TERMINATION AND GENESIS
As soon as you decide to become an entrepreneur your safe, predictable existence in the employment world is terminated. You are plucked from the comfortable world of a regular salary, annoying but sufferable debit orders, and monotonous commutes to and from work made more interesting by tweeting about how awful traffic is this morning, this afternoon, this evening.
The warm amniotic fluid of your life as an employee—the regular restaurant dinners and lazy takeaway meals, shopping trips for things that add little or no value to your life, the rarely used but comforting medical aid coverage, and, the neglected gym contracts—suddenly evaporates and leaves you stark naked in the interesting but harsh world of Entrepreneuria.
It is a hostile place, so different from everything I have hitherto experienced it was traumatising in its polarity during my first days here.
Entrepreneuria is a taxing, exhausting, and demoralising place where, because you have made the choice to be here, things—the ones you said you need and want to do, the things you said you will do—must get done. Somehow, someway. There are no days off and no excuses. The pity parties are poorly attended around these parts.
Here, things need to be done—if they are not done then you are done for. It is a constant battle to keep your wits, your dreams, your ambitions, and your morale above water and ahead of competitors.
The rule is simple: get shit done or slink back to your former life.
Entrepreneuria is a vast commercial wilderness defined by effort, grit, ingenuity, and late nights spent cuddling hopes of future rewards for present enterprise. There is no certainty; the only real religion here is doubt. Self-doubt, doubting your ideas, doubting your choices, doubting your ambitions, doubting plans, doubt, doubt, doubt.
The only thing that is never in doubt is where you are. Entrepreneuria. You cannot mistake it for some other place. Even if, by some miracle, a soft landing and a welcoming tour is provided you will only really arrive in true Entrepreneuria when your concept, when your business model, is in a desperate fight for survival.
Everything else until that point is child’s play.
FLYING TACKLES AND POM-POMS
Life has not always been like this, though. There was a time when everything was Bluetooth this, cordless that. I had a cable for the cable for the thing that did not connect to the other thing without the cable that cost me x-amount. I had trinkets and gadgets aplenty. Useless things. Problems did not really need to be fixed, they just needed to be painted over. Preferably with a cup of coffee prepared by a handsome man in a coffee shop playing indie music so niche the word niche is too big to describe its rarity.
Did I mentioned the man-bun? Oh, for real. That is how you know your coffee is the real thing. The difference between being served Satan’s piss and a good cup of coffee is not in the quality of the beans or the milk-to-coffee ratio. It is all in the man-bun, hun.
Before my relocation to Entrepreneuria life was defined by having too much time to do things I did not want to do. I had a job, but not a career; I had tasks, but not challenges. Every week was the same, every month was similar to the one before. It was not bad, it was just…too tranquil, too prosaic. I was in the stands, not on the pitch. The closest I could get to the action was being in the cheerleading squad for someone else. Even that presented a problem: my pom-pom game was (and is) weak.
Like many of the other citizens of Entrepreneuria, getting out of the stands, and onto the pitch, amongst the flying tackles, was a choice. Living in this twilight world of dreams and plans; late or unreturned correspondence; unsuccessful pitches, sometimes with useful feedback, mostly without; the head-spinning highs of landing a billable client; and, the demoralising lows of tardy payment is actually a conscious decision.
Strange, but true.
And how did I wind up here? Easy. It all starts with frustration.
Not just any frustration, though. A curious frustration.
It is a special species of frustration which results in living a certain lifestyle that, in turn, leads to a particular want which is not satisfied. This curious frustration springs from the desire for that which is not available, or that which is available, but not in the form or quantity in which it is desired. Curious frustrations differ from the other annoyances of life in one important respect: they demand action; they are the itches that must be scratched.
That is where it all starts. The scratching.
THE INEVITABLE FUCKITLETS
Now, watch how Curious Frustration builds and builds. See how it prompts a random search on the internet. The thin search results only add to the frustration. More searches lead to the Burning Question—a question that must have an answer. The search carries on. An hour becomes two, two becomes six, six hours become a whole week spent on the Internet, writing emails, and making phone calls in the pursuit of that one desperately desired thing.
No satisfactory answers present themselves.
Eventually, after a week of fruitless research (which will later turn out to be quite encouraging, actually), the Curious Frustration and the Burning Question get together to discuss how they are faring.
It is all casual at first, as things go. Greetings, polite enquiries about how the week has progressed, evasive answers about this and that, small talk about mundane things. The usual. Soon, though, with a couple of drinks in them the mood becomes more relaxed. Awkward smiling becomes boisterous laughing, spurred on by brazen jokes fuelled by the waitress’s backwards and forwards refill runs.
Then comes contact.
Watch how the accidental touch lingers just a second too long; watch how the other notices the touch and acts like nothing happened.
You know how this ends, right? Of course you do.
It is really all downhill from here. There is a sudden removal of all barriers and frank conversation is finally exchanged. The frustrations are aired, the need for answers is expressed to the universe, and, slowly, these two drinking companions start seeing each other in a new light. Could there be a spark here? They have strayed into the grey area friends about to engage in something careless—possibly regrettable later, possibly not—call The Fuckitlets.
More drinks, more laughter, more contact.
At some point in the night, with all inhibitions gone, two words are uttered which spell the doom of this story.
“Why not?” the Curious Frustration asks.
It is a brave display of courage to bring that question to light. An awkward silence ensues.
“Why fucking not?” the Burning Question replies.
The awkwardness melts away.
The two look at each other, neither breaking eye contact. It is at this moment where words need to be chosen carefully lest the magic of the moment is lost. The two stand on the threshold of the magical place where Things Could Happen—a wrong word or a lame joke could deflate the accumulated tension and excitement.
They hold each other’s gaze, each hoping that the other is thinking the same thing. They both start to say something, then, politely, offer the other to speak first.
“You go first,” says the Burning Question.
“No, please, you first,” answers the Curious Frustration.
“Okay, together then.”
A tense silence.
“Fuck it. Let’s!” they say together.
And just like that an idea is conceived, a plan is born, and a one-way ticket to Entrepreneuria is purchased.
The train is boarded the next day.
AND THE REST IS PRESENT HISTORY
The umbilical cord was severed, I was walloped on the buttocks, and then I cried.
“He’s breathing. He’s good to go.”
The final HR papers were signed and stamped, hasty goodbyes were said to colleagues, and the last paycheque Hail Mary-ed into my bank account, the last way bread for a long journey. Playlists for courage, hope, and determination were compiled, and, seven months later, here I am, writing from Entrepreneuria.
Actually, it was not that easy.
Even arriving in Entrepreneuria is a feat all by itself. Although the routes taken by people in this place vary from one to the other, the challenges overcome to be here are similar in some ways. Many of us had to escape the labyrinthine Canyons of Distraction where focus was nearly impossible because something would always be happening on Instagram or a colleague would send a link of twenty-five things to do before we turned the next half-hour-old. Somewhere, on the Internet, there would always be someone who was wrong, someone who had to be corrected and set on the right path. The person who had to do that would be you. Family responsibilities, the fear of putting a foot wrong, the Tyler Durden-esque realisation that all of the things you owned wound up owning you—there were so many distractions to overcome.
And even after surviving the Canyons there were the Half-Started Woods where projects were commenced but never successfully concluded. Postponement hung heavy in the air; everything was deferred.
But, spurred on by curious frustrations, burning questions, and, of course, the all-consuming ideas, many people, like me, would cut our way through the undergrowth, forge new paths, do today what we feared would not be done tomorrow, and, in due course, found ourselves in Entrepreneuria. Tired, excited.
HOME SAVOURY HOME
The other inhabitants of this place are a strange and diverse bunch. But they all have one common trait: they are wolfish. They always have a hungry look about them. What they hunger for is beyond me. Some want more time, some want more rest, some want more space, some want more profit. Nobody wants less. Enough is a concept that brings them close to tears. The default setting is more.
Despite the hint of desperation in their eyes they are quick with a joke; they smile easily. You need a robust sense of humour to make it here. It is essential to learn how to grin in the face of danger and laugh at failure. And you need to laugh. If you do not laugh, you will probably start brooding. If you start brooding you will probably be angered or saddened by any number of challenges you face. The two are not bad, in many respects they are essential emotions to feel, and to master.
But if they cling to you for too long they become a part of you. And, in Entrepreneuria, where failure is pretty much a way of life, to be constantly angry or sad is to invite the dogs to camp out on your doorstep.
No. Here, everyone smiles. Everyone laughs. You are a dead man walking as soon as you stop laughing.
Entrepreneuria’s citizenry is knitted together by a conviction that this is the only place for them. Here, in this place where everything is in an uncertain flux. Emotional wellbeing, sleep, food, leisure, nothing is finite. Things bend, stretch, and squeeze. Sometimes they disappear altogether. The things that used to matter do not matter as much any more. I, for example, do not think of meals anymore; I think of food. I think of carbohydrates, and proteins, and fats. Vitamins. Minerals.
Salads, steaks, sauces, or spices—everything tastes the same to me now. They all taste like get-me-to-tomorrow. If it has more than one food group it counts as gourmet and I feast like a king.
Those are the good days.
If my diet here is strange, my currency of trade is even stranger. Progress. That is what goes around here. It is not to be confused with profit, the narrower concept of making a return greater than one’s expenses. Progress is what drives Entrepreneuria.
It is a strange currency, progress. Sometimes it is ephemeral, fleeting; it is there but not really there. And on other occasions it is a tangible quantum, something you can pick up and show to a Doubting Thomas and say, “You see this? This is all me. I did this.”
The days are too short, the nights are too long. There is never enough time. And there is always more to be done. One of the worst thing I can be told is “tomorrow.” I think I teared up once or twice after being told something I needed immediately would only be ready “sometime tomorrow.” William Wallace dying in Braveheart kind of tearing up, with the ugly face scrunch and sob too.
Tomorrow always seems too far in Entrepreneuria. If and eternal state of today-ness existed I think the other citizens and I would be much happier. Because then we could get things done today. We could do more. More.
But for those who have managed to eke out a living here it is a pretty rewarding existence.
There are days, good and memorable days, when things align and there is progress and your idea, the thing that has seeped so deeply into your being it is as much a part of your identity as your eyes, your mouth, or your skin, moves along. It grows, people buy into it. They take your idea and run with it.
Those are glorious days indeed. They do not happen often, but their occurrence brings some relief from the relentless pressure. They seem to happen at the moment you discover that the light at the end of the tunnel is actually an oncoming train. And after a desperate scramble for your life in the opposite direction, just barely making it out, a good day comes along, and everything seems good.
In that moment being a player and not a spectator is justified; the rapture of the moment erases the past hardships.
“More,” you say. “I want more days like these.”
Seven months and counting.
Author’s note: In case you are wondering what I have been working on in the days I have not been posting to the site, click here. It has taken a lot of work, and with me living in Entrepreneuria full-time there have been a fair number of challenges I will be sure to tell you about in the future. Also, I am not sure if I owe Craig David royalties for living out his song.
“Had this idea on Monday,
Did a Google search on Tuesday. ?We be making plans by Wednesday,
And on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday,
Resigned on Sunday.”