A little perspective can go a long way.

A little perspective can go a long way.

It’s just ticked over to 7.30 this morning.  Yesterday was my birthday and I got to bed late after a movie and dessert to celebrate my achieving another year.  I have just commenced my 31st year on this planet and I am tired.

I’ve taken a look at my to-do-list and it never gets any smaller.  As soon as I plug a leak in my business, another 5 seem to appear.  This is the life of an entrepreneur.

Today, I find myself struggling with motivation – I am finding everything just a little harder to do.  We all have days like this, I know, but perhaps it’s a bit harder when you feel a bit frayed around the edges, with everybody – staff, suppliers, customers, expecting you to be 100% committed to solving their problem 100% of the time.  And you want to be, because that’s how you build your business after all – but it can is tiring a lot of the time.

I find that when I don’t have a good sleep, or enough sleep, it’s just that much harder to hit the ground running in the morning, and the ripple effect of that reverberates throughout my day.  I’m just a little bit slower to prioritise my tasks, it’s a little bit harder to complete each one and I’m a little bit more likely to fall behind – which makes the rest of the day a little bit more daunting with each passing hour.

It’s hard being an entrepreneur – there is no ‘institutional safety net’ like you have in a job.  If you fall, there’s no-one to catch you, no backup, no regular income to tide you over.  It’s a battle of wits; you versus the world, every single day.  And if I don’t have my wits about me, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and disheartened.  It’s easy to long for the simple life of the 9-5, no matter how much, intuitively, you know you hated that gig.

So lately I’ve been trying to remind myself, when I fall into one of these spirals of self-doubt and pity, that I am just so ridiculously lucky.  I’m lucky I have my health, I’m lucky I have an awesome wife who supports me 110%, that I was born in a country where I have the opportunity to give this a shot, that I was blessed with the kind of brain that could put it all together and the ability to dream beyond the cubicle farm – the primordial ooze out of which many a successful entrepreneur has crawled over the decades.

So I’m starting to build a list of the things that I’m grateful for – the things that, collectively, allow me to do what I do every day and chase the dream of a truly independent life.  I’ve included below what I’ve come up with so far (but I’m sure there are hundreds more):

I’m so grateful that

  • I have an incredible wife (and partner in crime) who not only gets me and supports my crazy endeavours, but usually wants to leap into them even before I do.
  • I am healthy (for the most part) and don’t want for any of the basic necessities of staying that way.
  • I was born in a time and place that allowed me to get an education on my own merits, despite coming from a poor family.
  • The internet came along at just the right time, allowing us to launch businesses with no capital investment.
  • I live under a legal system that protects me and my ideas, free of corruption or interference.
  • I can travel freely and safely, at a relatively low cost.
  • We are building up a loyal base of customers who love what we’re trying to achieve in our business.
  • We are developing a talented team of remote workers who understand and support our business objectives (and are better at what they do than we could ever be).
  • We have designed the kind of business that can be operated from anywhere and at our own pace (we’re just impatient to grow, of course).

What are you grateful for in your life and business?

It’s often said that entrepreneurship is hard.  “If it was easy, everyone would do it” is the common refrain. And I agree with that 100%.  Often, in the heat of battle, it’s hard to remember why we started on this journey in the first place.  For me, it was just what I always wanted to do; since I was a kid I wanted to be my own boss and not work for ‘the man’.

When my classmates at uni were answering ‘investment banker’ to the “what do you want to be?” question, I was saying “I want to start a business”.  Yes, I applied for investment banking jobs (out of financial insecurity more than anything else) but my passion was always starting things and seeing if they would grow.

The freedom that comes with being your own boss is worth its weight in gold – the freedom to do what you think is right, without having to run it up to your seniors, and their seniors, is so liberating.  But more importantly, it allows you to act nimbly and responsively to what’s happening in your marketplace and the world more generally. It allows you to respond to your customers and anticipate their needs at speeds nobody else can match.

And at the end of the day, that’s why we get out of bed in the morning.  It’s to create something from nothing and solve the big problems in the world.  Whether the problem you’re solving is chafing toes or global warming, you’re making more of a contribution to the world than 99% of Wall St. hacks.  And you get to do it without having a boss looking over your shoulder.

Yes, some days it is a tough, and lonely existence.  It feels like the world is out to get you.  But after a solid day’s work with some sales and happy customers under your belt, when you close your laptop and reflect on a job well done, it’s a feeling that you could never match in a ‘job’.  And that is surely something to be thankful for.

If that’s not enough, we can always think about the tremendous gift we’ve been given of being able to help those less fortunate then ourselves. If we ever want to get a fresh perspective on life, we should try and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. And no matter how bad life seems, there are still billions of people worse off than we are, every single day.