Get Ready to Quit: Entrepreneurship is Risky, but So What? The Case for Walking Away from Corporate America Before your Side Hustle is Ready for Prime Time
Entrepreneurship is reaching a tipping point. It’s a wave that is going to overtake you and your career in one way or another in the next five years. Why? Because the internet leveled the playing field which means you can learn anything, anytime, at any pace, and you have instant access to unlimited resources, because Facebook created private groups which provides absurdly easy networking with like-minded people, and because in the same way that television changed with on demand, streaming, and DVR, people have learned they can have what they want when they want it.
People want what they want out of their careers too, meaning without having to go to a physical location, without having to work specified hours, without having to report to a person who isn’t a good manager or an inspiring leader, without experiencing the limitations of a role that serves the company but doesn’t serve the employee.
If you’re determined to walk away from Corporate America, the trending advice is start a side hustle, develop it, learn from it, and scale it until you hit a “quit threshold” and then you’re ready to walk. It’s great advice for a lot of reasons — it’s meant to protect you from getting in over your head financially, to teach you some important truths about yourself, commitment, your potential business and its viability, to offer insight into the market and potential customers, and finally, offers a window to experiment with your business plan and refine your pitch.
These are all valid reasons, but they are idealistic too. Yeah, it might work for a 20-something who is trading social time for their side hustle, but does it work for anyone else? Does it work for the parent who is trading family time? Or for the person who is trading self-care and wellness? Or the person who has a long commute? Life is complicated my friends. Running a household and/or managing a family is a full-time job no matter how much time you are actually dedicating to it.
Assuming you already have a job and spend the majority of your waking hours at work, does it make sense to pile more work into that equation? If you’re already maxed out and/or need the change for a compelling reason, why is sticking it out or powering through a good indicator of your potential entrepreneurial success? It seems more likely a recipe for burnout. And no, that doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for entrepreneurship, that you’re not tough enough, or uncommitted. Perhaps one of the very reasons you’re considering entrepreneurship is to cultivate better balance in your life, to re-prioritize, and align your life with your values.
If you are serious about transitioning from employee to entrepreneur, it makes sense to get out, focus wholly on making the transition, and go all in on your dream. You’ve got to build some momentum and that takes time…and dedication…and being fully present to the process. You’ve got to create space for the learning curve, for the brainstorming sessions, for the moments of brilliance to flash and take root. You’ve got to be in a healthy inspired state of mind to tackle the tasks of a never-ending to do list, and literally create something out of nothing.
If you are serious about transitioning from employee to entrepreneur, you must take the time and exercise the discipline it takes to get ready to quit, not by investing every free moment in your side hustle, but by fully funding your safety net first, planning your exit strategy from your current company, getting buy in from your family, and then you walk. You may have pages of notes, ideas, and contacts, and you can read, study, and plan as much as you want while you are employed, but at some point, you need to boldly declare to the Universe, to your spouse, to your potential clients, that you are serious about it and you are going to make it happen, to end one chapter so you can begin another.
Is it risky? Absolutely, but don’t let that stop you. Everything is risky. Your current corporate job is risky, you’ve just minimized the risk over the years by adapting to your bosses’ preferences, by embedding yourself in the right networks, by taking courses or participating in conferences that endear you to the industry. However, no matter your current company’s brand reputation or track record of success, you’ve got to admit that a corporate job means fully embracing someone else’s dream, helping someone else achieve their entrepreneurial goals. No judgment here.
Making the transition from employee to entrepreneur is daunting. You don’t just have to know what you know, what you’re good at, what you want to sell, what problem it solves, and who it solves it for, you need a strong foundation of marketing, sales, and operational business skills to get the thing off the ground. Even on the most inspiring days, it is still nearly too much to handle. But so is marriage. So is raising kids.
We enter those realms with a naïve hopefulness, very little appreciation of how they will change us, what it will take day-to-day (for the majority of our lives), and we don’t back down because we know that if we want it (a good marriage, good children, or really anything good), there’s only one way to go about it, and that’s to do it. We can’t see the compromise and uncertainty in advance, or experience the roller coaster of emotions and self-doubt in aggregate, and hallelujah for that, because if we could, we wouldn’t move, we wouldn’t act, we wouldn’t proceed, we wouldn’t get what we wanted.
Becoming a mother is hands down the best thing I’ve ever personally experienced, but it’s also terrifying and heartbreaking and an endless act of surrender. Who would sign up for that if we could see the whole path?
And that’s why you need to quit before you’re ready. To commit on that level. To make room to fully feel the emotions of the journey, to find the time to learn and shift as you go, to build a new network, to resolve your past’s ambitions, to evolve, to let go of going back, and advance forward confidently in the direction of your dreams. Who knows what will happen? The outcome is only part of the equation.