Get in the Game
My friends and team members know that one of the last places on planet earth you will likely find me is at a work-related conference. There was a time when I frequented these hybrid social/professional gatherings, diligently took notes, and even made some new friends.
Those days are long gone.
I remember the moment when I forever lost interest at an event that will remain unnamed. The speaker was a brilliant communicator, well dressed, credentialed (seemingly), and delivered as dialed of a presentation as I have ever witnessed. Folks were engaged and seemingly inspired– me among them.
After the keynote, there was a Q&A with the conference host. Someone in the audience asked about direct experiences the speaker had navigated concerning the topic, hoping to hear a story or two from the trenches. In response, the speaker confessed that they were really just a researcher. Despite an academic expertise, they had never really participated first-hand or meaningfully in the subject at hand.
All of my previous inspiration quickly disappeared. Feeling hoodwinked and disillusioned, I packed up my stuff and never looked back.
A little dramatic? Sure. Overly sensitive? Definitely. But the truth is that there are few people in the world that drive me as batty as armchair quarterbacks. Especially when it comes to entrepreneurship--which was exactly the topic of the infamous conference mentioned above.
Armchair quarterbacks are usually opinionated, well-read, middle managers at large companies. This is not a criticism, but rather an observation. That position is a breeding ground of power without consequence. Middle management at a large organization is one of the safest layers in the job market. With a largely de-risked career path, it is easy to take shots, offer criticism, and make bold predictions.
But, this article isn’t for the armchair QBs.
It is for those of you entertaining the idea with the alternative, for those of you wanting to take a leap, roll the dice, and bet on yourself. Outside the comfortable insulation of a corporate structure is the wild world of risk, reward, and unknown. On the entrepreneurial frontier, you live viscerally close to the success and failure of each decision.
Over and over I’ve seen that the success of a business has very little to do with the quality of an idea and everything to do with the caliber of the entrepreneur driving the vision. I have seen mediocre business plans get legs because of a once-a-generation leader. And I have watched brilliant business ideas never see the light of day because the entrepreneur at the helm lacked courage, self-awareness, or both.
The truth is, that you will never know if you have what it takes unless you get in the game. You can make endless business plans, analyze every aspect of the opportunity, and de-risk the factors as much as humanly possible. But even then, you can’t eliminate the leap. You will always have to jump out into nothing hoping that preparation, instinct, and a little bit of luck carry you across the void.
If you have an itch toward the entrepreneurial, you have to make peace with risk and unknown. You have to know that the factors are stacked against you and be energized by those odds. Ideas without action have no value; expert theories are even more worthless.
The only way to know if you can do it is to actually try.
If you have a great idea, and you believe you have the goods to execute on it, don’t waste prime years of your career making someone else money. As someone on the other side, I would wholeheartedly tell you to jump where there is no bridge, because the entrepreneurial journey is as daunting as it is exhilarating. If you have that wiring, I can assure you that you won’t be satisfied with anything that doesn’t expose you to the attempt.
Get in the game and go for it. I’m rooting for you.