Leaving Your 'Draining' 9-To-5 Could End Up Being A Huge Mistake

by George Beall
Columbia Pictures

A quick lap around the room of any “networking event” in Silicon Valley will leave you slammed with a barrage of fake smiles and overly enthusiastic statements like “Life is amazing, and my company is finally taking off!” and “I've just been so free and happy since I made the jump!”

If only these statements were true.

Ever since "The Social Network," "Silicon Valley" and the half-dozen Steve Jobs movies came out, startups have been the best thing since sliced bread. Entrepreneurs from around the world have made the pilgrimage to Palo Alto, San Jose and Menlo Park in hopes of sculpting out their own empires and fortunes.

What most of these social displays of entrepreneurship portray is a snippet of the baller moments of the founders of baller companies.

Buying into this ideology of entrepreneurship would be similar to believing in the Wizard of Oz.  However, what many young entrepreneurs realize as they dive into startup waters is, they drown instantly.

Entrepreneurship is hard.

We have all heard the statistics that 90 percent of companies fail, most people will never raise money for their ventures and Facebook-like companies are once a decade (if that).

Yet, everyone who starts a company, myself included, believes deep in their heart they are the exception to the rule.

In order to keep up this façade of being baller founders, people adopt "The Wizard of Oz" approach too often: a lackluster person hiding behind a curtain while hyping up a larger-than-life persona.

A few hundred Facebook likes means traction is actually picking up, raising $10,000 from a family friend is worthy of a huge party and success is measured in vacuous articles in any press outlet rather than in real traction.

Most of all, people write of the struggle of building something that does not exist and hide the depression of constantly failing your way forward, all because startup founders have been brainwashed into believing they should be happier and life should be freer.

As a founder of a company that has been through a lot, raised money and eventually gotten traction after some long months in the beginning, I will be the first to say, my venture has left me on the ground crying more than once.

Doing something new is not easy. While waking up when I want is chill and I don't feel like as much of a corporate robot, I would not go as far as to say my company unshackled some heavy burden and made my life easier than ever before.

Entrepreneurs see a mental illness rate higher than the general population. Whether correlation or causation, it means all the same entrepreneurs ought to be talking a lot more about the depression, anxiety, ADHD, ADD and many other illnesses that most of us go through.

If we set the level of expectation for our lives at successful unicorn founder that went through YC and raised money from Ben Horowitz, then we are destined to fail.

If we believe all of a sudden our lives will be easier, have less responsibility and that we can shape our own lifestyles, then again we will fall short.

The only way to overcome our stressful realities and truly make our lives happier is to talk about what we are going through and have the right expectation going into any situation.

So if you are interested in entrepreneurship, here is my advice for you: Actually talk to some truly successful founders, get advice from them and learn more about what it takes and what it is like to be a founder.

Once you have a good idea of what the lifestyle is really like, just know that while the lows are common and extreme, the short “Social Network”-like moments will make it all well worth it.

Just be ready to hold on for the craziest ride of your life.