Just follow the advice offered by Leo Babauta in his recent post on zenhabits.net, “The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur.”
I’m a fan of Leo’s. I read zenhabits regularly, and I have bought his excellent book,The Power of Less, which I’ve read twice. For the most part, I find Leo’s Buddhist worldview to be wise and useful (maybe that’s a little unBuddhist of me). But this piece on entrepreneurialism misses the mark, precisely because he superimposes his Buddhist vision on entrepreneurship, a phenomenon which he might not fully understand or accept.
For example, if you are planning to start your own business, you need to be prepared to control outcomes – to be willing to move heaven and earth to control outcomes. Entrepreneurs are, above all, people who seek to control outcomes. Entrepreneurs have a vision for their business’s success. They have goals to get to that vision. They try to make every day as productive as they can, and they try to achieve certain performance targets.
Leo says all of that is useless, an illusion because people can’t know how things will turn out. Leo says the pursuit of the illusion produces anxiety which impedes success. According to Leo, not knowing how things will turn out is OK, and you should relax into that uncertainty, liberating yourself to discover what the future brings. Because, even if the worst case scenario happens and the business fails, Leo “[Honestly thinks you’d be fine with that.]”
Wrong, my friend. Believe me; you’d be pretty darned far from “fine with that.”
If you want to be a CEOwner, you’d better commit yourself to controlling outcomes. Get ready to live with anxiety. Plan in detail, so that you are able to improvise when the plans blow up. Be ready to work very long hours indeed, with a ruthless dedication to productivity. Hit your targets if you can, and if you can’t, figure out a way to hit them next month.
To create a business out of nothing. To enable its survival through the inevitable obstacles you’ll face. To grow it in the face of uncertainty and competitive pressure. To nurture it to a level of sustainability. All of that requires “drive.” You can’t glide to success.
Honestly, if you’re planning to invest your nest egg into this new business, how philosophical will you be about the possibility of failure?
And if you’re trying to convince investors to put money into your new venture, how reassured do you think they’ll be with a “Not Knowing” business plan?
I mean, really, it’s pretty absurd.
Successful entrepreneurs – people who build businesses that have significant value apart from themselves, businesses that go public or get bought by other companies – are OBSESSIVE. Their anxiety is fuel. Their intensity is what convinces their customers to buy from them. Winning is everything. Failure is unacceptable. This might be a stereotype, but it’s a stereotype based on reality. In my experience, entrepreneurs only become philosophical through success, and even then, when they can afford to fail, they hate to fail.
If your idea of becoming a CEOwner is gearing down, having more time to yourself, enduring less pressure in your life, and enjoying some mellow journey of self-discovery, then don’t bet the nest egg. Organize your new venture as a kind of hobby, whose economic success is secondary and immaterial to your own financial well-being. In other words, don’t even pretend to be an entrepreneur. Then you’ll have the luxury of giving Leo’s approach a try. But be sure to let me know how that works out for you. And good luck.