Get Real: Telling the Truth About Being an Entrepreneur
“The truth is more important than the facts.”
-Frank Lloyd Wright
Americans love rags-to-riches stories. Why? Because it reminds us of the American Dream. For all you entrepreneurs who have taken a chance, left your steady paychecks and pursued that American Dream, I’m sure you have an inspiring story to tell. How you choose to tell it is entirely different.
Susan shared a link with me today; it was about the creation myths some startups tell. Superstar companies love to tell the story of how the idea for their startup came to them one night in a bar, or how they worked out of their mother’s basement until tenacity paid off.
And while all of these stories may have truth to them – are they completely transparent and are they painting a realistic picture of how to obtain success? Is success something that comes merely from hard work, or is it chance plus timing plus good idea plus hard work plus opportunity plus who you know?
Whatever the magic formula is, once we obtain our success, we have two choices: romanticize it or tell it like it is.
I stumbled upon this video of Tara Hunt, an entrepreneur with a company by the name of Shwowp. While I’ve heard many glorifications of the idea of working for yourself, Tara paints a picture of the steps along the entrepreneurial path that aren’t always so pretty.
Tara talks about standing in front of potential investors and having the sinking feeling that no one is listening, how it feels when they tell you your business is going to fail and what happens when they sometimes pretend they’re interested and you never hear from them again.
These are kinds of things no one tells you to be prepared for.
The good news is that there’s still a happy ending. All the things that knock you down can only make you stronger, and fuel your passion to succeed. And personally, I think that’s a much more inspiring story.
I liken the glorified startup fable to the reality check you get when you graduate from college and enter into the real world that you worked so hard to get to. No one prepares you for the shock that ensues when you get there and say, “Wait — this is it?”
I think we need more people to be transparent about the struggles of startups and entrepreneurialism. We need to know what to be prepared for, the successes and failures, the highs and lows, the factors in the “success algorithm,” if you will — that goes beyond just the idea of hard work or a great concept.
The problem is, people never want to say anything other than, “Business is great” and “Business is booming,” even when it’s maybe not. Talking about the challenges of making a business succeed and how to overcome them helps others become better entrepreneurs and better businesspeople. And why wouldn’t we want that?
Some successful people may not even want to admit that maybe it wasn’t their brilliance that got them to where they were, maybe it was a combination of many other factors, like privilege, connections and so on.
But that’s not what they’re selling. They’re selling The Dream.
Don’t get me wrong. I think entrepreneurialism is one of the greatest and most rewarding ventures a person can take on. I also think that no matter where you come from and regardless of the opportunities you may already have over another, it’s full of risk and takes a lot of guts to pursue.
But the trade off is that you’re pursuing your passion; you’re working towards your vision, not someone else’s. And yes, you’re taking part in the American Dream.
What’s your startup story – the good, the bad and the ugly? Please share with us.