In October 2012, my business partner Mike and I shipped the first version of our app SimpleCrew after 6 months of development.
And then… crickets.
The dozens of target customers we’d lined up – people we’d spoken with at length, shared mockups and development screenshots with, and received feedback from throughout the development process – not one of them ramped up with the app.
Even the beta-testers we’d secured (…who had prepaid us to test the product) didn’t seem to care enough about the app to take action.
It was a anxiety-filled 6 weeks after the launch when, finally, the first customer signed up, entered their credit card information, and started using the app.
1.5 years later, that customer is still with us, we’re doubling customers and revenue every 6 months, and we’re on track to break a 6-figure annual run rate by the end of the year.
Entrepreneurship is Dangerous.
Investing 6 months of our time building SimpleCrew was risky.
If the product didn’t work out, the 6 months we spent building SimpleCrew would have been wasted time that we could have invested elsewhere – doing client work, working a normal job, living life.
But we knew we wanted to build a product and a business. We knew there was a problem to solve. We knew there’d be a market for the solution. We knew if we didn’t build it, someone else would, and we didn’t want to be the people sitting on the sidelines a few years down the road, saying “I had that idea!” when someone else launched it.
So we faced the risk, and took action.
And you may find yourself in the position where you’ll have to too, because whenever you start something new, you will be taking risks that many people spend their lives avoiding.
You’re going to be risking your time. You’re going to be risking your opportunity cost. You’re going to be risking the comfort of knowing that the next paycheck will come in, exactly as expected, month after month. You’re going to be risking failure.
All that, and you’re going to be opening yourself up to misunderstanding from your family, friends, and peers on more conventional life paths. For many, that misunderstanding by the people closest to them will be the scariest part of starting.
All these things are risky. All of them are dangerous. And most people never bother.
When you push through those risks, you’ll find yourself in rarefied air.
I have some easy rule-of-thumbs to follow:
1. whatever excites you, go do it
2. whatever scares you, go do it
3. every time you’re making a choice, one choice is the safe/comfortable choice – and one choice is the risky/uncomfortable choice. the risky/uncomfortable choice is the one that will teach you the most and make you grow the most, so that’s the one you should choose.
– Derek Sivers “Whatever scares you or excites you, go do it“
Sometimes, the road between where you are now and where you want to be will be scary.
Maybe you’re a few years into a job you’re not passionate about. You’re curious to explore other career options, or maybe even entrepreneurship, but you’re comfortable right now.
A friend once joked, “Opiates, carbs, and a steady paycheck. The three most addictive things in the world.”
Removing yourself from a comfortable job and shaking up your comfortable lifestyle is scary.
But when you do the scary things, you put yourself in the position to capitalize on opportunities that others couldn’t or wouldn’t risk taking.
And with each of those experiences, you will learn, you will grow, and you will profit.
Confidence for Life.
Like working out a muscle, pushing your comfort zone will give you more confidence to go after even bigger opportunities down the road.
It’s a virtuos cycle that will empower you for the rest of your life.
For Jorge Lemann – the Brazilian billionaire owner of Heinz Ketchup, Burger King, and Anheuser Busch through his private equity firm, 3G – it was through doing dangerous things that he gained the confidence he needed to take big risks in his business career.
One day, when he was in Rio on summer vacation from Harvard, a powerful storm had created waves more than 30 feet tall that broke perilously late, right on the beach. Used to 10-foot waves, he decided to go for it anyway. “I took the wave and felt the blood go to my feet. It was a lot faster than I was used to, and a lot taller, but I went for it, and I managed to get out before it crashed. My adrenaline was at the maximum,” he told the Brazilian high school students, a broad smile across his wrinkled face. At key moments in his career, “I thought back to that wave I surfed in Copacabana far more than I thought about the things I learned in college. It gave me a certain self-confidence when it came to taking risks.”
– Jorge Lemann: He Is … the World’s Most Interesting Billionaire (BusinessWeek)
Go do it.
In business and in life, you will encounter things that scare you.
Dangerous things that carry risk, and challenge you to stop pushing.
But it’s up to you to decide what to do with that fear.
The fear you feel tells you that that’s where you can grow the most as a person. It tells you where other people stopped.
Use the fear as compass to what you need to do. If you do that, a whole new world of new opportunities and confidence will open up to you.
So, what scares you? What excites you? Go do it.