Why Starting a Company is LESS Risky than a Traditional Career

pathStartups are known to be risky.

It makes sense. They come with a healthy dose of uncertainty, leaps of faith and an extremely high chance of failure.

So yes, they are risky…but only in the short run. 

The problem is a lot of people ONLY think about the short-term risk.  In the long run, I’d argue that startups are much less risky for young professionals than the alternative, traditional route.

See I fully expect to take on a full-time job one day in the future. I see the time I’m spending now building my own startups as an investment in that future.

How many people decide not to pursue their dream of creating something because they weighed the risk vs reward and it just wasn’t worth it?

How many people follow the normal path of going to college, getting a job, and working your way up the ladder because that’s what “playing it safe” looks like? They’d go the startup route but the career risk is just too high, some people even can’t stand the stress to do this and their health end up suffering, of course others decide to take care of their health, taking an uric acid supplement to keep their levels normal.

I don’t think that’s a bad approach. I have a great deal of respect for those who pursue the more traditional route and their ability to do so successfully.  I just think it’s often misguided by a false perception of risk.

Why Startups are the SAFE Bet…

If you stick to the traditional plan, you’ll be on par with every other person that sticks to that plan.  You’ll be exactly where they are.  You’ll be exactly as hirable as them and exactly as fireable.

You’ll have the same skills and level of experience as everyone else that has chosen to follow the same path as you.

Yes, you’ll have some money saved up, you’ll have a stable growth plan and you’ll know exactly where you might be in 3-20 years. That is, unless something changes.  The economy can change.  Industries might shift. Your life might change and you’ll realize, even after 10 years, this path just isn’t for you.  If you invested a significant amount of time into building that specific skill for that specific industry in that specific economy, you are now essentially starting from scratch.

Now lets say you go the startup route.  No, you won’t have much money saved up.  You probably won’t have a clear growth plan.  You definitely won’t know where you’ll be in 20 years.

What you will have is a great deal of experience that makes you extremely hirable.

You’ll have the ability to adapt and self-motivate.

You’ll have a wide range of skills in multiple verticals and a deeper understanding of how they fit together.

You’ll have communication skills that you’ve developed based on trial and error rather than an externally imposed system.

You’ll have management skills, with the power to inspire, motivate and execute.

You’ll know the taste of failure so well that you’ll have no problem challenging it head on.

You’ll be a leader.

In the long run, who’s at greater risk?  Who would YOU rather hire? The person who followed the same path as everyone else around them?  Or the person who created their own path and has the battle scars to prove it?

What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger. The startup founder, while taking a lot of risk in the short-run, knows that in the long run, they’re going to be MUCH stronger.

Pursuing a traditional career path at this early stage in my career? That’s way to risky for me.

 

 

Photo Cred: Spunfunkster via Compfight cc

 

Writing: A Weapon to Fight Stress and Fear

cloudOur thoughts are irrational.

For whatever reason, our mind takes us to places that no rational person should go. Yet even the most level-headed people find their emotions being driven by their thoughts.

I, for example, tend to have an irrational fear of failure.

It’s something that’s occasionally looming in the back of my mind, like a dark cloud. It wasn’t until a friend recommended that I truly address that thought that I realized how absurd it was. He asked me to focus on that fear of failure and ask myself “whats my best worst case scenario“.

I learned that failure wouldn’t be that bad.

The problem is if you don’t address your thoughts, they remain irrational and they continue to exist, affecting your emotions. We’re so caught up in constantly moving through the motions of our day that we forget to pause and look inward.

The trick is to get it out of your head and address it.

Make it a tangible thing, there in front of you, instead of something looming around in your mind somewhere.

When you can make it tangible, then you can address it rationally.

Stop.

Write it down.

Say it out loud.

Go ahead and try it now.  Close your eyes and notice how you’re feeling.  Then start writing.

First, describe how you’re feeling.

I’m stressed, worried, nervous, etc…

Then, ask why?

I don’t want to lose my job. My friends are going to laugh at me. I don’t want to fail.

Then address it for what it is.

What would happen if I did lose my job? If my friends laughed at me? If I failed. 

You’ll likely feel better already just by coming to terms with your feelings.

I’m worried about my job but that’s okay, I know why. Or: I might fail, but it wouldn’t be all that bad, I could pursue my dream of working on a ranch!

Take it a step further and start writing regularly. Write just to reflect. You might notice thoughts that you didn’t even realize were there (those are the scariest ones).

Your brain can be an excellent problem solver but only when it sees problems in their true light.

Get it out of your head.

 

Thanks to Ben Paviour for inspiring this post. 

Photo cred: Hartwig HKD

When Writing Feels Wrong

writingI’m sitting here right now and I’m not sure what to write.

Ever been there?

Since taking on the challenge to write every day, this issue has come up a few times.

I have a bunch of good drafts I could work on, but my head isn’t in the right place for any of them right now. I don’t feel the same way I did when Iw rote them.

I’m tired, I’m not feeling creative and I just want to skip out on writing right now.

I guess this would be a good time to address those thoughts and write about writing when it isn’t coming easy.

If you’re just not feeling it tonight, try these ideas:

1. Play your writing music.

Mine is usually Jazz radio on Spotify.  Gets me in the right mood for writing.

2. Just start writing.

The ideas are in your head already.  Sometimes you can pull them out gradually. This one sounds obvious but when you’re faced with that blank sheet it feels daunting. Start by writing how you’re feeling right now and take it from there.  Start with “hi I’m David”. Just start. Get the words flowing.

3. Acknowledge your thoughts.

Whenever I feel stressed or unproductive, it helps to write down my problem and then write down a solution.  I’m essentially doing that with this post.  I wrote down how I felt then I wrote down logical solutions to change how I feel.

This can work any time you feel stressed, not just with writing. Address the thoughts in your head, write them down, say them out loud then identify solutions.

4. What did you learn today?

The reason most of those drafts aren’t inspiring you right now is because inspiration is usually in a moment.  That’s why it’s always good to write out posts while they’re fresh in your mind.  You still have the context and the emotion around it.  What’s one lesson, even if it’s super simple, that you learned today?

5. Write in a different style.

If you’re like me, you write a lot about business related topics and sometimes it starts feeling a bit bland.  Try throwing yourself a curve ball.  Take on a creative challenge to write a poem, a fantasy story or a speech.  Write in the third person.  Write as if you’re someone else.  Sometime’s it’s not that you can’t be creative, but rather that you’re not being creative enough.

6. Remind yourself of why you’re writing.

What’s your goal? Who are you writing for? What need or problem are you solving for them?  What’s a question they might ask you right now?  Knowing why you’re writing will help you come up with new ideas and put how you’re feeling into context.

7. Get comfortable with putting out shitty writing.

Of course, this depends on #6. If you’re writing for a job or for something official, you’ll want to make sure it’s refined.  If you’re writing for yourself, like I am, you have to get over your urge to perfect every post. For one, you have NO idea what other people will enjoy and what they won’t.

Sometimes the post that took you 5 minutes has a huge impact, and sometimes the one that took you 3 hours completely flops.  Just get your ideas and words out there.  Don’t stress over making it perfect.

Your turn.  What works for you when you want to write but just can’t get going?

 

 

Stop Pursuing Happiness, That’s Not How it Works

happyI will be happy.

It’s tempting to think that way isn’t it?  To think of happiness as this state of living that you can one day achieve?

You can actually close your eyes and picture yourself, happy, with all of these things around you.  Money, babies, a company, adventure, friends… once I accomplish these things I will be happy.

Bad news. It’s just not going to happen.

You can’t plan to be happy.  Happiness is in the present moment.  It’s an emotion, one of many that we have.  Sadness is also in the present moment, and it’s pretty hard to avoid sometimes.

There may be times when you’re happy more frequently or sad more frequently.  But I assure you, you’re never going to always be any one emotion.  Emotions are fleeting and ever changing.

Meaning on the other hand… meaning is in the past and the future. Meaning can be absolute.

Because happiness and meaning are unique. Sometimes they cause each other, but sometimes they come at the cost of the other.

For example you might be happy when you go out drinking with your friends, but that experience isn’t very meaningful.  And you might volunteer at a hospital and see horrible things happen to people every day which make you upset, but what you’re doing gives your life a great deal of meaning.

Living a life of meaning is more of a status that you CAN strive for.  But it doesn’t have to be a “one day” thing.  Meaning comes from the little things.  You can start living that life right now.  You don’t have to start a company, sell it, travel the world, make babies and fix the planet before you can start living a life of meaning.  Hold the door for someone. Do something unexpected to help someone. Perform acts of kindness without anyone else knowing that you did it.

And when you’re feeling unhappy, that’s okay.  Recognize it and accept it.  I’m upset. I’m stressed.  I’m worried. Say it out loud.  If you recognize it and call it out, then you can accept it and move through it.  It’s just an emotion. We get a lot of them.  They come and go.

Stop pursuing happiness.  Be happy now.  Or don’t, either way.

Focus on meaning.  I think striving for meaning is your best bet at increasing your frequency of happiness.

 

Writing 100 Posts in 100 Days

typewriter

Photo Credit: sunside via Compfight cc

Update: Turns out a lot of you are crazy enough to join me in this little adventure.  We have a solid group forming.  If you’d like to join it’s not too late, email me at David at LetsFeast.com.

Update 10/30/13: The group is growing and we moved it to a fb group, dedicated to writing every day. Whether you’re doing the challenge or just want to be a part of a strong community writing every day, join here.

I’m on day 5 now.  I just didn’t want to tell you until I had some momentum.

I decided to give it a shot after reading that Fred Wilson writes every day.  I figure if someone as busy as that can do it and still have such great insights, I sure can too.

Why 100?  Why not.  Hopefully by that point I’ll have developed the habit.

What’s the point of writing every day?

I can say with confidence that the most successful times of my career occurred when I had a steady rhythm of blogging.

1. The reflective nature of writing provides a great deal of perspective, of which I’m always in need.

2. It opens up a lot of opportunities to connect with smart people.

3. More people recognize me which creates trust in the community.

4. I come up with more ideas as I write about challenges I’m thinking through.

5. Writing is a big part of my job whether it’s content marketing, copywriting or just emails, it’s always something I’m trying to improve.

6. It feels good to hit publish.

7. There are few things that feel as good as hearing that something you wrote inspired somebody.

8. It’s a challenge and it’s helping me to become more disciplined in my work ethic.

At least those are all the reasons I’m giving myself.

I also just like writing.

I stopped writing here for a while.  It was a mixture of falling out of the routine while also realizing how little I really know and feeling like I have no business giving advice.  I went from the social media world where you can become an expert in the same amount of time it took you to create a twitter account and got more involved in the startup world, where I’ve felt lost more often than not.  Hopefully writing will help with that.

So I won’t promise that my content will be right or wrong or even smart.  I just promise to share what I’m learning, since I’m learning something that to me feels important, every day.

I also won’t promise to use proper grammar or edit my posts too much.  I’m just going to write and see where it goes.

Hold me to it.  I’ll be writing one post every day for 100 days.

I’ll be writing here, on Feast, on The Community Manager, Medium and potentially other places that I can trick into having me.

Want to join me?  (=