I am a below-average entrepreneur. I might even call myself a bad entrepreneur, but that would not be an objective analysis of my career performance so far.
An entrepreneur is always dependent on a large chain of events to come through in a specific time frame to ensure survival. And while most of these can be nudged or nurdled in the direction required, it often comes apart at the seams.
In 14+ years of business, 10 of them with my family and 4+ of them on my own, I’ve been through my fair share of disappointments, failures and depressing moments.
None of them were remotely heroic, nor is the struggle that happy or fulfilling. The “journey” as they say, is a tough, hard, shitty road, paved with fights, anger, pain and sorrow. You turn into an ogre, a creature you can barely recognise. Good intentions are tossed into the wind, friends alienate you, and you could very well end up as a pariah. Intentions often count for nothing in an Entrepreneur’s life.
When your business is struggling, failing, you have to look at your wife, your mother, your friends in their eyes and just shrug your shoulders, and say “We’re doing our bit” in response to their daily questions about how well you’re doing.
In India, rising back up from a failed business, from a loan gone bad, from a life once well-led, to now a life full of struggle, is less about the money and more about the pride, the status that surrounds such a fall from grace.
Although everyone talks about entrepreneurship being the hot shit in India right now, the truth is even Entrepreneurs look at status before befriending you, before getting pally. They’ll meet you once, have a heart-to-heart about struggles and pain and suffering and agree with everything you say. But in the end, they will stay away from struggling founders because they want to be hanging out with the cool, successful founders. Those who’ve got it made. So they can all talk at events about how they came out of failure and are now successful. Like that washes away all the past and is now a clean slate.
Me? I’m not afraid to embrace my failure. I’ve done things to survive and to stay afloat in life that I’m not proud of. But those experiences have taught me so much more than the money I crave in life today.
I’ve had to lie to family, I’ve had to lie to customers. I’ve stayed awake all night, wondering if I would get caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
I’ve had to tell lies to my wife, knowing that it wasn’t all true.
I’ve taken loans from close friends I have not been able to repay on time.
I’ve disappointed customers by taking orders I could not fulfill on time because of financial, manpower constraints.
I’ve tried to make deals with the devil to climb out of my financial mess.
I’ve had to come to terms with a number of failing relationships that have crumbled under the financial stress.
And still, when I forge on, it is because of this irrational confidence, this resolve I have in me that I will get to where I’m headed… That I will get to the financial, emotional stability I’ve been craving.
Why? Because I’m growing as a person every day. I am more naked than I’ve ever been. I have more confidence in my abilities than ever before. I’ve learnt valuable lessons on my way back up.
I know who my real friends are now. I recognise struggle and I salute it. I embrace people who are pedalling furiously under the water, while smiling above it. I have no fear of retribution, of being badmouthed, of my reputation being sullied. It’s all been done before and I now have the courage of my convictions to eat insults from anyone in the world. I have no qualms about owning up to mistakes. I do not fear lawsuits, or thugs. I don’t hide from loan collection agencies and I don’t get intimidated by threatening phone calls. I can handle failure and rejection with a smile because It’s no longer personal.
Above all, I know that my irrational confidence will pay off some day. Maybe later than sooner. I may have lost everyone who is dear to me, . I may have lost every single asset in pursuit.
But the fact is, I’m a below-average entrepreneur. There’s still headroom for growth.