Entrepreneurial Survival Mode—The Option to Sink or Swim

Being at the beach in September, the symbolism of the vast ocean before me resonated with the career leap I had taken just two months prior.

I wouldn’t say I question my decision to break off from my former career and become an entrepreneur, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit I do wonder where the “path more traveled” would have led me. In the past months I’ve made a lot of friends who have also given up their careers for a shot at creating something much bigger and have been inspired by their unique stories. In this circle of entrepreneurs, I often find myself to be the youngest with least prior career experience under my belt before I took this same leap. While this could easily cause a soft spot of self-doubt, it has instead solidified my decision because of one unanimous emotion expressed by all of my entrepreneurial friends—not one of them wishes they would have waited longer to go full-time with their business. More often than not, they regret not doing it sooner.

At first I questioned this. Who wouldn’t want to keep a good paying, stable job as you slowly build your business on the side? Once you’re ready to step over, it would seem to be a smooth and painless transition. In hindsight, I’m so glad that I didn’t fall into this trap. Unless you take that leap of faith into the ocean of the unknown, you’ll never have the same intense push to make your business succeed. Your other career will always act as a safety net and protect you from the uncomfortable but necessary feeling of going into survival mode. Once your business is your only means of income, you no longer have that safety net—only the option to sink or swim.

So here I am, paddling like mad. I have no safety net, only a small life jacket of built up savings that could quickly deflate if I’m not careful. But each month as I gain a client, lose a client and breakdown my budget, I know I have only one choice—to make my business a success. I am in entrepreneurial survival mode. The 2 years I maintained Bennis Inc as a side business, I never experienced the same drive and acute business sense as I do now. I was just enjoying the extra income as I sailed wherever the breeze took me. Now that this is my only means of survival, I actively pursue new business, put more time into creating a professional image and learning new skills and tactics to position myself as an expert in my field. There have been months when my head’s been barely above water and there have been months where I felt like an Olympic swimmer. It’s not easy, but if it were, everyone would be doing it.

For all hopeful entrepreneurs out there, I’ll tell you this: take the leap, take it sooner than later. It’s scary and overwhelming, but isn’t that the adrenaline people like us live for? One of my favorite quotes says it the best…

Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.

42 thoughts on “Entrepreneurial Survival Mode—The Option to Sink or Swim

  1. Stephanie, I am in agreement. Right now I am deciding whether to go ahead and start my own business or wait until I get that stable job so that I can start my own business. As you have seen in my linkedin profile, I have over a year of experience in marketing and television and I’m about to have a year of experience in journalism and radio. The funny thing is that none of those jobs are paid, but I have something to build on. What do you think I should do?

    1. Sometimes the unpaid jobs speak the loudest on a resume. You have to be a dedicated and passionate person to still work so hard and not receive a paycheck! I think it would depend on your business model and how much savings you have (just in case) to make that decision. Before I took the leap, I broke down every last penny of my finances and cut out a lot of the “fat” to be sure I could live exactly off what I was making. It was a few tight months for sure!

  2. It’s such a bold step to take. I’ve often heard full-time writing is like owning a small business; you bring in only what you earn, control your own publicity (for the most part), etc. I’m cautiously approaching the day where I’m going to have to make the decision to either take the leap and hope I land on something soft, or settle for only writing as a hobby. Your story is inspiring.

    1. Oh absolutely! And with writing or owning any small business, I often feel like it’s “feast or famine” when it comes to pay checks. If you make the leap (and I hope you do!), the best advice I can offer is to open your mind to the fact that entrepreneurship is vastly different from any other career choice–and embrace its differences rather than fight them. I had to learn that…

  3. I love that quote at the end. I am so glad you shared this story, it makes me hopeful. My dreams may not be entirely career-based, but I do want to know that there is hope for having big dreams. I have a lot on my plate right now and I want to do big things in life, so I am hoping that your experience will be the same for me, even if it is scary and difficult, I am hoping I am made of the right stuff to move forward with it. Thanks for posting!

    1. I certainly wouldn’t want all the uncomfortable life lessons I had to learn throughout my entrepreneurship to go to waste–I’m glad you’re finding them inspiring! As far as dreams go, I always try to live by the wisdom of “Tie your happiness to a goal–not people or things.” This has really helped to keep me moving forward and in control of my own progress.

  4. Hi Stephanie–
    I am like you (I also share the same first name as you!) in that I just started a new business in the last 30 days, and guess what?! I have done that exact same thing…of standing in front of the ocean, pondering the HUGE life change I am in the midst of. Since I live in Florida the ocean is not far away. I love the excitement of being on my own, the challenge, the option not to punch the clock or fall into familiar traps of that “stable paycheck” 🙂

  5. Stephanie, this is a wonderful, well written post! I really enjoyed reading and will reccomend your blog to my followers! Thank you for liking my post. Best wishes for your success. Elycia

  6. Helpful info. Lucky me I discovered your web site unintentionally,
    and I’m shocked why this coincidence did not happened in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

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