(Flickr photo via ryk_neethling)

Guest commentary: Because it sucks. I’ve finally taken the leap and am now a full time entrepreneur focused on a new direction in my life.  This was not always the case – for like 5 years – I lived a double life; as a Fitness Professional (my reality) and as a founder of a web startup (my fantasy).

I say fantasy because we really didn’t acheive what we set out to achieve, so it remained as my “side project” and thus my fantasy.  I hated that s@#%.  I hated making the excuses like “we just launched, we’ll see what happens.” And: “It’s our test market, so we are just keeping it under wraps until we get some good user feedback.”

The fact is that I approached it with the conventional wisdom of starting something on the side while remaining at my full time job to keep a stable income.  Most of the time THIS DOESN’T WORK since anything extraordinary requires the extra – or its just remains ordinary.

For those of you standing on both sides of the fence, with one foot on the side of your passion/dream/vision and the other side remaining on the reality/job/paying bills, here are some thoughts to help you take the leap.

50/50 does not equal 100

When you find yourself split between two major life directions, say starting a company or high level athletic performance and your day job, you are in a tough spot.  Because the two directions require effort, attention, and energy, there is only so much you can give to each one.

Since you only have 100 percent of yourself to give (there is no such thing as 110 percent), you will have to compromise the quality of effort you put in each just to keep up.  You will end up failing to achieve the level of performance necessary to be GREAT.   People don’t pay for Average.  They pay for Greatness.

Being great at anything will require EVERYTHING you have, not just half of it.  Founders or athletes take note:  whatever is holding you back from fully working towards your vision, let it go…  and only focus on the ONE thing in which you want to be great.

Psychologically you get lost

Who are you?  What do you do?  What are you working on?  Where are you going?  When these questions were asked of me, I didn’t know how to respond.  I’m Nick…. the trainer, I work in health and fitness.  I’m Nick, an entrepreneur.   I recently founded a startup, Loyaltize.

I didn’t really know what to say, which really started to mess with my head.  The craziest thing about success, failure and the long slog in between is how much it messes with your psyche.

When you are attempting to develop or achieve anything extraordinary on the side and with partial commitment, you are at the risk of losing your sense of self.  The Who and the Why of you are not aligned with the What of you as a person and a professional.  This will have extremely damaging effects on your self esteem.

You will start to not want to talk about your pursuits with others because you really haven’t achieved anything since the last time you spoke with them.  You are afraid they will think less of you.  You will then start to ask yourself if you are supposed to be pursuing it in the first place.

Steve Jobs (Via Wikipedia)

Champions don’t think this way.  Champions fully commit.  I am pretty sure Steve Jobs fully committed to his dream.  I am also pretty sure Phillip Day Lewis didn’t.  If you don’t know who that is… right, neither do I.   Being half good at anything – sucks.  And it will take its toll.

Things will always work out

When making the leap, you will find life starts to become very crazy and quite uncomfortable.  But things tend to work themselves out, as they always do.

When sitting on both sides of the fence, it’s better to ask yourself this question: If I don’t change, will anything ever be different? The answer is an obvious NO, yet it is fascinating how many people keep complaining while doing what they have always done.  They change nothing, yet expect different results.

Yes, when you quit your job to pursue a dream, some unexpected things might happen.  You might not pay your cell phone bill on time.  Groceries might be a little tight for a few months.  Filling up the car requires keeping an eye on the pump to stop at half full. Going on a date and using  Groupons to pay for dinners.

Visiting the parents more often so you can save on a dinner or two.  Or.. since you have 100 percent of yourself to devote to your dream, people might start discovering your talent.  Users start downloading your app.  You start winning races.

Your bank account actually starts growing because people are paying you for your Greatness, not your average.  Indeed, when you take the leap, something will happen.  You just need to determine if you want something to happen or not.

Nick Hughes is a (now full time) entrepreneur who lives in Seattle. You can read his blog, So Entrepreneurial, here.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mikehub Michael Hubbard

    Definitely makes a lot ot sense, but I’m not going to drop out of unviersity to devote more time to my web projects, there are situations where one has to necessarily stand on both sides of the fence for a while…

    • Nick Hughes

       Fully agree Michael, I did it for 5 years.  There comes a time when one needs to decide which side to be on… mine just happens to be now.  Sounds like you are still working on education, good choice.

  • Anonymous

    Nick– congrats on jumping off the fence.  Great post! I’ve known some legit fence-sitters in the past, and have a recovering-attorney turned-entrepreneur friend (Eric Koester) whose mantra used to be “don’t quit your day job.”  In 2010 he helped build an app called “Learn That Name” that quickly sold to Gist.  But that endeavor is what we at the Alliance of Angels used to call a “fumpany” (a feature, not a company).  Nice quick exit, great experience for those involved by all reports, but I’d venture to guess that that the founders were looking neither make a living nor change the world with that startup.  If you’ve got swing-for-the-fences type goals,  it’s hard enough to do on its own, let alone being constrained by a day job (both the demands on your time and the “mental shelf space” it takes up).  Not to mention potential IP issues around work-product (I won’t dwell on that so as not to practice law without a license). 
    Take this with as many grains of salt as suits your taste…given that I just leapt off the fence to join a little startup called GeekWire.  xo

    • Nick Hughes

       Rebecca – sounds like we have both made a big decision lately.  Good job.  Feels good huh?

  • http://twitter.com/TCP4ME J. Shilling

    So absolutely true. Going through this right now & your post has certainly helped me shift towards my startup.

    • Nick Hughes

       Your welcome.  Go get em!

  • http://twitter.com/DarrenGAustin Darren G. Austin

    Great post, Nick.  I’m not sure that taking the leap is the right thing all the time, but it puts the challenge into perspective and I can’t argue the difficultly (maybe impossibility) of dividing oneself psychologically. 

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