During my time at Infusionsoft I had the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of entrepreneurs one-on-one, and interact with thousands more through Infusionsoft University. During this time, my knowledge of small business and of entrepreneurs skyrocketed.
You see, when I came to Infusionsoft, I had already run my own business. So I knew what being an entrepreneur meant, but I didn’t know that it meant something different to everyone. I didn’t know that running a small business and the impact it could have on your life was such a broad spectrum.
I did discover that there were some commonalities in the way it affected people. And I came across one specific consistency that seemed to be a recurring theme, and I’ve been referring to it as The Entrepreneur’s Paradox.
You see, entrepreneurs are a rare breed. Even since starting my own company I’ve had more than a dozen people say things like “Wow, I’m jealous, I could never do that” or “Congrats, that’s really brave. You have a great beard.” It’s one thing to talk about your vision for a company, or ideas that you think would be a sound foundation for future success, but it’s another thing to roll the dice and actually venture out on your own in pursuit of that dream.
So, back to the paradox that I described. To be an entrepreneur you have to have the ability to let your mind wander. You have to not only be creative, but also afford yourself the time to explore the ideas you have. Let’s call this the entrepreneur’s gene. Some people have had it their whole lives. They were the enterprising kid in the neighborhood running lemonade stands and carwashes, pimping out their friends as babysitters and dog-walkers.
This parade of rapid fire ideas follows you into adulthood, or maybe you develop it somewhere along the way. Now, you see foodtrucks, Skymall (RIP) products, Facebook ads, episodes of Shark Tank, or Buzzfeed articles and your mind becomes this video montage of product ideas around which you could launch a business.
And then sooner or later, an idea is going to come along that checks all the right boxes and inspire you to chase it. So you do some research, buy a domain, file for LLC, a million other things, and you’re off to the entrepreneurial races.
But then something else happens. If you fast-forward a year, or even three months, you’re now trying your damnedest to focus on the idea that sparked this new venture but you can’t turn off the entrepreneurs gene. Sure, you can try and put blinders on, you can try and focus only on what is currently on your plate, but you’re creating internal friction because this goes completely against the way you’re naturally wired.
The same gene that helped generate the inspiration to start your own business is also deterring your progress with it because you can’t stop dreaming about the next idea or project for long enough to let you focus on the current one. Now there’s your paradox. How not fair is that?
So, how do you turn it off, right? Well, I hate to disappoint you this far into the post, but the answer is you don’t. You don’t try to fight this. It’s this whole side of you that got you where you are to begin with.
This is how I think of it: Ndamukong Suh is a football player in the NFL. For the last few seasons he’s played for the Detroit Lions, and being from Michigan, I’ve heard Lions fans oscillate between worshipping him and bemoaning him. You see, Suh is a tremendous football player, but he’s also kind of a jerk.
He’s got a general bad attitude, one that has resulted in multiple suspensions for unsportsmanlike conduct, some off-the-field legal issues, and clubhouse unrest among the team.
Well, one sentiment I keep hearing from friends and media in the Mitten State was that “If you could just take the anger and aggression out of this guy, he’d be an all-time great.”
No. He wouldn’t.
It is that anger and that aggression that got him into football. It’s that same anger and aggression that helped him excel in high school, in college, and during his time thus far in the NFL. If you remove those things you’re taking away a core component that has been a defining characteristic his whole life. In a sense, he’s no longer him. Who knows where he’d be without that “edge” to him.
And who knows where an entrepreneur would be without that mental wanderlust that got you into business in the first place.
So instead of asking “How do I turn it off?”, which I think is the wrong question to begin with, let’s ask “What can we do with it?” Then we open up a whole gambit of opportunities.
1. Accept that this is how you’re wired, and that turning it off isn’t the solution.
2. Find a creative outlet for it. If you see business ideas everywhere you turn, try joining a small business networking group, mastermind or incubator. If you’re really motivated, try taking a fledgling entrepreneur under your wing. Of course you’ll still need to be judicious about how you allocate your time.
3. Participate in the online small business community. Another way to get your fix is by helping other small businesses. There are countless active Facebook and Linkedin groups for entrepreneurs (and of course groups for entrepreneurs who also use Infusionsoft).
I want to acknowledge the potential holes in my position here. Yes, entrepreneurs are short on time. So, if you don’t have enough time anyway, when are you supposed to be able to pursue a creative channel to scratch your entrepreneurial itch? It’s going to be a personal judgment call, and some people certainly might not see the value.
For me, I equate it to chopping wood. Occasionally the right thing to do is to stop chopping so that you can sharpen the ax.
Who you are is also what got you where you are.
Instead, look for active channels where you can exercise this energy productively so it doesn’t distract from your immediate focus. While it may not be ideal it’s a reality, and the entrepreneur’s paradox isn’t something we should be avoiding, but rather something we should be embracing.
Can you imagine if the Lions had put Ndamukong Suh in Karate classes as an outlet?