Sex, Drugs & Entrepreneurship:
Keeping It All in Perspective
Yeah I know, the whole Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll cliché thing has been overused. So what. Here’s the thing, entrepreneurship is like sex and drugs. It’s easy to get addicted. Just takes one dopamine rush. And that road to addiction starts with all the hype, the hyperbole, the glorification pushed by mainstream media and our culture. To switch analogies to something more sexual, it’s like putting a motorcycle between your legs loaded with jet fuel, primed to jump the Snake River Canyon. All of us founders and entrepreneurs think we’ll land that jump, we’ll beat the odds, right? I mean you have to be a little crazy and think you’re the one who’ll succeed, or why bother? A few words from the daredevil who attempted that jump literally, Evil Knievel, kind of puts it all in perspective: “Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it.”
Getting back to the drugs we can all do in our basement, no motorcycle needed, a lot of what you read in magazines like Entrepreneur and Inc. can get you hooked. Check out some of their headlines to ensnare us when we’re young and impressionable:
• How to Start Your Own Business and Pay for College at the Same Time
• 4 Ways to Dive into Entrepreneurship While You’re Still in College
• 3 Steps for Building a Kick Ass Start Up Before You Can Drink
• 20 of the Coolest College Start Ups Ever
You know who makes the list of that last headline? Companies like Dell, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Kinko’s, Napster, Reddit, Snapchat, WordPress, and Yahoo! Who doesn’t want to be like Zuck? Well, maybe not exactly like him but awfully close.
Successful entrepreneurs make it sound ultra cool and sexy, too. Check out this oft-quoted quote from LinkedIN co-founder Reid Hoffman: “Starting a company is like throwing yourself off the cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down.” What a cool, Evil Knievelesque way to put it. That’s the high-octane adventure I want for my life. But wait, what does that mean exactly? Hoffman also said, “If you believe your own theory too much and you’re wrong, that’s when you go over the cliff.” But didn’t we already go over the cliff and we’re busy assembling an airplane before we get pancaked?
For a quick reality check, (and switching metaphors yet again), here’s a sports analogy to noodle on. There are well over 9 million kids ages 6 to 17 playing basketball in the United States, with 500,000 of those being boys playing basketball in high school. Almost 19,000 males go on to play in college, with a mere 1.1% of those college players making it to the NBA. And then there is 1 Lebron James. Oh, and for you Lebron haters, there is 1 Steph Curry. Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is our Lebron James. Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel is our Steph Curry. Chances of becoming a superstar? Pretty slim. On the other hand, 10 to 20% of us will make it past the first 18 months – just depends on your information source. Another data point to keep things in perspective: Angel investors fund only 0.91 percent of startups and VCs a mere 0.05 percent. That’s a really small number. But the point here is that no one should feel bad if they don’t get money that way. The vast majority of us rely on ourselves, friends, and family. That’s OK! We can’t all be ultra cool, sexy, entrepreneur centerfolds.
So, we might go Evil Knievel regardless of the odds. We’re going to strap on a helmet regardless of how big the jump is, and we’re going to go for it! Yeah, we’re probably gonna get hurt, but we’ll get over it. Hell, Mr. Knievel broke a variety of 35 bones more than 400 times (a Guinness World Record) and that never stopped him. And breaking a few allegorical bones shouldn’t stop us either. The whole point of this mini-diatribe is to keep things in perspective, and to have your eyes wide open when jumping off the cliff.