Allen Baler: The Hidden Toll of Entrepreneurship

Allen Baler Entrepreneurs

I’m all about encouraging people to become entrepreneurs so they can follow their dreams.


Some entrepreneurs build successful businesses, while others decide along the way that they’d be better off working for someone else. But even many of those who decide to put their entrepreneurial dreams on hold at some point don’t regret having tried.


If I’m going to help embolden and applaud people who follow their hearts by launching new businesses, I also need to warn about some of the challenges these entrepreneurs will face. Depending on the type of business it is, the obvious ones might be raising capital, finding the right partners and vendors, making the right hires, etc.


The less obvious challenges – which are nonetheless very real and can result in major roadblocks as you seek your path to success – are ones that exist between the ears. They affect almost every entrepreneur at some point, especially during the first few years after launch.


I’m talking about doubt, which leads to anxiety, which leads to mental anguish. You’ve probably already experienced them if you’re an entrepreneur. You know exactly what I mean. Maybe you’re even going through them right now.


You wake up at 3 in the morning with a sick feeling in your gut and a sense of dread. Your mind is racing as you try to figure out why your business hasn’t taken off yet and what you could do to turn it around before it’s too late.


You’re wondering how you’re going to pay back that loan and whether you’ll be able to meet payroll this month. You’re concerned that the same people who said they admired you for taking a chance might end up viewing you as a failure who bit off more than he could chew. Sometimes these overwhelming feelings can be debilitating.


Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions, describes the entrepreneur’s risk-taking and subsequent doubt with the analogy of riding a lion. “People look at him and think, ‘This guy’s really got it together. He’s brave.’ And the man riding the lion is thinking, ‘How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?’”


Many successful entrepreneurs have admitted they were once in the depths of despair because their business was not performing as well as hoped during the first few years.


One thing that has helped many entrepreneurs struggling with despondency has been reading stories about others who have gone through it and emerged as healthier people. Among them are Brad Feld, TechStars co-founder and managing director at Foundry Group. He told his candid and inspirational story in Inc. magazine.


With entrepreneurship, the clouds usually come before the sunshine, and sometimes those clouds darken and seem like they are here to stay. So, don’t feel like you’re alone if you’re having second thoughts about your decision to launch a business. You have plenty of company.