What To Do About The Struggle [a letter to entrepreneurs]

The hard thing isn't dreaming big...

The hard thing isn’t usually what you think it is. In the entrepreneurial journey there are a lot of emotions, life gets down right shitty some days. There is hope though. You’re on a journey only the greatest minds of our world start out on. A journey that most won’t try make. The journey of a true entrepreneur is plagued with disappointment, triumph, and even more let down. As long as you stay a little more positive than those negative thoughts you’re going to come out the other side a winner.

When you’re in it, it sucks. There’s no way to describe it. It’s a necessary evil, without the years of failure there is no learning, and no learning means no company.

The struggle is when food loses its taste

What is the struggle?

Something every entrepreneur human being goes through. The longer you can last, the further you will go. A lot of people don’t last. The Struggle eats them up, destroys their soul, and all they’re left with is a scared, hurtful attitude towards anything outside of what is expected. Protectionism sets in the status quo is the only way of doing things.

Why do we have to struggle?

Simple, the universe doesn’t give you anything for free. Nothing in life is easy. The more you struggle, the better the reward.

There’s a famous quote from Bill Gates “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”. You have to struggle, there’s no easy way about it. You have to go through the bad to appreciate the good.

How long has the struggle been around? 

The struggle has been around since the dawn of civilization. Our ancestors went through it. Anyone who has done anything worth talking about has been through it.  Anyone who has that crease near the corner of the eye, you know the one, the one that lets you know they’ve been through a lot.

Don't take it personally

When we’re in the struggle our minds are our greatest enemy. We tell ourselves lies, we’re delusional, we create a reality in our heads that’s just not true. Humans are amazing at finding every possible way a plan can fail. We find every loophole that might come back to bite us in the ass. In this horrible state of mind we never look for the positive horizon with the attitude of it gets better. No instead we try to warn our subconscious with these thoughts, it’s a defence mechanism sounding the alarm bells.

Don’t let the stereotype include you, you are not your own worst enemy. You have to flip that and become your own hero. How you ask? Just don’t give up. Pretty simple advice no?

I didnt quit-ben horowitz quote

Once you come to grips that you won’t quit, things get….busier. You now have something you can work on 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You have to work on your business more than you thought was humanly possible. But there is some grace there. You know that if you never give up you will be successful.

I remember when I just started out on my own thinking I was months off having to go find a “real job” again. Then I read an article somewhere that stated roughly: 90% of businesses fail in year one, 80% of businesses fail in year two, but in year ten, only 10% of businesses fail. ALAS! All I had to do was last ten years and I’d be an over night success!

if our company isn't good enough to win then do we need to exist at all

You’ll inevitably get to the point when you have your back up against the wall. You’re going to have that gut check moment of, is this really worth fighting for? Or should I retreat and give up. 

I think this is an amazing place to be in. Character is made in these moments. Every successful entrepreneur from Jobs to Musk had a moment when they could have quit, they could have packed up shop and moved on. But they didn’t, they fought for their vision, they battled the critics and came out the other side victors.

it may bring you the answer that seems so impossible today

Some days you don’t want to get out of bed and the only reason you do is that today has to be better than yesterday. Trust me on this one, you have to focus on the positive that tomorrow is always better than today.

In the information economy, everything you do online gets more valuable tomorrow. Some times the best strategy is to wait. When Elon Musk was building Tesla, he knew that computing power wasn’t at the capacity that he needed at the current time, but in the future it would catch up. And it did! Musk’s SpaceX and Solar City are based on the same concept, technology gets cheaper and cheaper over time. 

Every great entrepreneur went through the struggle

Why is the struggle so hard?

The fact that so many people fail is why it is called the struggle. It IS where greatness comes from. Without it the best you can do is very good. Very good gets written about in textbooks but will never be a best seller. Very good is fine for the amateur but professionals need something more. Very good is simple now, do a Google search for whatever it is you’re looking for, Amazon probably carries it already.

The struggle is so hard because very good is more comfortable, why change when it’s working? The struggle is uncomfortable, it pushes you past where you never thought you could go.

The Struggle is not failure but it causes failure

If you’re weak the struggle isn’t going to bode well with you. The weak won’t get through it because they need simplicity. The struggle isn’t simple, it’s very complex. The weak seek out an easy life. I like Hugh’s advice on looking for the easy way out:

“Choosing an easy life rarely ends up with much of either.” -Hugh MacLeod

 

The hard thing isn't setting big hairy audacious goals

Anyone can set a goal, only the truly great stick around after they don’t hit their target to learn why.

Anyone can set a vision, only the truly great will see through their vision even after it has failed for the first half of the season (See Moneyball).

The hard thing isn’t making a plan, it’s changing the plan for the third time this year because it’s not generating the lead volume you thought.

Our world has been flipped upside down. Safe is now risky. Different is the new norm. We’re not seeking what’s expected, we love the unexpected. Find your passion, or something you think you can be passionate about and start creating like hell.

Like the saying goes, the best time to order a pizza was 45 minutes ago, the second best time to order pizza is NOW! Start your future company today. Remember what Biz Stone said, “Ten years of hard work will make you look like an overnight success.” Starthe hard thing about hard thingst now.

 

From the book The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. One of my favourite books for entrepreneurs. He doesn’t sugarcoat it, he tells it like it is, I appreciate an author who can do that. Beyond speaking from the heart he starts off every chapter with rap music lyrics. Yup, you read that correct, he quotes many lyrics from some pretty hardcore songs. That’s awesome.

“This the real world, homie, school finished They done stole your dreams, you dunno who did it.” —Kanye West, “Gorgeous”

Ben Horowitz along with Marc Andreessen started the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz based in Menlo Park. One of the most successful firms of its’ time. After you read the book you’ll learn why. The relationship between Ben and Marc is something special. They’ve worked together for years, and not always seeing eye to eye.

They were getting killed by their competition and Marc took an interview announcing their launch a little too early for Ben’s liking. At this point Marc could care less about “strategy” anything at that point helps. I do appreciate Marc’s response to Ben’s email asking “I guess we’re not going to wait till the 5th to launch the strategy.”.

Email from Marc Andresson to Ben Horowitz