Turning Yourself Inside Out?

A few years ago, Randi Zuckerberg issued a provocative Tweet: “Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3.” She called this ‘The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma.’ Quickly, thousands were commenting.

Many chimed in to agree. “If you’re planning to build a startup, it’s going to take all you’ve got,” they said. “There’s no time for anything else.” It’s a perspective underpinned by a famous (if anonymous) definition of entrepreneurship: “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”

I spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs. Many of them are resigned to believing ‘Pick 3’ is the only way to entrepreneur—that it’s the only realistic route to success. They can be forgiven for that belief. This is, after all, the vaunted ‘unicorn’ model celebrated in the pages of Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, and the Wall Street Journal. And doesn’t every entrepreneur want their name in those pages?!

You don’t have to turn yourself inside out to be an entrepreneur.

One problem with the ‘Pick 3,’ ‘give-it-all-you’ve-got,’ unicorn-shaped model of entrepreneurship is that it takes a boat load of talent, money, and luck to pull it off. That’s an armada of support! And honestly, it’s only available to those who’ve already made it (think Elon Musk), who have parents who already made it, or who nail a one-in-a-million-billion idea. More often than not, the all-too-rare unicorn is the love child of at least two of those!

What kind of entrepreneur are you?

Don’t be fooled into believing there’s only one definition of entrepreneurial success. Consider startup guru Steve Blank’s quartet of profiles: the “scalable startup” (i.e. the ‘potential unicorn’), the “small business entrepreneur,” the “large company entrepreneur” (read intrapreneur), and “the social entrepreneur.”

The differences are built as much on each entrepreneur’s lifestyle preferences as they are on the ultimate outcomes of their enterprises.

I’m interested in celebrating the small business entrepreneurs—the ‘steady Eddies’ of entrepreneurship. Theirs is a clear, patient model. They design for the life they want and then go live it. How many millions have spent their careers leading small businesses? How many jobs have they created? How many families have they supported? We’re wise to celebrate these sturdy souls, these Small Giants.

I’m interested in uplifting the capacity of intrapreneurs—the insightful employees of big, established businesses, who see a better way of doing things. Theirs is a complicated model, sometimes reliant on the goodwill of their colleagues and almost always on some degree of disruption. Imagine the sheer scale of the value they can move? What if that was focused toward social impact? Or our environment?

And I’m interested to support, connect, and inspire every social entrepreneur I can reach. Theirs is a pure, essential type of courage. They’re the Davids, stepping up with all they have to confront Goliath, complex, social problems—in service to all of us, and the very planet we live on.

Don’t build a business you don’t love.

So what do you want to build?… A unicorn? Fill your boots, my friend. A small business? Awesome. The economy is driven by them. Parlay your corporate gig into a disruptive new startup or spinout? Cool. Make it go! Or are you a social entrepreneur?…

Don’t make the mistake of thinking social entrepreneurship is any easier!

Maybe, like many of our clients at Junxion, you’re more interested in social impact or environmental conservation than a hefty bottom line?

Maybe this is the essence of your personal philosophy, your values and dreams. Your challenge is to stitch your sense of purpose tightly to the way you earn your living. Your current context is probably influential, too: In a relationship? Raising kids? Working in a safe corporate gig, but craving some change-making? All of that matters.

So in this entrepreneurial chapter of your life, who do you want to be? How do you want to be? And what kind of enterprise do you want to build?

Don’t turn yourself inside out to build a business you don’t love. Don’t chase growth you don’t need. And certainly, don’t make change the world doesn’t need.

Let me put it another way—quoting the inimitable Mary Oliver: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I’d like to have a juicy, generative conversation about that!

Consider joining me May 8 – 12 at Hollyhock for Business Inside Out.

Build the life you want and fall (back) in love with your entrepreneurial venture.

After all, life’s too short to ‘Pick 3.’

Mike Rowlands is President & CEO at Junxion. He’ll be connecting philosophy and pragmatism this May 8 – 12 during his entrepreneurs’ retreat, Business Inside Out. Registration is open.

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