There are things that no one tells you about entrepreneurship. Especially those who have been a success at it. Maybe they simply forget once they reach or even exceed their goals. Maybe, on the other side of the mountain, the climb doesn’t seem so bad anymore. What to expect books when you are a new parent leave out something really crucial – all the damn guilt. And business books leave out something equally critical –
All the damn doubt.
The truth is, in my first startup attempt, doubt was something that was missing from the experience. I was certain. Even a little obsessively so. I’d done my homework. I’d talked to customers. I’d limited my expenses and I worked very, very hard through long, long nights. And in the end, it failed. I can produce a laundry list of practical and tactical things I should or shouldn’t have done that may or may not have lead to abandoning that dream, but doubt was not one of them.
This time has been very different. There are days when I think I should just walk away. And by days, I mean every single day. The reasons behind my current venture are very clear to me and still fuel my passion, but beyond having that vision, there has not been a single step in this process that hasn’t been really hard. And every time the roadblocks rise, the doubt creeps in a little further.
Maybe it’s because I have been down this path before, and am still paying the debts accumulated from it, both metaphorically and tangibly. Maybe it’s because it’s 10 years later and I have a constantly shifting list of priorities in my life, and far less energy to feel in control of them. Maybe it’s because I have seen so many, in so many ways, try to change the world around them for the better and be punished terribly for their efforts. Maybe it’s because the world itself seems to be heading down a path of isolationism and self-destruction despite all the good that must still be out there – somewhere. Maybe it’s because I can’t fully believe that I can be the change I seek.
Just one person. Working alone.
Whatever the reason, doubt is plaguing me. The risks feel too large, the fight too tough, the path too dark, the costs too high, the time too short. And on days like this, it is terrifyingly lonely. I have never had a co-founder or a partner with whom to share all the ups and mostly downs of starting something new. I was clever enough to surround myself with a network of supporters and mentors – people vastly smarter than I am who offer me time and counsel. But at the end of the day, I am still alone. In every decision or non-decision, with every hesitation and action. Ultimately, success or failure rests with me. And I am certain that every partner, co-founder and CEO has felt the same way at some point.
I wonder why I can’t just go get myself a nice 9-5 somewhere that actually starts and ends in a day and doesn’t need me to give it life. Something that doesn’t really need me at all. I wonder about it, but I already know the answer. I’ve tried that life. It isn’t for me. I need to able to affect positive change, to learn and grow and be stimulated, to experiment with new ideas or new ways of looking at and applying old ideas and that isn’t usually possible in someone else’s vision.
But it is possible in mine.
So, I, like countless explorers, inventors, dreamers and entrepreneurs before me, will learn to live with doubt. I will convince myself that it is a gift, a reminder not to take for granted the opportunities I am reaching for and all that has been gained on my journey to this moment and use it to drive me forward.
Until tomorrow, anyway.
About the Author: This is me! My passion lies in leveraging today’s technology to create, support and engage communities and drive measurable economic growth. Like many, I yearn for a time when fear won’t dominate actions, where local shops thrive and people understand the value and power of local investment, in all it’s forms.
~ Lisa Denis, Founder