Less dreaming, more doing

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

It’s human nature. When we have a job, we complain about it, and when we don’t have a job, we try hard to get one. When we do have a job we want to find happiness in it, even though studies show what brings the truest happiness is one’s personal life. Work is the wrong place to look for it.

Still, we spend many hours a day at work, and it’s natural to want fulfillment from it. So if you find your job unsatisfying, and you long to break out of it and start your own business, my recommendation is to do something about it. Begin by building your business around the things that bring you peace, because working on something you love will bring the fulfillment you seek.

While some people can afford to quit their jobs and focus entirely on their dream business, most don’t have that luxury. Fortunately, though, experimenting and learning the ropes while you are still employed may be the best way to start.

Take Joshua Schacter, the founder of collaborative bookmarking site Delicious. He was an employee at Morgan Stanley, and he didn’t intend to start a new business. He didn’t consider himself an entrepreneur, just someone working on the side on a personal project he enjoyed greatly. The site became a huge hit, he incorporated the business, and then he sold it to Yahoo for an undisclosed amount. His big business success started out as a simple after-hours hobby.

So don’t spend your evenings wasting time in front of the TV, spend them working on things you enjoy. These things don’t necessarily have to be business ideas, they simply need to satisfy your soul. Don’t worry about being an entrepreneur. Just let these projects clear your mind and open your senses to the world, and if you are an entrepreneur at heart, you will naturally find a way to turn them into an income stream.

In fact, this kind of part-time experimentation might be the best way to ease into a life of entrepreneurship. Most people are afraid of failure. It’s painful to lose face. However, statistics show that entrepreneurs tend to fail at least 4 times before becoming successful. So instead of sitting in your cubicle dreaming up a perfect idea, begin implementing your imperfect idea now, and get your failure out of the way early, while you have a day job. Start with the small steps, and learn along the way. Try, fail, learn, repeat. Before long, you’ll have a thoroughly tested idea you can launch with confidence.

For example, it seems like half the people I know dream of opening a coffee shop. Yet, in the past 5 years, not a single one of them has actually done it. Sure, it’s a tough business to get into — the hours are long, the competition is fierce, and it takes tons of capital. They understandably worry they won’t have the business skills to make it work.

So instead, I suggest they start small. Forget about the big idea for now, and just start baking muffins. Take the muffins to some existing coffee shops. Test them and see if the customers like them. If they don’t like them, you can try other recipes while you still have the security of your regular job. If they do like them, you get to learn other aspects of your future business, like how to reinvest the profits from your now-famous muffins, or how to find better suppliers for your ingredients.

Sometimes people hear this suggestion, and they counter that their future competitors will steal their ideas. It’s true, if you let your future competitors sell your muffins, they might steal your ideas. The thing is, they are already stealing your ideas. While you sit in your cubicle and dream, every coffee shop in the city is experimenting, trying to bake better muffins. At least this way, you will learn how to compete in that kind of environment, so when you go at it full-time, you’ll be really good.

Entrepreneurial success doesn’t come from dreaming up the world’s most perfect idea. It comes from becoming really good at “try, fail, learn, repeat”. The good news is, that’s a cycle you can start practicing now, with a small part-time business. Spend less time dreaming, and more time doing. You’ll be amazed at how much happiness and fulfillment you’ll find.

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