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The High Emotional Cost of Entrepreneurship

entrepreneurial terror | BIGG SuccessEntrepreneurs are heroes in our society. They are the BIGG risk takers who move economies faster a speeding bullet.

Entrepreneuring is a glamorous endeavor. Be your own boss. Set your own hours. Pay yourself what you’re really worth.

This is what society thinks life is like as an entrepreneur.

Hear George & Mary-Lynn discuss the real world of being an entrepreneur on The BIGG Success Show podcast. Click a player to listen.

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The real world of entrepreneuring

Don’t be fooled. It sucks to own your own small business – at least at times.

You’ll feel stress like nothing you’ve ever imagined.

You’ll be tested in ways you never thought possible.

You’ll dig down to the bottom of your soul to find the strength to continue.

You’ll face doubt about your decisions, your abilities, and your existence.

But that’s just the easy part.

It will also affect your relationships.

Another late night at the office? It comes with the territory.

Working this weekend? Ah, five days a week is for wimps.

Miss another one of your kid’s events? You’ll make it up someday.

Only it feels like someday will never come.

Entrepreneurs accomplish amazing things with limited resources. The price?

It’s an emotional one. But it can be lessened.

You have to learn how to deal with entrepreneurial terror.

Entrepreneurial terror

We first saw this term in an article in Inc. magazine. It’s an old article – a couple of decades old.

But it’s still as relevant today as it was then. We highly recommend you read it.

The author, Wilson Harrell, makes it clear that he is one of us. He says:

“[Entrepreneurship] is unlike anything you have ever experienced before. No longer do you have to be bothered with such ordinary feelings as concern, or frustration, or even fear. Those gentle things are the least of your troubles now. You can put them away as a child puts away toys. From now on, you will be in the grip of a human emotion that the good Lord, or more likely his nemesis, created just for entrepreneurs.”

He goes on to make some great points about entrepreneurial terror:

  • you can’t escape it
  • it’s been kept a secret; no one talks about it
  • it’s a constant companion; it doesn’t go away
  • it’s a nightmare, only you’re wide awake
  • its source is the fear of not standing out, of never being recognized for your work
  • your first experience with it is the worst

The only way to really learn how to handle it is to experience it firsthand. It will seem unbearable at times. But you must keep going.

You will never welcome it but you will come to look at it with the appropriate contempt. If you survive the encounter.

If not, you will face it again when you try another venture. True entrepreneurs just have to be entrepreneurs.

What can you do about entrepreneurial terror?

He says he gets in his car and drives around cursing. We have found that sometimes it is best to handle it on your own.

He discourages sharing it with a friend or a loved one. They can’t possibly understand.

We agree. Of course, in our case, we’re in business together. So we have to at least some of it.


Mary-Lynn FosterThis has to be the hardest part of entrepreneurship. I didn’t expect it. But I sure have experienced it. Sometimes it just haunts you. It’s really helped to go through it with George because he’s experienced it for years.



George KruegerYou never get numb to it. However, you do learn to deal with it more easily. It’s never easy; but it does get easier.


We also reach out to our closest friends and family, who are also entrepreneurs. They get it; they’ve been there. Just because most people don’t talk about it.

Another thing we do is hire coaches. We get so much benefit from working with these incredibly bright people. They been there, done that. So they know what we’re talking about.

You don’t have to go it alone. We’ve walked a thousand miles in your shoes. If you’re experiencing entrepreneurial terror, maybe we can help.

Send us an e-mail at bigginfo[at]biggsuccess[dot]com or leave a voice message at 877.988.2444. Tell us a little bit of what you’re going through. We’ll get back to you with some suggestions.

Thanks for checking in with us today. Until next time, here’s to your BIGG success!

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file | podcast:

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The Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster Ride

When you own your own business, you have your highs and you have your lows. And it seems like you rarely have any in-betweens.

George said  …
I never talked about this for years. I thought it was just me. Then I got up the nerve and mentioned it to my sister, who also owns businesses.

She said she knew exactly what I was talking about! So that encouraged me to ask other business owners about it. So far, every single person I’ve ever talked to about this knows exactly what it means. You can see it on their face as soon as you bring it up.

But it’s something I think a lot of entrepreneurs don’t talk about.

Mary-Lynn added  …
With Bigg Success, I’m experiencing business ownership for the first time. And I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. There are days where I feel exhilaration from the ride and there are days when I feel sheer terror and want to get off the ride.

Entrepreneurial terror

If you’ve never experienced it, count yourself lucky, but most people in business have.

You can feel terrified at times even with a job. You may fear you’re going to lose yours when you see other people’s jobs getting cut. But it’s still different for business owners.

George …
I remember one of the guest speakers for my class who talked about the number of mouths he had to feed now. A lot of the most successful business owners I know take personal responsibility for their people. They don’t look at just putting bread on their table; they worry about their employees as well.

That can keep you up at night!

Inc. published an article (way back in February 1987) called Entrepreneurial Terror. A portion of it has been republished on Wachovia’s Small Business site.

It was written by Wilson Harrell, a serial entrepreneur and author of For Entrepreneurs Only. He said:

“… the ability to handle terror, and to live with it, is the single most important
– and, yes, necessary – ingredient of entrepreneurial success.”

This company doesn’t love misery

He says that you shouldn’t share your lows with your friends and loved ones, because you’ll just pass the worry on to them. Unless they’re your partner in business.

He adds that you should always share your highs, though.

How highs turn to lows

The way you spend your time and money when you’re on a high often has a lot to do with how low you go. Let’s look at two examples:

  • Too busy for marketing
    When you’re so busy, you may even be running at capacity, and you know your business couldn’t crank out any more volume no matter how much you wanted to. So you slow down – or even stop – your marketing efforts.

    George …
    I’ve done this! It’s easy to do – there’s no time! But that insures the next down cycle because you’re not doing those things that you did to get to the up cycle.

  • Being careless with money
    A lot of times cash flow is at its peak during an up cycle. That’s part of the reason you’re on an emotional high. So you make that major expenditure. Or you add to your overhead. The next thing you know you’re on a low because business and cash flow have slowed down and you have little or no cash reserves.

You may not be able to avoid the highs and lows. What you can do is conduct business so that your lows are higher … and your highs are higher!

It may not feel any different, but you know it is. You’re reaching ever higher levels of success! Now that’s bigg success!



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