Entrepreneurship is not a job

2012-11-29 3 min read

    Let’s start with a joke:

    An American consultant was at a pier in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

    The Mexican replied "Only a little while." The consultant then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? The fisherman said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. Then the American asked how he spent the rest of his time.

    The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, and then stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor."

    The American consultant scoffed, "I am a very successful business consultant and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and, with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York City where you will run your expanding enterprise."

    The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will this all take?"

    The consultant replied, "Probably 15 to 20 years."

    "But what then, senor?" asked the fisherman.

    The consultant laughed, and said, "That's the best part! When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public. You'll become very rich, you would make millions!"

    "Millions, senor?" replied the Mexican. "Then what?"

    The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

    Other than the chuckle, this joke got me thinking about how people view work. The joke suggests that you should only work to support your life outside of work. If you work more than that then the joke’s on you since you’re sacrificing your personal life. This is view that you can’t have if you’re starting a company. Entrepreneurs need to combine their personal and professional lives. If you’re running a startup and aren’t thinking about the market, your product, or your users when you’re in the shower or in bed you’re doing it wrong. More importantly, this should be natural and not forced. If you don’t enjoy thinking about your startup when times are good, how will you be able to do it when times are tough (which they will be)? We need our passion to get over the humps so if you’re not passionate about your startup when you’re starting out, you will abandon it when facing challenges. Your startup will end up consuming you so why not pick something that you care about?