When I first read Dan Andrews’ post on the 1000 day rule of living the dream of entrepreneurship – before starting my business – I didn’t quite understand or identify with it.
In a nutshell, you have to be willing to be doing worse than you used to be at your day job for 1000 days – about 3 years – passing through various phases of uncertainty, trial and error, and wins and failures before you reach a reasonably comfortable and stable income level.
Now that I’m on day 777 of the process, I definitely understand and identify with Dan’s breakdown of the phases.
Why is it so hard?
1000 days doesn’t sound like a lot. High school is longer, so is college – and we all made it through those, right? So three years should be a snap.
Not so. There are HUGE differences.
In school, there’s a path to follow and everything’s pretty much planned out for you. Walk the path, manage to get passing grades, and you’re sure to come out the other end with a diploma. There’s also the instant-gratification feedback: you might spend five hours writing a paper, but next week the teacher hands it back to you with a grade. You know exactly where you stand and how you’re doing. Not only that, but there’s pressure from family, peers, and society to finish and not drop out.
In entrepreneurship, there’s no set path to follow (or, if you prefer, a million different possible paths) and no guarantee of success even if you do tick all the “right” boxes. You might put in five hours a day and not see the results for months or years… or ever. There’s no societal pressure to succeed; in fact, many friends and families do the opposite, criticizing and questioning the entrepreneur’s choices.
That’s why an entrepreneur needs not only an incredibly strong work ethic, but also a heck of a lot of determination or faith that it WILL work out (or: “I’ll find a way to make it work out, one way or another, and won’t stop until I succeed.”)
If you’re thinking of starting a business, ask yourself seriously if you’re capable of waking up every day and deciding to do five hours of work (no, Twittering and reading entrepreneurial blogs doesn’t count) with NO assurance it’ll ever be rewarded, and little to no feedback on whether you’re doing well, poorly, growing, stagnating, totally missing the mark, heading down a dead end, or building a real winner.
I can tell you from experience that it’s not easy; the mental and emotional discipline required is enormous. I have good days and not-so-good days (and even a stretch of bad months from which it was hard to recover).
But I can also tell you, having just begun to enter the “Sunrise” phase in Dan’s breakdown, that it is absolutely worth it. I’m loving my business and excited about its future – and I doubt I’ll ever go back to working for someone else.
Reflecting on how much I’ve learned and progressed over the past 777 days has really made me think: if I applied this kind of focused effort to other activities and areas in my life that I’d like to develop, what kind of amazing progress could be made in the next two years?