“Tenacity is probably the most important attribute in an entrepreneur. It’s the person who never gives up – who never accepts “no” for an answer. The world is filled with doubters who say that things can’t be done and then pronounce after the fact that they ‘knew it all along.’” -Mark Suster
It’s 10:32AM. And I’m sitting here waiting.
I had an interview scheduled for my podcast with another entrepreneur which was supposed to start 32 minutes ago. I’m here in Ho Chi Minh City, where I had to fight a bunch of motorbike traffic to get to a quiet corner in the business lounge of Saigon Tower. Once here, I had to plead for a desk from which to conduct the interview since all available desks were already taken.
Then, I spent about 45 minutes researching my guest and preparing for the interview. Read half a dozen of his blog posts. Watched a few of his videos. Shot him over an e-mail 10 minutes before the time.
A Skype message at 9:57.
Another e-mail ten minutes later.
No response. No word from my guest. No explanation, apology, nothing. Just complete silence.
But the fact that my guest had flaked without any word is not what’s most interesting about this situation. The most interesting thing about this situation is that its actually pretty common. Par for the course.
In fact, occurrences like these don’t surprise me any more.
Can’t handle a situation like this? Have a “me against the world” mentality? Get pissed off easily if someone looks at you funny? Then don’t be an entrepreneur.
Become a taxi driver instead.
I am an entrepreneur. Have been since I was nine. My father was an entrepreneur, and he’s the one who indoctrinated me into this lifestyle. It’s not only in my blood, but also in my upbringing.
Some of the sayings he told me over and over were:
“Kill your enemies with kindness”
“Never let anyone know your upset”
“Quitters never win, winners never quit”
“Cream always rises to the top”
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life”
I’ve created the OpenWorld brand – a magazine, blog, and podcast, in the hopes that it can provide actual tools, resources, and inspiration that average people can use to make a positive upgrade in their lives and in the lives of others.
I want to create a resource that’s NOT just simply designed to titillate or entertain. I don’t want my readers to live vicariously through heavily-filtered Instagram photos of sandy beaches – or “travel porn.” More than 90% of all content on the web is nothing more than mere entertainment – empty calories that do nothing to improve the life of the user that consumes the content.
And I’m not doing this to show off my own exploits to make myself feel important.
I want those who visit this website, who listen to the interviews, to go out and create with their own hands. To explore with their own feet. Then I want them to share their stories and experiences with others who would follow them.
For the most part, we focus on sharing empowering stories of the most inspirational people around the world. The spin is always positive.
But here’s the underlying dark reality of the situation that doesn’t often see the light of day…
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’re going to come face to face with rejection, humiliation, disrespectful people. The bigger your goals are, the more often this will happen.
People will tell you that they are too busy to work with you, “come back in 6 months.”
E-mails will often go un-answered.
The young people you hope to hire will overlook you in favor of stable positions at more established companies.
What is humiliation?
I can’t think of any job that I’ve ever held for longer than one month.
I joined the Army National Guard when I was 20. I scored a perfect score on the ASVAB test, and opted to become a counter-intelligence agent (the dream was to become James Bond). I left home and was shipped off to Fort Leonardwood, Missouri to start my basic training.
A few weeks later I was told I was “unfit” to join the army because the doctors discovered I had keratoconus, a rare eye disease. They told me I would be blind sometime around 40 or 50 years old.
When I was about 16, I got a job at a factory working for a friend of my father. I was fired after the first day after I unknowingly screwed up an entire batch of products.
While traveling in Malaysia, I had run out of money. At one point I had less than $100 in my pocket. I spent a couple of weeks living in the jungle and then couchsurfing for a couple more weeks. I spent nights sleeping on an ironing board, in a hallway separated by nothing but a thin cloth partition. It was so uncomfortable that all I could do was lie around half awake all night.
So, in desperation, I contacted a friend who had mentioned a job offer working at a resort in Guam. It was minimum wage, but meals and housing were included. In the situation I was in, it seemed too good to be true. I needed desperately to have my basic needs met. Everything else was secondary.
Once in Guam, I gave my best effort, but I was summoned into the director’s office after 4 weeks. They had decided to let me go. I had 48 hours to pack my things and vacate the premises.
A few months later, I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to work with a startup. The founder was impressed by my background and expertise in online marketing, and it seemed like a great fit. I would work for two months on location in Vietnam and then I could work remotely for the startup from anywhere.
He let me go only 4 days after I arrived.
No real reason. He was just “trusting his gut,” and his gut told him not to hire me. I was never given any real chance at all to prove what I could do.
I am self-employed because no one else would take me. I make my own rules, because the rules that other people have tried to force on me just don’t seem to work out very well for me.
I am an entrepreneur. I take responsibility for my own well-being and have learned not to rely on others. When I want to do something I don’t wait for anyone’s permission; I go after it.
Sorry if I’ve offended anyone in the past because of this approach.
How about love?
I have failed at romance enough times to fuel my own soap opera.
One time, I relocated to Taichung, Taiwan to live in the same city with a girl I was dating in Guam. She convinced me that her feelings were true: “I’ve never felt this way for anyone.” She dumped me two weeks later, saying that things “were different” and that she “didn’t feel the same way as before.”
But that wasn’t the first time I’ve been dumped after relocating for someone. Several months earlier, I was living in the slums of Manila, to be with another girl who I’d been talking to for a long time. We had a close bond, and (I thought) we cared for each other. We could make this work.
She left to go to London for summer school. Two weeks later, she was dating someone else and things were getting serious fast. She already met his parents, she told me.
The point is, ten years ago, events like these would have crushed me. I would have used these occurrences as “reference events” to gauge what type of person I really am in the eyes of others, and use that to frame an opinion of myself. Now I know not to take anything personally.
I have no regrets for following my heart, even when it leads me astray.
What is failure?
“Your job is to push the pendulum as hard and as fast as you possibly can on the side of failure. Remember, the key to success is MASSIVE FAILURE. Go get massive failure. When I learned this, I went nuts. I became a failure-seeking maniac. I strategized on how I could get as much failure, as big and as fast as possible.” -Darren Hardy
When we’re young and unexposed to the real world, it’s easy to be idealistic. We’re raised to believe that we can be anything that we want to be. We’re highly educated from a decade and a half of schooling and think we already know all of the answers.
Then we’re thrust out into the real world, and reality hits like a ton of bricks. It’s not as rosy and straightforward as we’d thought. We experience our first encounters with rejection, failure, and defeat – and it’s a tough freakin pill to swallow.
Yes, losing sucks. Or does it?
The real question is not “what is failure?” but: “what can I gain from failure?”
It’s true that I often do not get what I want, but in the process, I’ve gained something infinitely more valuable.
I’ve developed the confidence to know that I can handle any situation as it comes, and come away from it stronger than before. I have gained transcendence over failure, in the sense that I can confidently take action without the fear of failure paralyzing or sabotaging my effort.
And if I do experience ultimate failure, it may upset me for a day or two – but that’s it. I’ve proven to myself time and time again that it is possible to snatch victory even from the jaws of embarrassment, humiliation, and defeat.
If you watch the original Star Wars trilogy carefully, you’ll find a lot of great nuggets imparted from the wise Jedi masters (Yoda and Obi-Wan, in particular). One of the quotes that comes to mind comes from Obi-Wan the moment before he faces his mortal demise at the hands of Darth Vader: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Most people let defeat defeat them. But it really doesn’t have to. Failure is a gift that makes you more powerful than you can possibly imagine. You cannot fail if you never tried. And the more you try, the more you grow. So, in essence, failure is the ultimate “growing pain.” Accept that failure is inevitable. Learn from it and try again, and you will grow at unprecedented speed.
What is success?
“One of my main frustrations was repeating the same lines over and over. I was getting tired asking girls if they thought spells worked or if they wanted to take the best friends test or if they noticed how their nose wiggled when they laughed. I just wanted to walk into a set and say, ‘Love me. I’m Style!’
– Neil Strauss, “The Game”
For some reason, many people seem to believe that all the failures are worth it – if you can succeed only once. This is the popular view of people who believe that they are unsuccessful – so they strive and strive for an abstract ideal of “ultimate success.”
Many people strive their whole lives for this ideal only to have it forever elude them.
But the truth about success is – it simply doesn’t work this way. If you know how, you can break down your biggest goals and make them practical and achievable – and accomplish them within 6 to 12 months (or sooner). It is absolutely possible to achieve your biggest goals, dreams that you’ve held on to for years. But achieving a goal doesn’t settle anything permanently.
I’ve realized my biggest dreams on a few occasions. But success in the present quickly becomes the past – and success in the past is no indicator of future success. You have to prove tomorrow that you were as good as you were yesterday.
So the proper way to think about success is this: every time you take action, each time you accomplish something, you gain a little bit inside. Your confidence increases. Your comfort zone expands. What becomes possible for you – your reality – grows as a result of each success you have, small or large.
The ultimate truth is: successes and failures both have exactly the same outcome. It is how you take the experience and filter it within your own mind – embed it in to who you are – that determines everything. These experiences become the thoughts and impulses that shape who you are, and who you will be.
Mental impulses transform themselves into their physical manifestations: your thoughts define your actions, your actions define your character, your character defines your mission and purpose, and your mission and purpose defines your destiny.
“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…”
– Rudyard Kipling, ‘If’
I couldn’t sleep last night – I was working late and whenever I work late my mind becomes so stimulated that it makes quality sleep all but impossible.
A lady friend texted me several times while I was working hoping to hang out. But she’s not an entrepreneur. She goes to work at 8, clocks out at 6, and spends free-time on idle pursuits. She can’t possibly understand why I’m still at the coffee shop till 11pm rushing to get things done while I still have the focus to complete them.
No one understands.
Except other entrepreneurs.
The way I see it, you have two choices right now. You can embrace the painful truth of reality (the red pill), or the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue pill).
Whether you like it or not, starting a business becomes your lifestyle. You will gravitate to other entrepreneurs and may find it hard to be friends with people who aren’t entrepreneurs. Those close to you will view you as an anomaly because they don’t understand. They can’t understand if they haven’t been an entrepreneur themself. Once you attain the entrepreneurial drive it can be very difficult to “turn it off.” You may struggle to sleep many nights.
There is a curious misperception about what being an entrepreneur really means. Society as a whole – civilians – don’t hold entrepreneurs or travelers to a realistic standard. News of Instagram selling for 1 billion creates headlines on thousands of blogs, newspapers, and media outlets around the world. But no one tells the story of the millions of other hardworking entrepreneurs, who are grinding, every day, in order to make their enterprise a success so that they can provide a living for themselves and their families.
The reality is that making any dream come true – like starting a successful business, or leaving behind a cushy life back home to travel the world indefinitely, is hard freakin work. Those who have never tried to do anything outside of their comfort zone don’t understand.
You will have to look at the risks and costs and decide for yourself whether it’s worth it. You may give up a 40-hour workweek to work 80 hours for several years, aging yourself irrevocably in the process, and craving the security of a stable paycheck.
I am an entrepreneur. Not necessarily a very good one. But it’s all I know how to be.
Still no word from my guest. We’ll reschedule for next week.