Entrepreneurship Is Not A Career Move

In San Francisco, being an Entrepreneur puts you at the top of the food chain and failing is worn like a badge of honor, so most people can’t wait to jump into a pool full of startup Kool-Aid. Even the non-swimmers.

The problem is they think it’s all about working at coffee shops, raising a lot of money and speaking at conferences. If they get funded, they act like they’ve made a sound career decision, one that led to a promotion. Trouble is, it isn’t true.

Most entrepreneurs are like artists: passionate and starving

I’m not sure when being an entrepreneur turned into a career but it’s a dangerous way to look at it. It’s like waking up one day deciding to become an artist. You don’t decide to become an artist, it comes from a passion to create.

Also, it seems more and more people are starting up for the money (or the hopes of it). Wow, are they misguided. It’s way easier to become an investment banker than to have a successful outcome as a tech start-up. The odds are not in the entrepreneur’s favor.

It’s more than being a risk taker

At the end of the day, it’s not about taking risk. Yep, I said it. Sure there’s risk involved, but it’s not why you start up. For most, it’s about creating something from nothing. I don’t care about money. I don’t care about materials. All I care about is creating something that others use and find valuable. There’s definitely ego involved, any creative act requires it.

It’s who you are … all you know.

How you become an entrepreneur can take many different paths but I’m certainly not working for someone else. At this point, it’s who I am and all I know. Some feel that they can’t do it forever because they have plans on starting a family or can’t sustain the intensity – well I disagree. It’s sustainable if you choose. It doesn’t have to mean risking it all, or working 100 hours a week. It’s more like waves that come and go and if you manage it properly, it’s doable. I can’t see myself doing anything else – building companies is what I love to do.

I’m not writing this to discourage people from starting. I’m hoping people read it in order to help them prepare. Entrepreneurship is definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s certainly not a career move either, it’s something you do for the rest of you life.

P.S.Lately I’ve been writing twice a week at http://maplebutter.com – it’s a blog I started for Canadian founders – be sure to subscribe.

21 Comments

  • Nice Dan. Starting a company isn’t about how much funding you can get or what kind of lines of credit you will have access to after it gets off the ground. I know people that operate in that manner and their business suffers because no one at the top is actually passionate about the product their company sells or the people in the building.

    I’m by no means saying that money is evil, but it’s important for entrepreners to see it as a resource to fuel their passion and not a means to an end. To start/run/own a business you have to truly love it and I hope to be there sooner than later. Good post!

  • dmartell says:

    Ashley,

    So true and glad you resonated with this post. Money should be used as a measuring stick to know if you’re growing as a person. The bigger problems you solve, the more money you’ll make.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Steve Poland says:

    Dan — great post. Totally resonates with me given the post I just wrote today about some lessons learned about being a non-technical founder [and contemplating whether I should even be starting companies]… http://blog.stevepoland.com/repeat-after-me-i-will-not-do-another-startup-as-a-non-technical-founder-unless/

  • dmartell says:

    Steve, love that post – just read it + going to share. You made some good points and everyone needs to know what they’re good at or not. I’m not 100% in agreement as I believe you can build something without a tech co-founder but it does require you to own the product and scope creep. That’s a personal habit that most need to get over.

    Also, if you launch early and look at your metrics, then atleast you can’t lie to yourself and say that it’ll be a big idea. Initially, most big ideas suck. They need to be revised (trust me, I know ;). If I can ever be of help, call me – you got my number.

    Love to help.

  • Daniel Santamarina says:

    So long since I enjoyed an entrepreneurship article. Congratulations!! Im a Mexican ex-enyrepreneur, I’ve failed from my last project and succeed in another.
    Agree with the points you make…

    Best regards

  • ScrollBy Granny says:

    Interesting article Dan! And no instance of “awesm” either. ;)

    -ScrollBy Granny

  • Brennan says:

    Amazing! I totally agree with this! ^_^

  • Angela Neal says:

    Thanks for putting so eloquently into words a grumble that I have had for a few months now. Watching Dragons Den and other reality shows I have become increasingly disturbed at the way entrepreneurs are constantly portrayed as go-getting, risk-takers who end up rich and successful. Sure, that happens but I agree that it is a skewed perspective, and a dangerous one to be advocating to a younger generation.

  • Reuben Katz says:

    I meet ‘interested entrepreneurs’ every day. “I can do that”, “I have a strong stomach…” what entrepreneurs go through can cost them everything sometimes, it’s something they have to really be ready for. One thing you failed to mention is after 1-2 years of hard entrepreneurship (and the longer it is extended) the more ‘Unemployable’ one becomes. After one successful run there’s no going back and you must be ready for years of sleepless nights and stress. The upside is it is a rewarding life and being part of a group that really adds value to the world. Creating something out of nothing that can give people jobs and change the world.

  • dmartell says:

    Reuben, totally agree – no going back is right. Nothing better than working on changing the world!

  • Drew Hansen says:

    Dan – I agree and think in many ways entrepreneurship is a calling. It beckons to you. Not pursuing the path would compromises an innate part of yourself, so you follow the desire to build something that didn’t exist before.

    Here’s my take on another reason why entrepreneurs are artists:

    http://blogs.forbes.com/drewhansen/2011/07/20/entrepreneurs-are-artists/

  • Angus Nelson says:

    As the victim/veteran of three start-ups and beginning the fourth, I whole-heartedly agree with the comparison to an artist. What we do is who we are. It’s that simple. I know there’s probably safer, more stable ways to make a living. But I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. It is the act of creating, the art of implementing, and the aspiration of bring seen from the unseen. I’ve lost big. I’ve won a little. But I’ve loved every minute of it. Cheers!

  • Matt Report says:

    Nice to find someone who shares the same passion to build something useful for others.

    Good article here.

  • Ryan Lallier says:

    Dan, great article. Great job accurately describing how us entrepreneurs are wired.

  • Jason Ebaugh says:

    “Most entrepreneurs are like artists: passionate and starving”.

    I just wrote that on my whiteboard.

    -Jason Ebaugh – slow-growth entrepreneur

  • It all depends from which angle. For newly unemployed workers, entrepreneurship can lead to other opportunities to get back into the workforce.

  • [...] just read a short blog entry entitled “Entrepreneurship is NOT a Career Move” and I couldn’t agree with it [...]

  • After participating in Dreamforce, TC Disrupt and PitchSF and meeting a lot of founders over the last couple of weeks, this post speaks to me. Was it Dave McClure who coined the term “Wantrepreneur” I heard at the Montreal Start-up Fest?

    Being an entrepreneur is not always what you want to do, it’s what you have to do. -Pete

  • Well said Dan!! I agree with your blog and I can identify that being an entrepreneur is a passion not a decision ‘to-be’! I know personally that entrepreneurship is not my ‘thing’, however managing or partnering with an entrepreneur is my strength and passion.

  • thomasknoll says:

    “You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”
    /via Rainer Maria Rilke

  • Yup. You’d think more people would know this, but it’s too often not the case and they find out the hard way.

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