Founder = Learning To Juggle While Riding A Unicycle On A TightRope

Being a founder is often hard to describe.  When you are asked, “what do you do” at parties or other social events, it’s easier to brush it off and not bring up the fact that you are a founder of your own company, just so you don’t have to go into how crazy it is.  When they realize you are a “founder” and you have a “startup”, it’s quite impressive to them.  They think it’s all glitz and glamor.  “Oh” they say, “that must be really fun!”  They think you make a ton of money and instantly give you more credit than you deserve.   They almost give you rock star status.

Or, ironically, they don’t give you enough credit.

The problem is they have no clue what you are going through and what it took just to get to where you are right now.  They have no idea how much you gave up to get here.  They don’t understand you don’t go back to a desk in an building owned by the company you work for, push some pieces of paper around, report to a boss, provided daily meals by your employer, given a shiny mobile device and a cushy salary with benefits.

They don’t actually realize NONE of that is included.   They have no idea you have given up everything in your life for this moment.

They also have no idea being a founder is like learning to juggle while riding a unicycle on a tightrope.

Why would I use such an analogy?

Most people’s idea of a founder is Steve Jobs – Miraculous.  Incredible.   Innovator.   Charismatic.  Leader.  Someone who’s all put together and very wealthy.  Use whatever descriptive words you want but they will be wrong.

Sorry to ruin the fun, but as founders we are generally running around like a chicken with our heads cut off trying to put out the latest fire threatening to burn down our dream.  Most things presented to you will be foreign and scary as hell to fix.  Customers will leave you.  Investors will say no.  Tech will fail.  Team members will leave.   Bank accounts will go dry.  And that’s just par for the course each day.

Most of the time you have no idea what you are doing or what the right move is, you are just putting one foot in front of the other and feeling your way around the dark room.

It’s feels like this: you attend to one thing, and just when you think you have it figured out another thing pops up.  So now you have two things to look over and figure out.  Yet before you know it, instantly another issue arises.  But this one is specifically attached to how you actually make money so you must drop everything else and go figure it out.  Hopefully, once you get that figured out you remember what the last issue was so you can return and fix it.

Learning. To. Juggle. While. Riding. A. Unicycle. On. A. TightRope.

Yes, it feels that tiring each and every day.  Next time you find out someone is a founder, please just give them a hug and ask them what you can do to help.

And you know what?  Juggling and riding unicycles also have their benefits and the analogy works the other way.  More on that topic at a later date.

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4 thoughts on “Founder = Learning To Juggle While Riding A Unicycle On A TightRope

  1. Nick, I find your blog interesting. Spectating the process of someone having the guts to go it alone and start their own thing is enlightening plus a curious thing to follow to boot. Regardless of the underlying intention of this blog, I thank you for taking the time and being brave enough to share your feelings as you go through your journey.

    However…

    What did you do before your became this ‘founder’? In the post above you’re describing a vast majority of jobs, whether it be owning a company, directing a company, managing a team or heading up a department. The general sentiment of this post makes me wonder why you considered starting your own business in the first place. That’s really all you’re doing – starting a business. The same as the plumber down the road who is determined to do it on his own. Attaching the terms ‘founder’ and ‘start up’ to it doesn’t really change it in my mind.

    Just because the ‘paper pushers’ get a salary, a monthly wage, a mobile device, a fuel card and any amount of other incentives, it doesn’t mean they’re under any less stress to put out their own fires, to keep their job, to keep their team’s jobs, to impress their boss, to impress their spouse, to continue paying the mortgage, schooling the kids, paying for groceries etc, etc.

    We all have to juggle buddy. The difference is, while some of us sit in the corner waiting to be hugged, some of us simply add ‘hugging the sad-looking guy in the corner’ to our ever increasing todo list.

    Step up mate. If you’re struggling to juggle, perhaps you need to leave the circus? If this response is out of line with the purpose of your post, I apologise. But take a second to consider the sentiment of what you’re putting out there and the effect it might have on your growing number of readers.

    Keep up the awesome work and just keep swimming!

    Shaun

  2. Hey Shaun,
    Thanks for the reply and I appreciate your response. And I am glad you are enjoying the journey with me.

    However, maybe something was lost in translation and I possibly missed a few things as I wrote this morning. Please read this as a neutral response. The point of the post is twofold.

    First, there is a hell of a difference between an owner/founder and an employee – namely the fact that all most all parts of the business rest solely on the founders/owners shoulders. This is typically not the case when you are an employee, especially as the organization grows. (and yes I have been an employee in large and small organizations before, that’s actually what influenced me to start my own company). This perspective can be referred to as Owner vs Employee mentality and it’s not for the faint of heart. And I am not even including all the stuff you mention everyone must now juggle “to keep their job, to keep their team’s jobs, to impress their boss, to impress their spouse, to continue paying the mortgage, schooling the kids, paying for groceries etc, etc.”

    Second, using the analogy of learning to juggle while riding a unicycle on a tightrope is to say you have to pretty much learn everything on your own, typically numerous things at once, trial and error as a founder. There’s no owners manual to founding a company, kinda like there’s no magic “lose 50 pounds” diet pill. Startup is no easy task and one of the reasons why most of us never venture out on our own. Employees are trained to do a specific job and have someone (boss, manager, owner) to rely on when things get too difficult or become “over their head” if you will. They have safety nets who can take on the problem if need be and for lack of a better term “wipe their hands clean” at the end of the day since it’s not their company.

    I guess a third point is simply the fact that founding a company is damn hard and something I look to grind through towards growth and success. I started on this path because it’s a healthy challenge and allows me to appreciate what life presents when you take it into your own hands. And nope, this circus ain’t leaving anytime soon.

    I write bluntly and truthfully for readers – for better or worse. My goal is to open up the black box of entrepreneurship and give people a better perspective, those who may be fascinated with it but have never made the leap themselves. Is it sometimes hard to digest? For sure. But that’s entrepreneurship. Part of the motivation in my writing style is to help readers gain a better appreciation for entrepreneurs and the struggles we go through, and maybe to educate people on the decision they may or may not be contemplating at the moment. Just like life, it’s quite messy.

  3. Pingback: Why I Write So Unbashingly Straightforward and Authentic « So Entrepreneurial

  4. Hey Nick,

    You wrote what I have been feeling for a while now. Touché!

    As an entrepreneur; which I hardly ever say as people think you’re not working, but the hell with them, I too have plunged into the deep end and have begun the journey of developing a new start-up. And you’re right, people have absolutely no idea, unless their in it, how insane the process is.

    Most days I love (being sarcastic) how potential investors absolutely adore the concept yet say “call me when you’re needing second round financing.” then there’s the dog and pony show you have to constantly put on for, well, everyone, including all the people you encouraged to get involved when all you can offer right now is sweat equity – and why?, because right now all you can sell is the the fact that it’s a fantastic idea that no one else is doing – YET. But they will if we don’t move fast enough, but we’re running as fast as we can – we have the financial projections (but really, what does that mean – of course it looks like you’ll be wealthy beyond your wildest dreams within a relatively short period of time, we have every possible best and worst case scenarios on tons of spreadsheets, we have the cute video that will get you pumped, we have the wireframes in progress … but we’re aggressively looking for seed money – and when it doesn’t come fast enough your team – you know the sweat equity champs, well they HAVE to get real jobs to pay the bills, etc.

    Then it all falls back on you (mind you, it was always you), and you alone to try and get the money to get the project off the ground so you can redeem yourself to the fabulous people that have put all of their time and effort into something that they believed in.

    Soooooo trust me, there are days (not THAT many) where I WISH I were an employee and not an entrepreneur that had a great idea for a new start-up.

    Thanks again for expressing how I feel.

    Amy

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