Got a question from a reader recently. Paraphrasing, he went into business enthusiastically about a year ago, and he's made only a few thousand dollars in business profit, and is considerably negative considering his personal expenses. He'd expected to be successful already, is feeling burnt out, and was asking for some perspective. He's my reply --
It's normal. I heard a quote recently -- in business, expect to lose money for the first two years, make your money back the next two years, and make real money after that. There's something to that.
Life's a long game. If you're burnt out, it might make sense to do something else for a while to stabilize. But when you go into business, you need runway and persistence and expect to endure for 2+ years to make things work. Overnight success is not the norm at all. There's too many skills that need to be acquired, and you're competing against individuals with 10 to 20+ years of experience, and conglomerates with literally decades (occasionally centuries) of cultural/institutional experience at distribution, marketing, sales, etc.
If you're feeling driven still, plan to stick with it for years more. If not, stabilize by doing something else. Next time you get into the game, plan to have at least a year where you can burn down savings (or otherwise get funding, but personal debt is probably a bad idea for it), or have a partial/part-time income source, and expect to maybe have even a second rough year after the 1st and be ready for it.
When you do get started seriously and full-time, block out standard working hours and follow them religiously. I'd recommend 50+ hours per week for as long as you can handle it, and then maybe scale down if burnout comes on or the hours aren't used well. Doing all this gives you a reasonable chance to have big successes somewhere in years 3-5. It sucks while it's happening, but afterwards you'll look upon it fondly.
This is so true. I am at the 8 month mark in my startup and tentatively seeing signs of a turnaround, but it's been a rough ride. I really grok all those burnout/depression posts on HackerNews now.
August 11th, 2011. Chiba, Japan.
A mix of confusion and awe as I step off the platform.
I must have made a mistake. But maybe a good mistake.
Birds caw and cicadas click gently, filling the warm afternoon air with sounds of nature. The train platform is open to the air and on the other side of the tracks is a high fence. Beyond it, a bicycle and walking path leading to a park.
Children are running around and playing in the park, but surprisingly quietly. Very Japanese.
I've been saying that college is obsolete for a very long time. I dropped out in 2000, because even back then I could see that it was a really poor value proposition. I didn't predict this because I'm some crazy genius, but because I'm willing to discard emotional attachment and stare plainly at the facts.
School is outrageously expensive, leaving graduates with a debt (or net expenditure) of tens of thousands of dollars-- sometimes even one or two hundred thousand. There are some things that are worth that amount of money, but for many people school isn't one of them. In fact, apart from very specific cases, I think that school is a bad thing, not worth doing even if it was free.
That's not to say that school has no benefits whatsoever. It does, and although I left with zero additional skills after my three semesters there, I had a good time and benefited from the social aspect. The problem is that you can't just compare college to doing nothing at all. You have to compare it to what you COULD have done.
Let's say that when you turn eighteen, it's a good idea to take four years to develop yourself. College is one way to do that. If we were to construct an alternative way to do that, what could it look like? One of the biggest weaknesses of school is how inflexible it is, so one of the greatest benefits of designing your own curriculum is that you could come up with one that uniquely suits you. That said, here's a plan that I think would benefit many people MORE than school would. Let's call it the Hustler's MBA.