A quick look around the internet today will reveal an entire industry dedicated to telling people to quit their jobs, start a business and do what they love. Usually for a fee, these businesses can help you get started.
But should you actually go ahead and do this?
With increasing numbers of people stuck in jobs they hate or don’t find fulfilling, it’s not a surprise that an entire industry comes to the fore to service their emotional needs and provide them with opportunities to do so.
But there is in fact one minor obstacle to many of these plans: reality. Reality is reality and no amount of dreaming will make it different. It is objective. It exists whether you like it or not. It does not change via quantum mechanics to fit your individual needs as taught in The Secret. Reality is reality, and that is that.
So am I saying you should stick with your job and forget the start up? Not quite. Let me explain.
Get real before you get out
The “follow your passion” industry taps into something central in the human psyche, and this is why it is so successful. That thing is the human need to express ourselves, the need to use our creative gifts and share them with the world.
All of this is perfectly natural and good. Humans are almost entirely defined by our creativity and it is this gift that has allowed us to survive and thrive like no other species in the history of this planet. Opposable thumbs help too, but creativity is the main factor.
However, humans have been blessed with another amazing gift – reason. Without this to supplement our creativity we wouldn’t get very far at all and our desire to create cool boats out of logs and ride them over the edge of a waterfall for kicks would have long ago ensured we became extinct as a species, without the gift of reason to counterbalance our creative urges, that is.
So what am I saying here? I’m saying to take your idea for following your passion, which most likely involves using your creativity in some way, and subject it to a reasonable, logical analysis or even better – an empirical experiment.
Things to think through before taking the leap.
Using our gift of reason we can consider a few things before starting a business and quitting our jobs. Things to consider would be as follows:
Is there an actual market for what I am trying to sell?
This is a hugely important point. You can create the absolute best painted bananas on earth, but it’s pretty unlikely anyone will part with a significant amount of cash for one. Whether you like to admit the fact or not, your talent for painting exotic fruits in beautiful ways will likely not translate into a successful business and put food on the table for your family. Humans have another need as well as expressing themselves, the need to eat.
Do I have the finances to see myself through the initial period where the business isn’t profitable?
Another hugely important fact to accept before you take a leap is that most businesses do not become profitable until their third or fourth year of business. That means there will likely be some lag time between when you start a business doing what you love and when you actually begin to generate surplus cash from it. Plan accordingly and make sure you have a suitable cash stash to survive in the meantime while your start up takes flight.
Can I do it better than the competition?
When you enter a business, you need to realize that you are declaring literal war upon those who are already in the business. This is no joke. Far too many people approach the idea of starting a business as if it were a stroll in the park. It isn’t. What you are essentially doing is attempting to divert somebody else’s food supply away from them and towards you.
They aren’t going to like this, and if you do successfully manage to divert a portion of it, they are going to try every trick up David Copperfield’s sleeve to distract you, divert you and ultimately destroy you. Business is war. Make sure you have a strategy thought out.
Objection! Why are you so cynical, man? There’s an abundance for everyone
While there is indeed plenty out there on this huge, abundant planet, I am not being cynical by stating the above facts. I am just being realistic and viewing reality and human behaviour from an objective standpoint. I don’t buy woop-dee-doo theories like The Secret and I don’t suffer from the delusion of subjective reality based models of reality.
There IS plenty out there for everyone, but there are also plenty of people trying to get a hold of all they can. Lot’s of these people have considerable resources and vast armies out there hunting on their behalf, and you are likely to come into competition with them if there is a lot of dough to be made in your field. You need to accept this as a fact and prepare for the battle ahead.
I’m NOT saying you shouldn’t do it, I’m just trying to make sure you have looked at it from all the angles and are not entering a venture on false, erroneous beliefs.
“So what, I should just quit and give up on my dreams?” I hear you ask.
No, you should not.
If you like painting bananas, you should continue. You should just realize this is not a profitable venture and perhaps give them to orphan kids who have no toys and make them happy.
If you do want to actually survive, however, and you have a great idea that will improve the lives of your potential customers and render some actual useful service to them, you should continue doing the job you dislike until you come up with an actual business plan, think through a strategy for how you are going to live for those first years and challenge the competition, and then, if at all possible, start your business on the side so as not to leave yourself up shit creek without a paddle if the venture fails.
Look – I’m not trying to be a killjoy and shatter your dreams. I myself started a side business and it is flourishing. However, it has been a long and drawn out battle and only after three years of mistakes are things starting to come good. Even now, there are no guarantees.
I still have a great job I can rely upon to pay the bills while my business takes off, and only when it is profitable (e.g. I am making more from it than I would by working for my company) will I consider quitting.
That’s not fear. That’s not cynical. That’s not pessimistic. That’s a realistic, healthy approach to the idea of starting a business and being the boss, while making sure my family continue to eat in the process.
That’s something a lot of people out there need to come to terms with. Doing what you love won’t pay the bills in every case, and if it will, a part time side version will prove it and provide you with empirical evidence of profitability before you take the full-fledged leap.
Dreams are great. Dreams combined with a healthy dose of reality, however, are always better!
Thanks for reading.
Read More: Life Advice That All Men Should Follow