I’m not much of a love expert, although I do hope my wife awards me at least a certificate of participation, if not a distinction. My engagement with entrepreneurship may be a little better, having been a banker, advisor and observer of small businesses, and now a second-time entrepreneur myself. But the similarities between love and entrepreneurship are so conspicuous that you really need no expertise, although some experience with both does come handy. Interestingly, once you see this commonality, it becomes progressively difficult to separate them; just like an illusion where once you find the hidden face in the pattern, it’s hard to unsee it. In fact, at times it’s confusing to decipher if you are in love or just being an entrepreneur. Both merge into a singularity.
The start is the toughest: If you take a poll of corporate executives, my guess is at least 80 percent or more would want to be entrepreneurs. There is just one problem — fear of failure. It needs some guts to get going. In love too, expressing it for the first time is the hardest part. It seems you will never muster the courage to say it out to her for fear of rejection. And every time you firmly decide that today is the day, those butterflies in your stomach leave you in a daze. “Definitely next time,” you console yourself. The silver lining is, if you want it bad enough, you get your mojo back one fine day and with a rush of adrenaline, you say it — “I quit the job,” or “I love you,” as the case may be.
The walls of the world can’t stop you: Even if the world’s against you, you wouldn’t stop. Would you? She is all that you want in life. Everything else is just incidental. When the world builds barriers, you find new ways to reach her. You may be a loner but still befriend anyone who would carry your message (recall the numerous startup events you attend for networking). Long lost friends suddenly become your bouncing boards again. Love makes you headstrong and breaking the wall with your head is an idea you no longer find unrealistic. You just have to find the way! In business, they would label it determination. You can just call it the Power of Love.
Things have different meanings and colours: The sky is still blue but a shade brighter. Songs are the same but have new meanings. The birds are singing, but with a bit more melody or melancholy. You read Love Story by Erich Segal or Mills and Boon and are amazed by the similarity with your life and emotions. Same old things but all new inspirations. Similarly, if you are suddenly feeling close to Akio Morita, Sam Walton, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk after reading their biographies and if the otherwise ‘silly’ quotes posted on LinkedIn are inspiring you, you are there already.
The ‘constant remembrance’: Long ago, during a meditation class, I was told to practise ‘constant remembrance’ to achieve self-realisation. For those in love, it comes naturally and effortlessly. Everything around reminds you of her. It slowly becomes a 24X7 engagement and you create a world where she is present in all things and situations. The numerous apps on your mobile remind you of your UI; each business or startup article you read simply makes you compare with your own venture; even the billboard on the street takes you into the distant future of your marketing strategy. She is always on your mind. In love they would blame you for imagining things. In entrepreneurship, you can euphemistically call it being focused.
The beloved have tantrums:
They reciprocate but have a mind of their own. And there are times, sometimes often, when they don’t mould themselves to your wishes oradvances. If it peeves you, better get a pet robot (or corporate job). It takes time to understand each other and build a relationship. Sometimes your best intentions won’t charm them and then, at times, a simple call will do the trick. There are episodes of miscommunications and solving them out over nightlong phone calls may just be your best shot. In your venture too, at times all your efforts for months won’t yield results and then, suddenly, there is big traction or a deal within a week. If you have ever had nightlong debugging sessions and ended up finding more bugs, you know what I mean. If you persist, chances are your app or product will run just fine the next morning. You deal with the tantrums not with ego, but with love and persistence.
The journey is the fun part: The climax of entrepreneurship is possibly having a profitable business (or a multi-million dollar valuation without profit). For love, it may be marriage. But as you get settled with the profits, valuations, and marital bliss, there is a realisation — the journey was so much more interesting. You reminisce the days of struggle and being on the edge and sometimes wish to relive those times. But those days never return. So make the most of it while you are on it. Cherish it. Noted singer Jagjit Singh sang this in two lines —Woh maza kahan vasl-e-yaar mein, lutf jo mila intezar mein (The pleasure in waiting for my beloved is much beyond the fun of meeting her).
If it ain’t love, it ain’t entrepreneurship…
Entrepreneurship is possibly just another manifestation of being in love. It has its highs and lows. The world says you have fallen but you know that in reality you are soaring high. However, there is more to this beyond the romanticism. Both love and entrepreneurship require deeper commitment. Both require some guts. They transform you from within. There are moments when both make you feel like a mess, but you know that this pain is much sweeter than the morose joy of corporate life or arranged marriage which you may otherwise end up retiring with.
So if you have ever been in love, entrepreneurship shouldn’t be tough. But you wouldn’t know either unless you have done it. Try a free fall into it and see if you can soar. It may surprise you that you always had wings.
(This article was first p
ublished in yourstory.com)