The Barometer of True Entrepreneurial Success

What Is Your Formula for Fun?

“I’m working as hard as I’ve ever worked, and it’s just not fun,” said Nick, a new entrepreneur.

“Why not?” I asked.

Applying Massive Effort

“I put in a massive effort, and progress is measured incrementally. I want it all to go faster. I want to get the product done. Then I can sell it, and the business can start making money. After all, isn’t that the purpose of being in business, to make money?” he said.

I love Nick. A big part of his enjoyment in life has always been work. He is good at it. He naturally gravitates to it.

So I asked, “When was the last time you had fun working?”

“When I broke away from the consulting firm and started on my own,” he said.

“What was the fun?” I asked.

What Is Fun?

“The first year in business I earned the same amount I earned while working for the consulting firm. The next year I doubled my earnings. The third year I doubled my earnings again. I was working hard and making really great money,” he said.

“So your formula for fun is: Fun = work hard + make money. In other words, you grind out the work, and you are immediately rewarded with money. Do I have it right?

“Then you saw more. You asked the question: ‘If I could automate what I do as a consultant, I could build a company which makes a lot of money.’ That’s when you started working on a software product which required capital,” I said.

“That’s exactly what happened,” he said.

Change Your Definition of Fun

He went from being a talented, hard working consultant to an entrepreneur. He could have been a high earning manager or salesman in a company.

But becoming an entrepreneur will force him to change his definition of fun at work.

This happened to me 24 years ago. I was running divisions for public companies, and I was making great money and living a first class business life. But that wasn’t enough. I saw an opportunity to help entrepreneurs be successful by investing in them and working with them.

What I learned was, today’s effort is not immediately rewarded with earnings. The money is way, way out in the future.

In choosing to be an entrepreneur, I found myself in the midst of a struggle. I measured fun by my old standards while working on this new business. Applying the wrong measurement of fun was my ticket to disappointment.

My 20-20-20 Goal

I came to realize what mattered was the vision. I was going to invest in 20 businesses, 20 entrepreneurs, over the next 20 years. This would result in wealth but, more importantly, a more fulfilling life for me.

I confess, like Nick, I continued to have my moments. I was working crazy hours, and nothing was happening. In fact, one business failed and then another, while one was hanging on by its fingernails. I was blowing through my savings. Work just wasn’t fun. I kept retreating to my old definition of fun.

But the vision drove me. I knew I was doing the right thing and needed to be faithful. In the midst of working hard and making nothing, the business which was hanging on by its fingernails started to grow and make money. I started to make money.

Recently I was talking to some high wage earners, one in sales and one in consulting. They said to me, “You are the one who is making big money.”

I thought for a second and then said, “You get paid every week. I get paid every seven years.”

There are two definitions of fun at work:

1. Fun = hard work + earnings
2. Fun = hard work + vision

Genuine success follows the latter.

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2 thoughts on “The Barometer of True Entrepreneurial Success

  1. Most people don’t have the risk profile to only get paid every seven years. It’s a rare bird who can couple the vision, hard work and risk profile necessary to become a successful entrepreneur.

    • Getting paid every seven years was far more difficult in the beginning then now. In the beginning you are watching all you worked for dwindle away with the hope the big sale will come. That was nerve wracking. Now, I am playing with “house” money, as they say in LasVegas. Still a nail biter but not quite the same as those first few investments. Thanks for taking the time to write.

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