Today’s entrepreneurial journey is complicated. It’s technical. It’s a sea of pivots and transitions. Every successful entrepreneur I know is asked the same question hundreds of times on every podcast, in every interview, during every Q&A: “What is the one thing you would tell anyone wanting to become an entrepreneur to get them started today?”

Here’s the cold hard truth: There is no right answer. 

Bonus Tip: Most of us make up those answers on the spot. If for no other reason than to give us some type of variety in what we say to keep from sounding redundant. And repetitive.

When you start out as an entrepreneur, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Most people who are deemed an “overnight success” have spent years earning that moniker; they are anything but new to the scene. In fact, most of those people go on to be wildly successful because they have put in the work. They have staying power. They are accustomed to the rhythm of their craft and they understand how to capitalize on the spotlight when it shines their way. 

“Hard work for countless hours.”

Business and the military have taken me all over the world and after countless conversations, and maybe a little banter over unprepared show hosts, one thing seems to find its spot at the top of the leaderboard as the golden secret to success: Hard work for countless hours.

This does not mean busy work, rather this means focused hard work toward a singular goal. The more focused you are, the more hours you put in, the more dedication you give to mission accomplishment, the more likely you are to succeed. At the start of your entrepreneurial journey,  being the boss doesn’t mean sitting back and watching the money roll in. In fact, if you’re doing it right, this time will be the busiest with the longest hours.

In the military, we had a phrase that described the hardest things we had to do without an option otherwise: “Embrace the suck”. Simply put, it means to endure what has to be done and just get through it knowing you will come out stronger on the other side. When you start a business, you must embrace the suck.

“‘…nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week'”.

Elon Musk took a lot of flak for Tweeting, “…nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week”. He was berated, provided with “statistics” about lack of sleep and its correlation with poor performance, and critics told stories of people dying from working too much overtime. Some even noted penicillin was discovered because Alexander Fleming went on vacation. Now, I may take some flak here, too, but I agree with him.

That’s not to say you have to run yourself ragged 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If you do it right, it will only be something like 16 to 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a few months. You have to make the conscious decision to make your new business your top priority. What I mean is you have to embrace the Second Shift Suck.

Before you start your business, ask yourself two very simple questions: Do I have the money? Do I have the time? 

“You’re already at a deficit.”

If the answer to the first question is, “Yes – I have an investor” and the answer to the second question is, “Yes – I’m quitting my job”, then stop right there. You’re already at a deficit. 

Here’s a much better way to start your entrepreneurial journey: Don’t quit your day job. Yeah – I said it. Keep the job you have now and go on a financial diet. Stop spending, start saving. In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible to save your way to wealth, but you can save enough to get you started on the right foot. 

Most entrepreneurs start strong with a ton of enthusiasm but that quickly fades without money coming in and with the workload getting harder. Morale decreases and your business becomes your burden. The second shift is how you avoid this pitfall.

Give 100% of what you have to give to your day job. Don’t cheat your employer. Don’t work on your new business on someone else’s dime. You’ll regret it when you become an employer. After your day is done, go home and work the second shift. 

That second shift is where you start building your new business. It has hours, it has rules, and you’re responsible to show up every day and work weekends. 

“No four hour days.”

Work a full second shift from 6pm or 7pm to 2am or 3am. No 4 hour days. Not yet. Instead, put in the full 8-10 hour day. No date nights, no leisurely restaurant dinners, no bar time. This will also help to keep your spending down while you’re growing your new business. Plan on 50-60 hours per week working on your new business. 

Figure out what you’re going to do and how you will do it. Get your website together and figure out how to complete transactions. Start developing your systems, the avatar you want to sell to, and figure out who the essential employees are that you will need to make your business work.

When you’re ready, start setting appointments in the evenings and on weekends for your prospective clients. Find the objections. Adjust your systems and checklists. Try again.

Land your first client. Test your deliverables. If everything works like a charm, and money is coming in, instead of quitting your day job, hire your first employee. 

When the money from new clients outpaces your day job, congratulations, you have just learned how to embrace the suck. 

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