Ready to Die Broke

You see, it's my experience that people either have the entrepreneurial bug or they don't. Simple as that. Most people just aren't prepared to go the distance.

Ready to Die Broke
Capital Thinking | Ready to Die Broke

Capital Thinking  •  Issue #26  •  View online

People ask for advice all the time.

Some of them ask politely; some of them don't. But just about everyone wants an easy answer.  

And if your answer isn't really want they want to hear, they quickly tune you out.

That's OK.

It doesn't change anything.

One question that always seems to come up is whether or not people should go into business for themselves or stick with the job they already have.

My answer is always "It depends."

You see, it's my experience that people either have the entrepreneurial bug or they don't. Simple as that.

It's not a case of not having the skills or the talent.

It's desire - or rather, the lack of it.

Most people just aren't prepared to go the distance.

What I mean is they underestimate how tough (and painful) it can be to go it alone.  They don't know what it's like not to have the support of your family and friends, a regular paycheck, and the little things like health insurance, a retirement plan, or a paid vacation.

Entrepreneurs, for the most part, miss those things too.

They just don't need them.

And the fear of losing them isn't as powerful as their vision of independence coupled with a strong streak of stubbornness.

Persistent and determined are words that come to mind when I think "entrepreneur", but those are not characteristics that will "travel well" on your corporate performance review.

Being hardheaded, independent, and outspoken is not going to score well at all with the "Exceeds - Meets- Needs Improvement" crowd.

There's no check box that fits.

Years ago I was watching an old wildlife show episode about trapping monkeys and relocating them to a safer area.

"Beaters" were employed to scour the surrounding area and to encircle as many monkeys as possible.

Running from the beater's, the monkeys found a single large tree in the center of all the activity. Eventually, all the monkeys climbed into the tree. A few beaters were paid to spend the night at the base of the tree to discourage any sort of monkey jailbreak.

When morning came, the tree was absolutely full of monkeys.

A truck pulled up and men began to unload a large net and what appeared to be a cannon. Sure enough the edge of the net was soon loaded, fired, and up over the tree it went trapping the monkeys inside. Now the beaters began capturing monkeys by the dozens.

At some point, the host of the show interviewed a tribal elder and asked how the tribe caught monkeys in the past.  It seems that there wasn't really a need to catch monkeys by the hundreds -  unlike the researchers. Instead, they caught monkeys one at a time.

"How did you manage that?" the host asked.

"We found a gourd and drilled a hole in it."

The Elder went on to explain that the gourd was chained to a stake in the ground (so it couldn't be dragged or carried away) and then they filled the hole with sugared rice.

The monkey comes along, smells the sugared rice, and sticks his hand inside to get some for himself.  But the hole has been carefully drilled; and it is just large enough to allow his hand inside, but small enough he cannot remove his hand as long as he holds the fistful of rice.

"That's all there is to it? "

"Yes. The monkey will never give up the rice. He will remain there - chained by his greed - until we catch him."

Sounds suspiciously like an employee compensation and benefit package to me.

Anyway - back to the point.

Gabriella Draney runs a startup incubator outfit in Dallas called TechWildcatters; its name giving more than just a token nod to Dallas' long history with the oil & gas industry.

About a month ago, Ryan Beckland, the co-founder and CEO of Motivation Science, sat in on a panel discussion at the Innotech conference in Dallas.  

Afterwards, he posted his thoughts on the TechWildcatters blog in a guest post titled, "Ready to Die Broke?"

In his post, Ryan expressed concern for those considering a startup and he came up with this:

I’ve thought a lot about what makes an entrepreneur since that conference, and I’ve come up with an adequate personality test. Finish this sentence:If my brilliant idea fails, I’ll just ___________. If your answer is start another company, then you’re an entrepreneur. If your answer is anything else, you’re not.

While I wouldn't say that the only answer is "start another company," I still think Ryan nails it.

How would you finish that sentence?