What Dr. Seuss Teaches Us About Being An Entrepreneur
Last night, I sat down in my son’s room to read books and start winding down for bed. He’s 3, so typically he chooses a handful of titles that he’d like to read and then we end up reading the same book over and over (and over) again.This was no different.
We started reading “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” somewhat to my dismay, because 1. Dr. Seuss uses some strange words (seriously, who names their child Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea?), and 2. This is not a short book.
Twenty minutes later, as I opened the book for the third time, my mind began to wander. Drawing parallels between the book and my own life. Being a business owner is amazing - but it’s a rollercoaster, with its own bumps, a lot of working hours and a high level of stress. Dr. Seuss sums up this rollercoaster in 45 pages.
“And you may not find any (streets) you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town.”
If streets are jobs, starting a business is going out of town. This seems to be a common entrepreneurial path - we put in some time and find we’re just not fit to work for someone else. It might be that you’re bad at taking direction, you’re bad at company politics, you’re overly ambitious, or something else. These traits are often seen as bad in the corporate world and good for entrepreneurs. It’s funny how that works. “Oh! The places you’ll go!”
“Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.”
There is a certain naivete that goes along with being an entrepreneur. You’ve gotta be a little crazy - because who, in their right mind, risks it all for a great idea? You literally have to give up basic needs to start a business: sleep, food (or the ability to procure it), security. So we start this journey and hold our heads high, believing we’ll succeed no matter what.
“Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t… And when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”
Maybe it’s a lack of clients or a lack of traction in your market or a lack of investors or a combination of all three. Any way you slice it, this part sucks.
But that’s the thing about entrepreneurs - we have to un-slump ourselves. If you can’t experience the biggest failures and come out the other end with a renewed sense of dedication, then being an entrepreneur probably isn’t for you.
“You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. The Waiting Place… for people just waiting.”
The Waiting Place is a place we’re all familiar with. Waiting for the fish to bite (a new customer, perhaps?) or waiting for wind to fly a kite (inspiration, a great new idea) or a pot to boil (your company to find success). Waiting is the worst, and every moment spent waiting is time and money wasted. The Waiting Place should be avoided by entrepreneurs at all costs.
“Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying… Once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of guy.”
Yep. The entrepreneur is that kind of guy. Or gal.
“I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you. Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot. And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.”
Entrepreneurs all play games against themselves. Often this comes in the form of a nagging voice in the back of your head that says, “but you might fail.” I’ve been scared right out of my pants, too. When I started my business, there were months where I was convinced I was going to fail. Heck, I even interviewed for a bartending job.
Luckily - very luckily - I wasn’t hired. At that point, I probably would have been an awful employee.
“On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.”
Enemies? You’ll probably have a few of them. Whether they’re competitors, or loved ones who still don’t believe in you. Whoever they are, they definitely all look like this:
“You’ll get mixed up of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with great care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”
Many (most) entrepreneurs are strange birds. Enough said there.
Step with great care and great tact. An addition: don’t take too long to decide where to step. Being an entrepreneur is about making decisions swiftly, sometimes without enough information to make the decision in full confidence. There’s a level of ambiguity that entrepreneurs may love or may hate - but learn to deal with. Because Life’s a Great Balancing Act.
“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.) KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!”
Define success and work toward it every day. When you hit the bar, raise it. Aim as high as you can. And when you fail (because you will, indeed!), get up and try again. The opportunity to succeed is still there, as long as you’re still willing to work for it.
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”