My eight year old loves super heroes. He loves Batman, finds Superman flaky, believes Thor is the best and Captain America can’t be for real. I obviously don’t burst any of his bubbles – rather I re-live my childhood through him. There is however one Super Hero that he is unsure about – and that’s the Green Lantern. He told me that Green Lantern is not sure about what he has to do (unlike Batman), is usually ill prepared (unlike Batman again) is foolish to go into situations where there might be no return (unlike Thor / Superman who have superhuman strength) and while he is courageous – his people don’t believe in him till he really really proves himself (unlike Captain America). Interesting perspectives coming from an Eight year old. It got me thinking that Green Lantern could very well be an entrepreneur: Unsure. Is usually ill prepared. Is foolish. Has to really prove himself time and time again.
I have been an entrepreneur for the past 7 years, now on my second venture – and I sat down to think about this in a bit more depth. Looking back, I realized that there are, have been and most probably always will be two primary factors that drive every entrepreneur – Courage (read foolishness at times), and Fear. The Green ring of courage and the Yellow ring of fear – and it’s important that every Entrepreneur know that he wears both and we better get adept at managing both of them!
– When I started out, it was the Green ring of courage that gave me the impetus to move back to India, leaving a high paying consulting job in a tax free haven and. It was the Yellow ring of fear that pushed me to do more than I could because I had a family and two kids (one was two and a half years old, and the other 2 months old). I was scared – and I think that’s what pushed me on to do more and more. Fear goaded me on.
– When I raised some angel investment in the first company, I was running against time. I had no idea about the angel investment scenario in India, and the time wasn’t the best way back in 2009. I still plodded on – and finally raised some capital. I got the capital – but not great terms. Courage allowed me to push ahead, but fear made me take the not so great terms.
– When we spent a year developing our first product and acquiring our first few customers: It was fear that got me to office everyday, day after day, but it was courage that ensured that I thought sensibly, sold well, and got large enterprises for clients – even though at time, it wasn’t the most done thing. Courage helped greatly here.
– When we were down to Rs. 75 in our bank account and I had to sell of my piece of land to keep us afloat: I am not sure what pushed me through this phase, cause at the age of 34 when you need to liquidate everything you have got to keep a dream burning, its not the easiest of things. Maybe Courage. Or was it fear that made me do it to ensure that I don’t fail my co-workers?
– When we setup the rules & systems in the first company: It was clearly the yellow ring that worked here. I feared for the team and their development. The systems were all built to ensure that they develop. If they aren’t developing – I was failing them, and I was afraid of that. Fear won here.
– When I exited my first company: I am still a shareholder and director in the first venture – and when I exited, it was the Green ring that made me do it. Due to circumstances, I believed it was the best thing to do at that time, and I took the step. As soon as I did it – the Yellow ring took over – and I was scared that have I now failed my family? Thankfully not – cause I did effect a partial exit there. Courage clearly helped me on.
– When I started up again: This was the Green ring clearly that pushed me to start up again. If I could do it once, I could do it again. I did – and we raised capital from some seasoned investors who backed us to the hilt. Courage pushed me forward.
– Today: I am currently in the grip of the Yellow ring – I fear that business is not growing fast enough (25% month on month doesn’t seem to cut it with me right now). I fear that the organization isn’t growing enough. I fear that the team is not developing enough. I fear that I am not leading them well enough. Put every other fear you have into this, and that’s me right now. Fear is winning!
The rings are there, and they will continue to be there. As an entrepreneur, as a professional, as a person – they are always there. Courage and Fear are the yin and yang of entrepreneurship – and it’s a fine balance to be played out. If you let courage take over too much – you tend to become cocky, and could fail. If you let fear take over too much – you will again not be able to execute, and will fail. Manage them well. Balance them well.
Goad your courage to take you to greater heights. Take risks. Topple things. Control your fear. Harness it. It has great power in the world of entrepreneurship.
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