WARNING: the following article contains a lot of harsh truths and some bad words. If either offend you, that’s on you because you just got warned.
Wanting to start a business is a completely understandable ambition. Not answering to superiors, being in charge of your own schedule, and possibly making lots and lots of money are all reasonable aspirations.
Actually starting and running a company? That’s fucking crazy.
In reality, the amount of risk, responsibility, headache, heartache, and stress is insane. It tends to result in irritability, poor diet, not enough exercise, insomnia, zero social life, the complete disappearance of the concept of a weekend, or a vacation, plus addiction to caffeine, ginseng, nicotine, and Visine.
So why do we do it? I believe it starts with true and honest ambition. Then, as you wade ass-deep into the weeds of running a company, something else takes over. I’d describe it as a mental illness.
Let’s take a step back and talk about when I founded my marketing and advertising company in Austin, Texas. Why did I leave a totally normal and successful career for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship? Weirdly enough, I think that decision is rooted in my Zen Buddhist upbringing, which sort of devolved into agnosticism. With no afterlife or reincarnation to look forward to, life takes on extra urgency. If I don’t do it now, when will I? So I dove into business ownership with almost a reckless abandon.
I knew what I wanted and I went for it. Does that mean the reality lives up to the dream? Not exactly.
You hear this a lot from other business owners: They acknowledge it’s a fairly agonizing pursuit while at the same time recognize this as being the only imaginable way to live. Returning to a regular job is a worse nightmare than the ones where you’re back in high school but you forgot to put on any clothes (by the way, forgetting to get dressed feels like something that will inevitably happen to me, as my brain no longer has space for normal, functional life skills.
I’m stuck as a company owner because I know too much now. It’s one of those situations like having a rent controlled apartment – even when things get bad, it never makes sense to leave. Nor would I want to. My ad agency has taken up so much space in my life, the absence of it would create a void and my entire being would implode on itself. Does that sound like I’m being dramatic? WELL I AM. But it’s to prove a point: people who found and manage businesses are a special kind of crazy.
So don’t mess with us.