Startup Misconceptions: Kill Yourself or Kick Up Your Feet

In my effort to always provide a steady stream of useful information to entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs, I post tons of interesting and helpful articles that I find around the web that I think can help answer questions for my followers and help you all move your businesses forward. Oftentimes, people write me asking to elaborate on those articles or pieces of those articles so I am starting a series that will do just that. I may combine a few or leave a few out here and there, but I will cover the topics that people most often asked me to elaborate on.

I recently posted an article from RockthePost about common misconceptions people have about launching a new company. The next of those misconceptions that I want to tackle here is actually a contradictory pair of misconceptions: one being that starting a business means you will have to be a sleepless zombie working 24/7 to build your business and the other being that you can kick up your feet and barely put any effort in but still have a successful business and get rich.

In discussions of entrepreneurship there seem to be two opposing opinions on the amount of work necessary to build a thriving, successful business. There are those that subscribe to the idea that owning one’s own business means never really having to work and believe in things like the 4-hour work week. On the other side of the coin, there are those that building a business means sacrificing everything else in one’s life to be completely dedicated to building the company. They believe that ever going on a date, or getting a full night’s sleep, or seeing a movie with friends means that you’re not fully committed to the business and will, therefore, fail.

Now, obviously, it is very difficult to generalize and different business types require different levels of time commitment. Those building lifestyle businesses tend to subscribe to the 4-hour work week mentality and those trying to build high-growth tech startups are more inclined to believe that one should live at the office and take brief breaks just long enough to occasionally eat and shower. No matter what type of business you’re building, however, neither of these is an accurate depiction of the commitment you’ll need to make, nor is either vision particularly healthy.

Let’s start with the 4-hour work week concept. It may sound nice, but it’s simply not realistic; at least not at the beginning stages of building your business. The idea of the 4-hour work week may be a goal to aspire to, but it’s certainly not going to be your reality on day one of building your business. Even the author of the famous book describes it as something you’ll need to work up to over a period of time, so I’m not really sure how the misconception that starting a successful business takes no work came about.

On the other end of the spectrum are the obsessive work-a-holics. Obviously, it’s not healthy for someone to eat nothing but Ramen noodles and sleep for only 3 hours per day, so I don’t think there is much discussion needed there. Burnout is inevitable with that lifestyle and burnout of a founder often means the burnout of the business as well.

In reality, the way to build a successful business is not to fall on either of these extremes. Now, of course, there will be times that your undivided attention and all-nighters are necessary and there will be times when you can lounge by the pool. The trick is realizing that both of those are going to be a part of building your new business.

You should think of building your company like interval training…albeit interval training that never actually ends. There will be spurts where you need to get a product launch out by a certain date or you have a crisis that absolutely must be handled immediately and you’ll need to be prepared to spend 72 hours straight at the office with essentially no contact with your family or friends. But once that high-intensity burst is over, you need to switch to a brief break. You don’t just shower the stress off and head right back into the fire.

A key to success in entrepreneurship is being able to keep yourself motivated and going into building your business with a false set of expectations about what your time commitment needs to be is a quick way to de-motivate yourself and end up headed for failure. So put whichever of these misconceptions you have in your head aside and build the strategy for business growth that will be the most effective, not the one that fits into your idea of how your life as an entrepreneur should be lived.


Now I want to hear from you: Did your expectations about what it was like to launch a business match up with the reality? Let me know in the comments section below. 

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