3 Lessons for Would-Be Entrepreneurs from Successful Quitters

by | Sep 17, 2013 | Starting Your Own Business | 16 comments

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sumitha Bhandarkar.

A dmit it — every time you have a conversation with friends about successful entrepreneurs, you secretly daydream that someday they will be talking about you.

Sure, you’re currently in a regular job just like them, but you know you are destined for more.

You feel it in your guts that someday you will break out of the shackles and strike out on your own. You will find a way to turn your dreams and brilliant ideas into a spectacular success that people can’t stop talking about.

Is it time, though? How do you know when to give up the comfort of your regular job and take the plunge?

I wrestled with that very question for two years. And then, last month, I gave up my promising career with a six figure salary to start something on my own. It was without a doubt the hardest decision I’ve ever made.

And I haven’t looked back.

The thing is, you can never be 100% sure it’s going to work out. There’s never going to be a perfect time to quit.

What you can do however, is take a long, hard, look at those who have tried this before you. And notice the subtle differences in how those who are successful at striking out on their own approach this decision compared to those who fail. These differences raise some important questions. If you answer them honestly you’ll have a clear idea of whether it’s time for you to strike out on your own, and if not, what you need to do to get there.

Ready to give it a try?

Difference #1: You Don’t Quit To Escape. You Quit to Create.

The first thing you’ll notice is that those who are successful don’t just quit their job and dive into something new because they are sick of the way things are going on. That does play a part, but more importantly they are driven by wanting to do something better instead. They quit a boring or stressful job so that they can have more time to pursue something that is creative or brings them more personal satisfaction. They quit a job where things are broken so they may go innovate a fix for it. The goal is not to escape the present state of affairs, it is to start doing something that is far better.

What this means to you:

Answer honestly – Are you propelled by the need to escape or the excitement to start something new? In other words, are you just trying to get away from something, or are you looking forward to getting towards something?

If in the next 10 seconds you can’t say what is it that you want, crave and are burning up to do instead of your current job, then striking out on your own may not be the right answer for you, yet.

Start thinking of what is the source of dissatisfaction with your current job? What needs should be met to replace that dissatisfaction with excitement? How can you satisfy this need?

Slowly, this line of thinking will lead you in the right direction, until one day you no longer wonder, but know that it is time for you to take the leap.

Difference #2: You Don’t Blindly Follow Your Dreams. You Jump in With Your Eyes Wide Open.

All the talk on the web about lifestyle redesign, living life on your own terms and pursuing your passion may have you aching to strike out on your own. Here’s the thing – there is no free pass. A new way of life brings with it its own set of challenges. Be it an alternate lifestyle or an entrepreneurial venture, those who are successful at making a go of it are aware that they are trading one set of challenges for another, and don’t let themselves be caught off guard or disillusioned by the new challenges. They are mentally prepared for the new way of doing things and embrace it, warts and all.

What this means to you:

Time for a reality check — Can you be productive in an unstructured environment where nobody keeps track of what you do and nobody imposes a deadline on you? Do you have it in your nature to keep your own hours, and still get work done? Do you have the mental fortitude to tackle difficult issues on your own?

If you are unsure, then it may not be the right time to strike out on your own yet. Figure out ways to test the waters to build up your confidence instead. Take on responsibilities at work where you are required to achieve certain goals with no supervision or adequate support. Start working on projects, either at work or in your spare time to see if you can get things done within a certain time, when there is no real deadline requiring you to do it. Participate in community projects that require initiative, planning, networking and conflict resolution. Taste the challenges before you take the dive.

Difference #3: It’s Not Just About Making More Money. It’s About Making a Difference.

If you look at all those who are successful at this, you probably notice that many of them make a truckload of money. Look beyond that and you will notice that they also work their butt off to offer something of real value to the people they serve. It may be an innovative product or a solution, a helpful service or maybe just something of high entertainment/education value. In their own little way, they make the world a better place.

There is nothing wrong in wanting a lot of money. But those who go on to be successful understand that money is not the goal, but a great little byproduct of following a passion and offering something of value. When you strike out on your own, chances are you will have some very lean financial times, and the only way to get past it and reaching a point of success is to not be focused on just the money aspect.

What this means to you:

Time for the tough questions — If you couldn’t make any money out of what you are planning to do, would you still want to do it? What if you lost all the money you have now in the pursuit of this dream, is it still worth pursuing?

If you cannot detach yourself from the money, it may not be time to jump in yet. You can indeed make a lot of money, but if that is the only driving force, then you may want to start digging a little deeper and look for something else that actually tugs at your soul and helps you get past the times when money many not quite be on your side.

Now, if you do have something you are burning up to do, are reasonably sure that you can handle the demands of bringing it to fruition, and couldn’t care less if it made you any money (but know nevertheless that someday it will)…

Well, it’s time, baby. Take the plunge.

It’s not going to be easy. Heck, let me spare you the suspense and tell you right now, it is going to be the hardest thing you do in your life. People will doubt you and ridicule you. You will come face to face with some of your worst fears. You will know new levels of discouragement and self-doubt.

But you will rise above it. You will survive and you will thrive. You will come out the other end a little weary for the wear, but radiantly triumphant.

Because you know what? Not everybody is cut out to strike out on their own. But for those of us that are and take the leap at the right time – nothing can stop us from shining!

So, go for it. Go claim the fame and success that is rightfully yours!

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Sumitha Bhandarkar hopped off the corporate treadmill to start a blog that helps parents quit their guilt and focus that energy on becoming better parents instead. Are you a parent? Can you and your family benefit from you becoming better at this parenting thing? Then check out her unique perspective on parenting — it might just change the course of your life!