.

Most folks glorify the “hustle”, and the “grind.”

Most people romanticize the successful fundraising rounds, and exits. They don’t talk about the breakdowns and the panic attacks. They don’t talk about the rejections in the first phase, the criticism in the second, and the years leading up to the “overnight” success.

Not as much as they need to.

They talk about starving entrepreneurs and tell you to “do what you got to do.”

But, don’t talk enough about how to survive.

Each narrative you read has probably been changed a few times (lo and behold PR), to make it seem like a gorgeous roadmap, where each failure was a milestone to success.

That’s why I’ve built a subconscious filter to bullshit, hypocrisy, the buzzwords, and the pretense.

And in the midst of it all there’s the mental battles with myself; imposter syndrome- a curse I wouldn’t wish on anyone in the world.