I love entrepreneurship. I mean it, I really do. As someone who has an advanced degree in Entrepreneurship, has bought, built, and run new (and old) businesses, teaches entrepreneurship collegiately, and works intrapreneurially as an Entrepreneur in Residence for an organization whose sole purpose is centered on entrepreneurs: I just can’t get enough. But entrepreneurship is not easy, and it can be a psychological battlefield.
The quest to exploit a new opportunity is a journey filled with challenges, risks, and rewards. It will sometimes kick you down when you’re already on the ground thinking you can’t possibly go lower. But if you take a breath and decide to stand back up, there are prevailing aspects of entrepreneurship that make it an incredibly fulfilling and a wonderful way of life.
When teaching “Intro to Entrepreneurship,” I like to review the positives and negatives, or the yins and the yangs. These are typically the reasons why someone would get jazzed up and enlist in entrepreneurship. Conversely, these are also the not-so-rosy challenges that may not be at the front-of-mind when amped up about a new idea or venture.
Oh, the wonders of entrepreneurship. For starters, it allows individuals to pursue their passions and turn their ideas into reality. How great is that? When you are your own boss (and hopefully a leader), you have the freedom to create products or services you are passionate about that align with your values and beliefs. This can lead to a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that may not be attainable in a traditional job. Furthermore, entrepreneurship offers the opportunity to make a difference in the world. By creating products or services that solve real problems and pain points, entrepreneurs can have a positive impact on the lives of others. This can be incredibly rewarding and motivating, as it gives entrepreneurs a sense of purpose and meaning beyond just making money.
But, if money is a driver, entrepreneurship also offers the potential for financial reward, if there is a market need and you can execute. While there are no guarantees in business, successful entrepreneurs have the potential to earn significant profits and build wealth over time. This can provide financial security and stability for the entrepreneur and their family.
My personal favorite is the potential for flexibility and autonomy. As an entrepreneur, you can have the freedom to set your schedule and work on your terms. This can be especially appealing to individuals who value work-life balance and want to have more control over their time and priorities. That said, most entrepreneurs work harder and longer hours when driven by passion and profit.
Lastly, entrepreneurship fosters personal growth and development. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly learning, adapting, and growing. You are forced to step outside of your comfort zone and take on new challenges which can lead to personal growth and development in ways that may not be possible in a traditional job. Plus, you learn a lot more and a lot faster when your livelihood depends on it. And if and when it happens, failure can be the best teacher, which brings me to the yangs.
Several adverse aspects often get packaged in the entrepreneurship deal along with the positive motivators in the yin list.
Entrepreneurship can be incredibly challenging and stressful. If you don’t handle stress well, be sure to talk to other entrepreneurs prior to starting down the entrepreneurial path. Launching and running a business requires a significant amount of time, effort, and resources. Entrepreneurs often work long hours, including weekends and holidays, and can experience high levels of stress and pressure to succeed.
In addition to stress, entrepreneurship can be financially risky. Starting a business typically requires a significant investment of time and money, and there is no guarantee of success. Many businesses fail within the first few years, leaving entrepreneurs with significant debt and financial burden.
And if the stress and risk aren’t enough, entrepreneurship can wreak havoc on personal relationships. Starting and running a business requires a significant amount of time and energy, which can take away from time spent with family and friends. From personal experience, we humans tend to be easily distracted with our head still in the business even when at home with family or out with friends. This can lead to strain in personal relationships and feelings of guilt or regret for not always being present or being able to prioritize relationships.
Lastly, entrepreneurship can be unpredictable. Even with careful planning and execution, there are many external factors that can impact the success of a business. Economic downturns, changes in consumer behavior, and unexpected events can all have negative impacts on a business – like a freaking pandemic. These and all the other Yangs can have negative impacts on otherwise optimistic outcomes, mental health, and well-being.
Embrace the Balance
Rather than dwell on the downsides, be cognizant of them so that the upsides have more time to shine. Though I don’t love when entrepreneur-SHIT happens, I still respected the game and have gathered that time and experience help you master the balance. Yin and yang represent duality, serving as opposite but interconnected forces. You can’t have one without the other, the ups without the downs. So be sure to evaluate and embrace both sides of the pursuit.
My last bit of wisdom is to reach for help early and often. Here at the Entrepreneurs’ Center, we understand the elements and provide support where you need it. In entrepreneurship, finding that balance is key to success, growth, and psychological well being, and having a resource to lean into can make all the difference.
Director, Venture Development