We’ve all heard the old joke “In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.” This quote epitomizes the true essence of commitment. We all know at least one self-professed entrepreneur who claims to be committed but seems to treat it like a part-time hobby, won’t put any personal skin in the game, and is quick to give up when things are tough.
There are no middle roads to real commitment, and if you are not ready to fully commit to all the rigors of a startup, you are better off sticking with your current role. For your calibration, here are some characteristics you will recognize in a truly committed entrepreneur:
- Actively seeks leadership and responsibility. Many people need the comfort of following, rather than leading. When things go wrong, it’s then easier to point to someone else as the scapegoat. As an entrepreneur, the promises anyone makes on your behalf are yours. You need to be ready to accept “the buck stops here” and make it work.
- Exhibits surging raw ambition. Successful entrepreneurs are generally ambitious and confident in their abilities. They may have many ideas, some of them are more workable than others. Failure is viewed as a learning opportunity, so it’s no disaster that some ideas don’t actually get done the first time.
- Minimum positive feedback required. As I’ve said in previous articles, it’s lonely at the top. If your psyche is one that needs regular positive feedback and a commensurate paycheck to stay motivated, you need to find a real job rather than an entrepreneurial one.
- Social life is not the highest priority. If you find yourself unable to clear your head of work-related thoughts at the end of the day, that’s committed. Social relationships are important, and you do need to blank out work from time to time, but if social priorities are at the top of your list, you probably won’t enjoy the role of entrepreneur.
- Comfortable with unpredictable working hours. Some people need a predictable schedule, for family reasons, or just peace of mind. Entrepreneurs need to be flexible and assume there will be long working hours. If you are annoyed rather than exhilarated at the long or unpredictable schedule at your startup, you are involved but not committed.
- Vacation is an interruption. Most entrepreneurs I know can’t remember the last time they had a “real” vacation (without bringing their work along). This may not be healthy, but it illustrates the level of commitment that you are competing against in the marketplace. If you insist on vacations “without checking in,” go and work for a big company that gives you a holiday allowance.
- Hasn’t even thought about retirement. Many people involved with startups are working hard, but are looking forward to retirement. The committed entrepreneurs wouldn’t think of retiring, even if they made millions from the current project. They enjoy work too much to stop, and can’t wait to start their next venture.
Making a commitment is a serious matter and one which should not be taken lightly, especially in a startup venture where the team needs to pull its weight together to achieve goals. Individuals who need structure and workload predictability won’t be able to maintain the high levels of enthusiasm and motivation of a startup team.
This isn’t a statement of right or wrong, just different strokes for different folks. The next time you have the urge to chuck your day job and live the dream of being your own boss, remember to test yourself for how committed you really are before you jump off the cliff!