Are You On The Field or In The Stands?
Unlike professional sports, owning your own business doesn’t require physical gifts. You don’t have to be freakishly tall to build a piece of software. You don’t have to be able to bench press a VW Bug to write a book. You don’t even have to be able to run at a moderate pace to start a website.
As a result, everyone thinks they can just jump into the entrepreneurial game and start playing. Worse, they think they’re playing when they’re actually just scarfing hot dogs, vying for the Kiss Cam, and yelling a lot.
People think they’re on the field, but they’re actually in the stands
They read articles and books so they think they can do and teach the same things they read (hello, life coaches with zero life experience).
They buy products/services/software and think they know all the intricate details of how to build those things and how to improve them.
They sit atop their social media thrones and cast judgment and criticism without having any experience to back things up, and without understanding the negative effect their opinions can have on the people who are actually building things (sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it doesn’t mean you actually have to give it).
People tend to think starting a podcast, launching a website, or creating a social media strategy is a business. But unless you have an exchange of goods or services for money, those things are just sprinkles on an empty ice cream cone.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it takes actual work to be on the field.
Sitting in the stands is easy
It’s easier than ever to feel like you’re on the field when you’re not. Creating a logo for your business idea and launching a website can be done in a matter of a few hours. That’s relatively easy. Anyone can do that. But can you:
- Get people to show up to your website?
- Clearly explain what your business does?
- Get the people who showed up to your website to purchase your product or service?
- Understand whether your product or service actually worked for the people who bought it?
- Help people when things go wrong with your product or service?
- Get the people who bought to talk about you?
- Get ongoing attention for your business as it grows?
- Stand out in an insanely crowded landscape?
- Build something sustainable, that isn’t just a flash in the pan of success?
- Ignore all the people who will criticize you? (Even friends and family?)
Those are just a handful of things that happen on the actual field of business. And each one of those bullet points has a bunch of nested bullet points below it that you can’t be prepared for or even predict.
If you can do them, great. In this case, you’re not joining the masses who are already playing the game—you’re actually one of the few who stepped out of the stands and down onto the field. And in that situation, you’re the one who gets the credit—not the people who’ll criticize you for the rest of your time in the game.
There’s a great Roosevelt quote that Brene Brown made popular in her book, Daring Greatly:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Maybe you don’t actually want to play?
You know what’s even easier than starting a business these days? Working for someone else. There’s nothing wrong with that. Let someone else navigate the field. All you have to do is show up and do what they tell you to do.
Many people aren’t cut out to handle all the work it takes to be on the field. They even have little voices in their head and feelings in their gut, but they ignore those things. Instead they force themselves to be on the field and be in a worse situation than just working for someone else (and avoiding all the bad feelings).
Knowing who you are and what you value in life is incredibly important. So if being in the stands, or maybe not even coming close to this metaphorical stadium, is right for you? Great. Embrace that. Live that life. Be happy you don’t have to worry about the 10 bullet points I listed above (that each have at least 10 hidden bullet points nested below them).
If it is right for you, though, know that the game looks a lot different from ground level than it does from the nosebleeds, the lower bowl, or even the box seats. Once you get down here, you could swear it’s not even a game at all.