In the words of Will Schroter CEO of Go Big Network
Sacrifice is the True Cost of Success
The most consistent complaint I hear from entrepreneurs is the incredible level of sacrifice made in order to fulfill their dreams. They mortgage their homes, alienate themselves from their loved ones, and abuse themselves mentally and emotionally just to pursue a singular goal.
Why is the cost of success so incredibly high? Why do so many incredibly smart and capable people have to sacrifice so much and work so hard to actually become successful?
It's because sacrifice is the true cost of success.
Those second mortgages and missed soccer games aren't just incidental events. They are part of the total tribute one must submit to the “startup gods” in order to be successful.
Unfortunately sacrifice is very difficult to quantify. We understand that businesses require capital which we understand and time which we are used to providing. What we're less attuned to is the softer side of the investment, which is the actual sacrifice of our lives in order to make our dreams come true.
The Great Divide
Anyone can spend money and time toward trying to become successful. But the great divide between those that are “doing well” and those that are “incredibly successful” is the level of sacrifice they are willing to contribute toward their goals.
The reason I call this the “Great Divide” is because it’s what separates entrepreneurs from those that work for entrepreneurs. Very few people are willing to assume the risk and sacrifice it takes to cross that divide, which is why so few people are successful entrepreneurs.
When you're sitting at your office at two o'clock in the morning on a Wednesday night, long after everyone else has gone home, that's the difference between the sacrifice you're willing to make and what everyone else is willing to make. That's you crossing the divide while everyone else waves to you from the other side.
Minimize the Cost
Many entrepreneurs have tried to avoid this cost altogether. They want the success of entrepreneurship without the cost of sacrifice. They want to work 40 hours per week, not give up any of their savings, and have a healthy relationship with their family while becoming wildly successful in their business.
While this sounds really nice, it's pretty unrealistic.
The more likely scenario is that you're going to miss commitments, give up your personal time, and leverage yourself to near bankruptcy before you become successful. That's not some strange fluke that only happens to you. It's the actual process of becoming successful, and it's almost identical to what everyone else is going through. You can't really avoid these costs, although if you can find ways to minimize them, by all means that's a great thing.
There are lots of ways to help minimize the sacrifice. One way is to to force yourself to accomplish more in less time. If you cut out all the time you spend messing around on the Web, reading your morning paper and chatting it up with your friends during the work day, you can focus on getting more done in less time.
You can also apply that rule to other sacrifices like your capital. Every bit of personal capital you conserve by not buying a nicer car or leveraging yourself on a mortgage payment is another sacrifice you don’t need to make at work.
Paying the Price
Instead of spending all of your time wondering why you're working so hard and sacrificing so much, start thinking of your heartache like a big check you’re writing. You can sit around and complain about it, or you can suck it up and admit it's what you got into this for in the first place. I'd highly recommend the latter.
At the same time, it's worth considering the true price you're paying along the way. Being more successful or making more money is never going to make up for spending more time with your family or letting yourself go physically and mentally. While sacrifice is definitely a cost, there needs to be a return on that investment as well.
Regardless of how much sacrificial capital you invest, or what your expected return might be, the fact is you’re going to live without something along the way. The real question isn't how much you're willing to contribute, but how much you’re willing to give up.
Earn Your Stripes
Plenty of people in the world work long hours for low pay and little recognition, so that activity doesn't buy you anything more than the next person. At the same time, everyone wants to be successful in their own right, so even your drive to be successful isn't going to set you apart from the pack.
What sets you apart from the rest of the world is your willingness to sacrifice more than the next person. An entrepreneur's story, in many ways, is told not by what they have achieved, but what they have sacrificed along the way in order to meet those goals.
The Anxiety of Waiting to be Successful
Becoming successful is a stressful process.
Aside from the trials and tribulations of building a company we often create an entirely separate bucket of anxieties just worrying about our own career paths.
We worry that we're not already successful enough. We worry that we're not growing as quickly as our peers are. We worry that if we can't take our company public like that twenty-something kid did, we're just not worthy.
All of this anxiety is not only self-imposed, it's largely self-destructive.
Make Successful Milestones
Success rarely happens as one incredible moment where the skies part, the rays of brilliance shine down, and a harmonious choir sings your name a cappella.
Success isn't a destination, it's a series of successful milestones that leads to a destination. Instead of worrying about where you'll be in ten years, worry about where you'll be in ten days, or ten weeks.
Another mistake is comparing your performance and path to success to someone else's. If you read enough biographies of successful entrepreneurs, you'll learn one commonality – no one knew that their path would end up where it did.
Driving yourself to “beat” others and their progress is a useless feat. At it's core it's disingenuous – what someone else does should not dictate your path. Beyond that, it's just a waste of valuable time and attention.
Instead of comparing your career to someone else's', compare your progress against your own commitments. Whether or not you made more money than the Google guys by your early 30's isn’t the point. Whether you left the office this week without creating more value than last week is definitely the point.
Creating deadlines for success is largely a wasted process. Nothing magical happens when you turn 30 (I know, I tried it) and nothing you do more quickly than your old man will make your life any better.
Your career timeline is your own, and no one else's path should have any bearing on yours. If you really want to kick butt, set a record that someone else will have to worry about breaking by some point in their life. Mark your territory with your own accomplishments, not the retraction of someone else's.
Look, you can drive yourself insane trying to beat everyone else and still wind up nowhere.
Or you can put on blinders and have complete tunnel vision on your own success. Think of every moment that you spend worrying about what someone else has done, or whether you've achieved enough by some arbitrary date as a step backward.
Instead, use those moments of negative self-reflection as a time to think of something that you can get accomplished.
If you can manage to stay positively focused on the path ahead, you won't have to worry about when you'll be successful or how. That part will take care of itself.