Busting 5 Controversial Myths About Entrepreneurship That Are Wasting Your Time and Energy | by Rachel Greenberg | Jan, 2023

Busting 5 controversial myths about entrepreneurship that are wasting your time and energy. And sending you on a wild goose chase towards poor decisions, disappointment, and imminent failure.
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

These days, there’s so much business advice around — being spewed from all corners of the internet and social media, from the most qualified sources to the least — that it can be hard to decipher the good from the bad. What’s worse is that some of the most commonly reiterated — and followed — advice is exactly what baits entrepreneurs into otherwise unnecessary failure.

Think about it this way: Most entrepreneurs fail. So perhaps, taking the most commonly reiterated and followed advice isn’t the path to become one of the uncommon few who succeeds. In fact, you could almost argue that in some regards, you should do just the opposite…

That said, I don’t mean to trash all business-building tropes and platitudes; they’ve obviously worked for some people. Nonetheless, I am going to bust 5 controversial entrepreneurship myths that you should absolutely steer clear of, because these 5 could 100% wreck you, and you’ll never see it coming.

Let’s call this what it is: a bold-faced, sugar-coated lie.

No, you don’t necessarily have to “love” the business you’re building, the industry you’re in, the problem you’re solving, or the day-to-day work required to get this venture off the ground. Before you vilify me and assume I’m all about money without meaning, let me clarify: You have to care enough about what you’re doing to see it through, but caring and loving are two very different things.

I have a couple businesses that I appreciate in terms of their largely automated operations and decent margins, but that wouldn’t have been enough to make me persevere through the trenches of getting them off the ground (which took more than a few months). What did, however, keep me going was the fact that I so strongly believe in the problem they solve, I identify with the target market, and I feel fulfilled by their impacts on the world. Do I jump for joy when doing my part to keep these companies running and growing? No, honestly I don’t — and that’s okay.

If you find a business you love that also solves a problem and aligns with your skill set and resources, by all means go forth. That said, it’s important to realize that the idea that “you have to love your business to succeed” is easily one of the most dangerous, toxic myths about entrepreneurship for the simple fact that it gives you an excuse to quit or give up. For example:

Some aspect of your business isn’t fun anymore? By this trope’s logic, you must be doing the wrong thing, since you don’t “love” it anymore. Therefore, you obviously won’t be able to continue it all the way through launch and long enough after to see success, so you’d better prematurely quit or pivot now into something you actually do love. Right? Wrong.

There are often seasons to building and growing a business, some more enjoyable than others. If you allow the whims of your emotions or “love” for the day-to-day to dictate your commitment and run the course of your business, you’re likely to only take the easy, enjoyable path, which may hinder your venture’s potential or sabotage it altogether.

If you love your business, great; if you don’t, fine; just know that love isn’t required, but having a purpose and a reason to trudge forward is.

A year ago a contaminated lobster put me in the ER, writhing in pain, befuddling all the nurses and doctors: Based on my symptoms and pain intensity and location, all signs were pointing to appendicitis. The inflammation, vomiting, fever, and chills were only corroborating the case for an emergency appendectomy.

Trusting their gut, the surgeon put me on their schedule for the next available operation; however, since that wouldn’t be until very late that night, they decided to take one last precaution: an X-ray.

Despite being on the line between possible food poisoning and appendicitis, the X-ray had them leaning slightly more towards the former — enough so to take me off the schedule and send me home. If my fever returned and symptoms worsened, I had to return instantly for surgery, but thankfully the IV drip and ibuprofen helped me rehydrate and get over the worst bout of food poisoning I’ve ever experienced (and hopefully ever will).

What does this have to do with entrepreneurship? Doctors who’ve trained in their craft for more years than most newbie entrepreneurs can trust their gut and be wrong, even if all the symptoms line up with their gut instinct diagnosis. Therefore, don’t you think an entrepreneur’s gut instinct can lead them astray, as well?

Bluntly put, your gut does not always — or necessarily often — know best, unless you’re using the word “gut” as a euphemism for market, sales, and customer feedback. If you’re making a decision that lacks any supporting data and might as well be akin to throwing a dart blindfolded, sure, trust your gut. If, alternatively, you have data or more qualified or reliable sources to trust, I’d choose them over your “gut” when deciding how to proceed with your startup. Your gut can definitely be wrong; I know mine has been.

Early on in my startup days, I threw good money after bad believing this myth — to the tune of my life savings in my early twenties. Back then, I subscribed to the idea that entrepreneurial success all comes down to persistence, perseverance, and refusing to call it quits.

While some of that is true to some degree, there’s a huge inherent flaw in this logic that goes largely unaccounted for in driven entrepreneurs’ journeys: Sometimes the market, the economy, or an industry expert is telling you to quit — and sometimes they’re right!

If you hold onto the stubborn, unwavering belief that changing course is equivalent to failing or giving up, you may spend your startup journey forcing a square peg through a round hole to no avail. While persistence is admirable and courageous, it’s equally courageous to be objective enough to assess why a venture isn’t gaining traction, why prospects won’t engage in partnerships, and why you’re perpetually unprofitable.

Some businesses need to pivot, and some businesses need to die, but all businesses need an entrepreneur honest enough to draw those sometimes glim, but true conclusions and take appropriate action. When Kevin O’Leary infamously told a decades-long failing entrepreneur to take his idea behind the barn and shoot it, maybe he wasn’t wrong after all…

When we see headlines of 9-figure capital raises in pursuit of multi-billion-dollar IPO exits, it’s easy to connect the dots and surmise that the bigger the risk — or the more money at stake — the bigger the reward. While this can be true in some markets that are pay-to-play, it certainly isn’t a universal rule, and if you are a bootstrapped entrepreneur, it would be foolish to assume you have to risk it all to attain any material success.

I’m speaking from experience, as someone who has risked and lost it all, going big, but not as big as my venture capital-backed peers who risked even more (to the tune of $20M+) and also lost it all, but to a much graver degree. In that case, it didn’t matter how much you risked; the investment thesis was flawed, and none of us knew that until the truth about our own industry slowly unveiled itself, leaving many startups in the space belly up.

Conversely, I’ve also launched other subsequent businesses on a true shoestring budget, putting in my sweat equity and some reasonably-priced freelancers and affordable automation software to scale small ideas into sizable and profitable operations. I didn’t have to risk hundreds or even tens of thousands of dollars to see enough of a reward to conservatively reinvest profits and work my way up to a much larger company than you’d ever expect possible, considering I started on just a thousand bucks.

The moral of the story is that bigger pockets don’t necessarily mean more prudent spending or an exponentially higher likelihood of success. Being cash-strapped simply means you’ll need to be even more resourceful and strategic with how you fund, start, and structure the business to minimize downside risk, but that doesn’t mean you’re forever sacrificing growth and potential. Sometimes the bigger the risk, the more reckless the decisions, and recklessness doesn’t always have a positive ROI.

This statement — perhaps perpetuated by investors desperate for beautiful charts showing double-digit month-over-month growth and lending to a startup’s upcoming exit strategy — can be incredibly confusing and destructive for founders who aren’t on the VC path to a liquidity event.

While I’m not suggesting that businesses shouldn’t aim for impressive monthly growth, I do believe this binary perspective that growing and dying are the only two options is incomplete and unhelpful for many entrepreneurs.

What about seasonal businesses? Or those impacted by an unexpected economic disruption? How about those that are steadily maintaining a healthy cash flow, but whose owners are pursuing additional other ventures to diversify their basket of eggs, rather than pouring every resource into pumping that one company’s growth?

Every entrepreneurial journey is different, and I’ve witnessed many circumstances in which very accomplished, successful business owners have been happy to run multiple lucrative businesses that aren’t growing, but aren’t dying. Instead, sometimes they’re kicking off enough cash to fund other prudent investments like new businesses, real estate investments, and minority stakes in other companies.

Point being, the idea that your business has to experience continuous growth every single month forever or else be classified as “dying” is alarmist and doesn’t fit every founder’s playbook. Though your face-saving façade-wielding founder friends and agenda-pushing venture capitalists won’t ever tell you, it’s normal for businesses to ebb and flow, and few things — if any — go up in a straight line always and forever.

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