Why I became an Entrepreneur (the short story)

During my last trip back to the East Coast it was obvious that people didn’t understand why I’d become an entrepreneur. Why give up a successful career trajectory for something with a 90% chance of failure? It bothered me and I wanted to start getting my thoughts down, I want to revisit and expand on this topic later. For now, the basic answer is that my life goals and desired lifestyle are not achievable with a job.

Like @mattmireles I grew up as the middle class kid amongst the super rich. This gave me both a strong desire to change my economic positon and also an outsiders mentality. It was obvious that the if the status quo remained I’d never move up. So throughout my life I’ve tried to create things that break the paradigm.

While my last job was perfect for me, the next roles I saw in the future weren’t. It was apparent that the highest I could reach at a large company would be an exec role entrusted to maintaining steady growth and compensated to live a comfortable, and always working, lifestyle. This just wasn’t what I personally wanted and the thought of settling down into a routine job and lifestyle scared me. I still harbor dreams of changing the world and living an adventure. The corporate career path seemed to conflict with that dream.

Entrepreneurship on the other hand feeds directly on passion, profit from disrupting the status quo, and is one of the biggest adventures one could undertake. There is a definitive risk of failure, but the payoff if successful in both money and status is far beyond what is achievable in a job. In essence I’m risking comfort for a chance to be extraordinary.

Its hard at this very moment because I’m not earning what I was, but I’m compensated well by having a lot of fun, working with great people and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This first project, successful or not, is a chance to really learn the ropes and in that way I see it as an investment.

I know quite a few of the readers here have made, or are contemplating, similar decisions. Use the comment box to tell us what you think.

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Why I became an Entrepreneur (the short story)

7 thoughts on “Why I became an Entrepreneur (the short story)

  1. Andrea says:

    I’d have to be honest, Joel, and say that I’m a bit disappointed as to what your motivations are (or seem to be from standing behind a silly screen!) for becoming an entrepreneur.

    My view is limited; and based purely on what you wrote. In short, entrepreneurship for you, seems to be the equivalent of trying to win the lottery. Find the right idea, get filthy rich quick! and retire/enjoy the “lifestyle and status” you could not achieve at GE; or believe you could not achieve. Get rich or die trying. What you call the “payoff if successful in both money and status is far beyond what is achievable in a job”.

    This is not what the drive behind being an entrepreneur should be, in my opinion. My father is an entrepreneur… because he’s always been passionate about something, and wanted to do it his own way. He never became filthy rich, but was never planning on it. If it happened, it would have just been a result mostly of circumstances.

    On the other hand… and again take it for what it’s worth… you seem to be looking for the next Facebook, whatever that might be. Whether it’s building eCards or splitting restaurant tabs, who cares. Let’s try and hit the jackpot.

    Don’t misinterpret me. There is nothing wrong with that. I just don’t call that entrepreneurship. To me, you’d be better off piling up some cash and joining a VC firm focused on high tech (if that’s your field of interest), and participate in finding the next Google. Potentially same investment, but at least you wouldn’t have to pretend to build something you don’t really seem to care about.

    Best of luck!

  2. Sebastien says:

    Great stuff Joel. There’s no doubt the risk-reward curve of what you’re doing is heavily weighted on the risk side. But then again, no great person ever took the “comfortable” road in life. Unlike prior commenter, I believe I understand what you’re saying. Most importantly, you’re going where YOUR heart is steering you. You’re living the life YOU want to live. This is your passion, and this is where you will achieve the most meaning in life.

    It’s easy for someone with a very narrow mind to get caught up on your comments regarding money and status. But these are just natural things that follow those who take bigger risks. And yes, they are part of why one takes risk.

    You undoubtedly have a difficult road ahead of you, but knowing you, you’d never have it any other way. Why else climb to the peak of a snow-peaked mountain? Or white water kayak down glacial rapids? It’s all about the ride, and in my opinion you are on one hell of a ride.

    And like you said, you’re already compensated in the ways that are important to you. You’re learning much more than any book or single person could teach you. You’re idea is a great one. It’s unique and fun and original. I have no doubt that what you will learn in this experience will lead to greater ideas and much better access to the resources you need to make them a reality. And guess what, there’s a million of ideas out there that never get implemented because it’s easy to stay in the comfort zone. Well, I salute people like you with the courage and audacity to go for it. And in many ways, you already won.

  3. Sebastien says:

    I just remembered this quote from Wedding Crashers that reminded me of above commentary:

    “I put myself on the line, you shoot it down with your negativity. Your goddamn negativity! I don’t need it! I’m an idea man. I thrive on enthusiasm. Don’t take the wind out of my sails.”

    Believe me..there’s plenty of people out there who get what you’re doing!

  4. Wow, my short story exactly, except I worked double duty until my own business was making about the same as my day job. It was rough leaving that “double income”, but I’m right there with you.

    Especially funny how older people I know in the Midwest have NO clue what I’m doing.

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