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As work takes up a substantial part of our lives, it’s a question that often evokes a see-sawing set of emotions — and yet, the answer is simple, really.
What compels us to leap, despite a menacing set of fears? I think it has to do with desire. Very simply, the chains of apprehension will snap at a disproportionately great desire to explore the uncharted.
So the short answer is: you will if you want to. But do you really want to?
While we tend to laud the intrepid that excel in business, you and I share the familiar burning curiosity that often drive us to shun fear in life. It’s just that when David Karp, the 26-year old founder of Tumblr, who recently sold his company to Yahoo for US$1.1 billion, shows up on the cover of Forbes, thinking about the entrepreneurial journey becomes that more apt.
As many entrepreneurs can attest to, it’s a perilous path and few would call it glamorous. It’s taxing on personal relationships. Startups put their founders in an inherently demanding, fragile, often unfamiliar territory. Failing is likely. The fear of failing therefore, becomes an important topic to deal with.
If we follow our desire theory however, the question whether or not to risk starting a new venture becomes irrelevant. Whether it’s a sound contingency plan, the acknowledgement of inherent situational frailty, or the prospect of reduced collateral damage — think kids, mortgage or significant other — ample curiosity begets founders.
So, if you desire to disrupt an industry, you will conquer the fears that are included therein. Yes, it’s easier for some to overcome the fear when the environment is favourable. The close proximity of the 19 000 startups in San Francisco for example, form a network which mitigates the risks that ventures in isolation face. If a venture fails here, its founders and employees rebound faster by capitalising on relationships they’ve crafted in an environment that’s set up for comebacks.
It’s harder to do in Accra, Nigeria or Cape Town, for example, and yet looking at the brilliance emerging from the African continent, it illustrates the sincere desire to explore new business opportunities and the caliber of the continent’s entrepreneurs — often forged in fear-inducing environments with great uncertainty.
In the end, I think, you just know if it’s your thing or not. It’s probably easier to risk it all when you’re young, but as serial entrepreneur and lecturer Peter Hinssen puts it:
After three startups, I decided it was time put that scene behind me. But let me tell you. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t fantasise about going back to the startup world. As Anthony Bourdain puts it, “It’s like a heroin addiction, where even after being clean for years, you can still long for that shot, even when you know it might kill you.” Same for startups. Once in your blood, it will never let you go.
It’s the most intoxicating experience in the world to be part of an adventure, to think you and your team are going to conquer the world, that you have a shot at greatness. I would highly recommend it. It’s a better business education than any business school would ever be able to provide you. It’s a better school of life than any other experience in the world. But don’t think for a minute that it’s glamorous. It’s not.