Wednesday, December 16

Making Sacrifices: Critical For Entrepreneurs?


There seems to be an entrepreneurial paradox being framed up by Jason Cohen, founder of Smart Bear Software, and Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software. And they are not the first to do it.

Cohen suggests maximizing your chance for success means sacrificing health and family. Berry suggests that success can be achieved by a measured approach, which could save you from an early grave.

The paradox is a classic Aesop's story about the tortoise and the hare with a few modifications to capture the spirit of modern entrepreneurs. Let exhaustion supplant arrogance as the hare's potential undoing, and then take away any guarantees that the tortoise will cross some mythical finish line. Life, unlike the fable, doesn't come equipped with one.

The hare forgets that success cannot be measured by scarcity.

If you have to sacrifice health and family to achieve some arbitrary measure of success, then you aren't successful. As Berry rightly points out, placing work before life doesn't guarantee you'll cross the finish line. And even if you do reach some imaginary line, there is a good chance that you won't have as much time to enjoy it.

Chances might even be that you'll only work harder to protect it. Or maybe, you'll realize that other measures might taste sweeter as Arthur Miller explored in the character of Willy Loman. Or maybe, your own sense of self-worth might produce some conviction that somehow you have to sacrifice work in order to rebalance your life after reaching some unknown destination.

The tortoise is sometimes resigned to enjoying leftovers.

Where Berry is a bit off the mark is that his plan requires a heavy dose of self-discipline. Having met plenty of would-be entrepreneurs, authors, and inventors, most don't have it. And yet, most of his fundamentals and fine tuning requires it. Rarely do people understand they usually end up in the place they are in because of decisions made three months prior.

Of course, there is also no guarantee that the apple, let alone the worm, will be there when you arrive at any destination. So sometimes being someplace first is paramount to success as Dennis Yu, CEO of BlitzLocal, offered up as advice to small business owners. In some cases, you don't even have to be the best, just first.

Would you rather be the tortoise or the hare?

The answer is much like two sides of the same coin. The hare might get there first, but there is an equal propensity for more mishaps along the way and a dilemma that "self-sacrifice" sometimes carries an interest rate much steeper than one might expect. The tortoise might be inclined to stop and smell the flowers at the expense of finding only crumbs at the next crossroad of opportunity. So which is it?

The question is a trap, of course. Choosing heads or tails neglects the obvious. All coins have three sides, and the one you want has the thinnest edge of all. It denies choices always carry duality.

Modern entrepreneurs (and marketers for that matter) are best served when they can muster enough self-discipline to follow Berry's model but augment it with Cohen's passion and tenacity at precisely the right times. Or, in sticking with the metaphor of a modified race based on Aesop, the best entrepreneurs are marathon runners with enough reserve to sprint at the right moments.

As Copywrite, Ink. enters its third decade (founded in 1991), I've run the company at both speeds only to find I didn't like either. So, I eventually settled on the edge. You have to make your own road rather than choose on the one less traveled while keeping in mind that the journey is ten times more important than the finish line, given finish lines don't exist.

2 comments:

Dennis Yu on 12/17/09, 7:54 PM said...

Hi Rich,

I wish there was a happy medium here-- if you find it, let me know! Meanwhile the simple key to success in my opinion is just massive action, as most people have so many barriers that prevent themselves from taking even that first step.

If you play golf, you've probably heard that 95% of short putts never go in. Or that "if you don't play, you can't win". All that to say that non-entry is guaranteed failure.

Rich on 12/17/09, 8:08 PM said...

Hey Dennis,

You're certainly right that if you don't play, you can't win. Or, as one of my new favorites goes, "you're either making progress or making excuses."

So the only tricky part about finding that middle is that seems different for everyone. A couple friends touched on this when I offered the following on Facebook:

"Doubt can only be removed by action.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

One responded: knowledge without action is useless ...

Another said: ... and action without thought is pointless.

Perfectly balanced. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

All my best,
Rich

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