Do you have to be nuts to be an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs are our modern-day heroes, but are they simply adult children who want to have it all their way? Does it take more wisdom, strength and stamina to make it in the corporate world?
I remember the look on their faces. They really thought I'd gone nuts.
I have to admit, I could see their point. Why would a sane person leave a promising career, the security of a regular paycheck and the safe confines of a 9-to-5 job? (Well, mostly 9-to-5, anyway.)
It wasn't all about showing up for an agreed-upon number of hours in Cubicle Nation to collect a great paycheck, you know. There were the weekends and late nights at the office. There were the deadlines I hit on massive reports, only to find out that the project had been put on ice for another six months. There were the weeklong site jobs that made me feel like an alien in danger of being captured for autopsy. I was a 21-year-old, blond female engineer in a sea of testosterone, trying to run specialist tests with some semblance of authority within a 24/7 operation.
There was the pressure of being expected to know how to do things I'd never been trained in, and there was also my stubborn refusal to admit I was completely clueless. Then there was the constant stress plus the late nights and weekends spent trying to work it out.
I lived with a constant nagging in my gut. I felt like a fraud, afraid I'd be discovered and declared incompetent any day. It'd turn out that Human Resources had made a mistake and that in fact, my degree was invalid and I had no business being there at all.
"How did she slip through the cracks? Tsk-tsk," they'd say.
It turns out many professionals feel like this at times. There's even a term for it: "imposter syndrome."
Leaving a secure corporate career for the unknowns of entrepreneurship is usually seen as taking a huge leap of faith, diving into the unknown, taking fate into your own hands, having great courage and being willing to back yourself 100 percent.
All true. Except... sometimes, I wonder.
The truth is that corporate life can be hard work. Really hard work. I often think it takes a much tougher person to make her mark within the confines and structure of a large beast, stamp her seal of authority on a section of it and manage to make a difference.
An entrepreneur has the freedom to create her business how she chooses. She's not answerable to anyone. She can dream and create without limitations.
However, the corporate structure can also be leveraged for great reward and influence. The term "standing on the shoulders of giants" doesn't just apply to your personal-development efforts. It applies to your work, your career and the difference you can make in this world.
Sometimes, I wonder if leaving my promising corporate career for entrepreneurship and self-employment was an indication that I lacked some of the stamina, strength and wisdom required to make it within a corporate structure. I have huge respect for female corporate leaders. They are some of the strongest women I know. They've had to battle glass ceilings, red tape, sometimes inflexible workplace practices and high expectations. To come out on top among all that takes a very special kind of strength.
As an entrepreneur, I often feel like a child in a sandbox. Yes, I have to work long hours, ensure profitability, hustle like crazy and deal with the unpredictability of an irregular income. But at the end of the day, I feel like I'm just playing. I'm having fun.
Are we entrepreneurs just a little nuts? Or are we simply brave enough to be true to ourselves, no matter what everyone else thinks?