12 Tasks of the Real Entrepreneur

I generally loathe entrepreneurial meta-wisdom, larded as it usually is with the author’s veiled self-congratulation (“I may have lost all my investors’ money in 90 days, but I stayed true to myself”)  and the obligatory “VC’S ARE DOUCHEBAGS WHO HAVE NEVER MET A PAYROLL” rants.  I get enough abuse just walking down the street.  Why would I voluntarily back up my rss reader to dump more poo on my head?  I mean, even douchebags have feelings.

But this bit via a dear friend from Jason Calcanis made me smile.  The bad news is, he’s not exaggerating:

Here is a really easy way to figure out if you can deal with the mess
in front of you. How many of the following can you deal with:

1. Laying off half your staff.
2. Laying off half your staff again three months later.
3. Spending 20 hours a week on the phone being yelled at and
threatened while trying to renegotiate a dozen contracts–like your
T1, phone system, rent, equipment leases, etc.
4. Having an investor scream at you and tell you that they will ruin
you, your career and that “you’ll never raise money again, you mother
5. Laying off half your staff for a third time.
6. Getting served a half-dozen lawsuits, courtesy of the folks who you
tried to renegotiate with in point number three who wouldn’t deal.
7. Having one of the people you’re renegotiating with come to your
office every week and ask for their check in person.
8. Having the same media outlet that once claimed you were the next
Barry Diller write that you’re a fraud.
9. Not getting a good night’s sleep for six months.
10. Having dozens of paying clients default on their bills.
11. Having staffers who you really need to double down and focus walk
out the door after you helped make their careers.
12. Have the people who begged you for a meeting at the peak not even
return your emails or phone calls.

If you can’t deal with these 12 situations, then you’re out. It’s time
to refresh your resume, tell your board you resign, sublet your place
and go to Thailand. Go sit on the beach and lick your wounds for $40 a
day (all-in) like the fauxtrepreneur you are. You suck. I hate you.
You’re smart enough to cut your loses in a way I could never

All of this ties in nicely with what I call my “mashed potato” rule.  When someone says to me, “I’m thinking about starting a company,”  the tone of his voice is often just as if he had said, “I’m thinking about taking Marge and the kids to visit Niagara Falls.”  I say, “if you’re thinking, you’re still not ready.    This is not like planning a vacation.  Lie down until it goes away.”

If my friend comes back and says, “no, really, I want to do this,” I ask simply, “are you playing with your food yet?”  If my friend looks at me quizzically (99% likelihood), I verbally reconstruct the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, wherein Richard Dreyfus’s character Roy is building Encounter mounds in his mashed potatoes.   He can think of nothing else, the mounds haunt him so.

If you’re not yet playing with your food, you’re not ready.  If you’re not yet playing with your food, you won’t make it through #2 on Calcanis’s list.

Which brings me to my daily devotion:   “Thank God for entrepreneurs who play with their food.  Without them, there’d damn sure be no need for clowns like me.”


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