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The born-again entrepreneur

When I finally left Accenture and started running my own business, I felt great. In fact, I started feeling great even earlier, despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of sleep of working two jobs. I felt part of a special, privileged few, who had seen the light of entrepreneurship and got the fact that it was so much better to be an entrepreneur than to slave away at a job.

In the few months leading up to and after leaving the corporate world, I was absolutely convinced that what I was doing was much better than a job. I would constantly talk about how great I felt about starting my own business. I'd talk about it with everyone, really. It was my favourite topic. And no doubt, in every one of those interactions, I would come across as fanatical, blunt and borderline unpleasant, because I Believed.

Even the demise of my first business only slightly dampened my enthusiasm. It took at least a year or two before I started to understand that although running my own business is clearly the absolute best option for me, that's not true of everyone.

There are many smart, competent people out there who are happier in other fields. Some prefer the academic life. Others enjoy the corporate environment and its specific sets of challenges. Others are happy as programmers and have absolutely no interest in learning how to run a business (which is a completely different skill set than writing code). Some want to become highly specialised experts in a narrow field, rather than gallivanting generalists.

Even security and stability, long decried by entrepreneurs as being a corporate illusion (when you run your own business, only one person can fire you), is in fact an advantage of the corporate world.

I want to fly away

The best analogy I've come up with so far is that working in a corporate job is like flying in a large passenger airplane. Working in a large company, you surrender your fate to the pilot, you agree to follow the rules set by the hosts and hostesses, you agree to do so with a lot of other people and to respect their rights too. You also accept that your flight might be cancelled or delayed, that you may be forcefully expelled from the plane before take-off if you don't behave yourself, that you may be arrested at your destination if you misbehave during the flight, and so on.

In exchange for this, what you gain is a vanishingly small likelihood of anything going really badly wrong (yes, large passenger planes do crash, and when they do, there's a lot of media talk about it, but statistically, it's incredibly rare). You also gain the ability to fly far and fast no matter your own personal ability to fly a plane.

Working on your own business, on the other hand, is like building your own plane and using it to fly to wherever you want to. If your plane is large enough to have hostesses, they'll do whatever you tell them to, and you can fly the plane wherever you think makes sense. If the plane is going to crash, you're probably going to know about it long before anyone else does, and you can grab your parachute and leap out long before hitting the ground (and then start building a new plane from scratch to continue your journey).

Having your own business is like having your own plane or boat - it provides you with incredible levels of freedom and autonomy. But, like having your own boat or plane, it's not for everyone, and not everyone wants to do it. It may be the absolute best choice for you, but that says nothing about what the best choice is for other people.

An admonition

So, this article is an admonition to all those who have recently joined the world of startups. Whether you took the leap a few months ago or a few years ago - don't be fooled into thinking that your way is the only way. There are many other ways to live one's life. This way is definitely not the universal "best" way. It's just one way among many.

Respect those who choose a different path.

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