Hustling doesn’t require you to “drop out”

I think entrepreneurship has become a style statement. At least for some. And wantreprenuers are quite ambitious. They want to build the next Facebook, next Google, next Uber and the next everything that’s already doing so great! Nothing’s wrong with that… just that I notice a trend.

People are dropping out of colleges and their existing jobs in droves! And that’s not good. I’m a staunch supporter of following one’s dreams… but hate being stupid about the whole thing. I can say that with authority — I’ve been stupid myself. (Thankfully, my dreams were quite small. I didn’t set out to build the next Facebook or Google.)

When 99% of these wantreprenuers don’t know where the heck they’re going, we’ve got a BIG problem! You may disagree, but I’m just throwing out my opinion here.

And here’s what drives me nuts — these super-smart youngsters are obsessed with working “smart” while hustling (quite a contradiction, I know… but that’s the truth!) their way through VC pitches and fundraising rounds. None of them believe in building a business that will outlive them. Everyone wants to build the next kickass start-up. Get a massive funding and look for an exit when the time is right.

Fundamentally, it sounds like “playing to win.” But it’s not. What’s the point of exiting with the riches only to have your start-up go bust in a matter of months (or even weeks!)? What about your legacy? Would you want to be remembered for having the intuition for getting out at the right time or enduring the hardships to build a business that became bigger than you?

I’m big on two things:

  • Building a small business that’ll serve for good (essentially a Small Giant)
  • Leaving a legacy

The challenge is that everyone’s in a hurry. Building a robust business takes time. Building a legacy takes a lifetime. Unfortunately, nobody’s got time. And you can’t win this game if you aren’t patient.

Here’s a tip that’s sort of unconventional:

Don’t leave your job until you’re sure your start-up or business is built on a solid idea. And idea whose time has come. It doesn’t matter if you believe it’s a great idea. People’s opinion is what matters the most. They’ll be paying for your idea anyhow. Listen. Analyse. And be true to yourself.

The best part is that you’ll know what your calling is. Irrespective of what you want to become — an entrepreneur, a writer, an artist or even a stand-up comic — consistency is the key. You gotta show up and leverage every opportunity that comes your way. And for that, you don’t have to leave your job.

Basecamp was built by people who were passionate about an idea — a tool that will make everyone’s life so much simpler. But it was built on the side while the founders focused on the other projects to keep their dream afloat. They didn’t plunge into it fully until they were convinced they were onto something.

They focused on organic growth instead of “exponential growth.” Quite the opposite of what every young entrepreneur of today would want. As DHH (one of the co-founders) would like to put it, “Enough is the opposite of hunger. The counter to paranoia. The antidote to anxiety.” He also feels that, “The longest lived businesses in the world aren’t the ones that were biggest in their day. Many of them are family firms, or small to mid-sized enterprises content with steady evolvement of their niche. Content with enough.

And that’s the problem — we aren’t content with enough. The solution is quite simple, hustle for real. But focus on the big pictures. Not the riches. Humility starts from where you are right now.

I heard Soman Chainani the other day mention why he continued to tutor students despite having lucrative book and movie deals. His logic was stunningly simple and effective. He didn’t want the pressure of relying on the book deals for income. He knew if the book deals didn’t come through he always had tutoring to rely on for finances. The strategy allowed him to unleash his creativity and write freely. And with that freedom came the “The School of Good and Evil” blockbusters series!

Everyone’s got their own journeys, struggles and ideas. But I don’t think going all-out is a great strategy. Nor do I think impatience would take you any further. Learning happens when we go through the process.

Let’s just embrace the grind.

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