Entrepreneurial Survival Mode—The Option to Sink or Swim

Being at the beach in September, the symbolism of the vast ocean before me resonated with the career leap I had taken just two months prior.

I wouldn’t say I question my decision to break off from my former career and become an entrepreneur, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit I do wonder where the “path more traveled” would have led me. In the past months I’ve made a lot of friends who have also given up their careers for a shot at creating something much bigger and have been inspired by their unique stories. In this circle of entrepreneurs, I often find myself to be the youngest with least prior career experience under my belt before I took this same leap. While this could easily cause a soft spot of self-doubt, it has instead solidified my decision because of one unanimous emotion expressed by all of my entrepreneurial friends—not one of them wishes they would have waited longer to go full-time with their business. More often than not, they regret not doing it sooner.

At first I questioned this. Who wouldn’t want to keep a good paying, stable job as you slowly build your business on the side? Once you’re ready to step over, it would seem to be a smooth and painless transition. In hindsight, I’m so glad that I didn’t fall into this trap. Unless you take that leap of faith into the ocean of the unknown, you’ll never have the same intense push to make your business succeed. Your other career will always act as a safety net and protect you from the uncomfortable but necessary feeling of going into survival mode. Once your business is your only means of income, you no longer have that safety net—only the option to sink or swim.

So here I am, paddling like mad. I have no safety net, only a small life jacket of built up savings that could quickly deflate if I’m not careful. But each month as I gain a client, lose a client and breakdown my budget, I know I have only one choice—to make my business a success. I am in entrepreneurial survival mode. The 2 years I maintained Bennis Inc as a side business, I never experienced the same drive and acute business sense as I do now. I was just enjoying the extra income as I sailed wherever the breeze took me. Now that this is my only means of survival, I actively pursue new business, put more time into creating a professional image and learning new skills and tactics to position myself as an expert in my field. There have been months when my head’s been barely above water and there have been months where I felt like an Olympic swimmer. It’s not easy, but if it were, everyone would be doing it.

For all hopeful entrepreneurs out there, I’ll tell you this: take the leap, take it sooner than later. It’s scary and overwhelming, but isn’t that the adrenaline people like us live for? One of my favorite quotes says it the best…

Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.