I’ve always been fascinated by people who decide to run their own business. One of my favourite podcasts is Diary of a CEO by Steven Barlett who interviews CEO’s of all different industries in order to find out their story – what makes them tick, what keeps them motivated and the challenges they’ve had to endure along the way. Side note – I hope that by including the word ‘Crypto’ in this title, the premise is different enough that Steven won’t send an angry email this way!
It is often touted that 99% of startups fail, so it is no surprise that so few people would consider this a realistic option for a career. In reality the number is actually more like 90% but nonetheless the message is clear – this is a tough thing to do.
To have the mentality to want to start your own business I believe you need a well proportioned combination of courage, determination, luck and just a touch of recklessness to give you the “Screw it, let’s do it!” attitude.
From personal experience I think it’s very easy to settle into a comfortable job and live a comfortable life where you slowly rise the ranks of a corporation and gradually increase your quality of life. You know you’re not doing something you love and you are just doing what needs to be done as “It’s just what people do”. To take the entrepreneurial plunge is undoubtedly full of risks and there is no guarantee whatsoever that you will make a success of it. In other words, it’s shit scary!
For me, wanting to run my own business has always been a mixture of going against the status quo, the freedom of not being told what to do everyday, and finding no personal fulfillment with the 9-5 life and the industry I was working in. I also got to the point where I felt I was just going to work everyday in order to line someone else’s pockets.
I’ll try to break down my thoughts into key topics to help give an idea of how things can change. Many of these will apply to business in general and are not Crypto specific, but the idea is the same.
For context, before TDC I was in the advertising industry for six years with basic working hours of around 9 am to 5.30 pm. The culture was very much “Live for the weekend”, often going out for drinks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
These types of articles always fascinate me and I hope you enjoy peeking under the hood of what it’s like to make the switch from office life to digital nomad.
I think the most obvious place to start here is with time. The 9-5 is a structured and regimented way of living. A huge emphasis is placed on the weekend and how this is your downtime where you get to completely unwind and relax without worrying about work until Monday. Perhaps quite strangely, I often felt like I worked the five days of the week to “earn” the two days at the weekend. Which is admittedly a different way of looking at it.
Six months in and “the weekend” as I knew it before no longer exists. In fact, I only really know it’s the weekend because my girlfriend is not at work. Each day is now indistinguishable from the next. As we are all well aware, Crypto does not sleep and running a news publication means you have to be on the ball 24/7 and subsequently there is very little variation to this.
Working 7 days a week sounds daunting but the balance comes from the other freedoms that it provides you with. For example, if I wanted to get up at 10 am and not start until 11 am then this flexibility is possible; providing the hours are made up elsewhere.
Being the Boss
I have always had a problem with authority, whether it be with teachers at school or being micromanaged by bosses at work. For me it has been an enormously liberating feeling to finally become the boss with no one telling me what to do. However this does comes with its own challenges.
There are no guidelines. No job specifications. No promotion details. When you have a job like the ones I had previously, you knew exactly what you were doing each day. You went in, did what needed to be done, then went home again. At 5.30 pm you could clock off, leave the building and try your best to forget about that company until 9 am the following morning.
When you run your own business it is completely in your hands what you need to do for that day. And there is always, always, ALWAYS something more you could be doing. This makes it very hard to relax as you are constantly in a state of “I should be working”, “I could be doing more right now” etc…
Recently I decided to go for a brisk morning walk to clear my head but within 45 minutes felt a huge pang of anxiety as I was totting up in my mind the things I needed to be doing. Before long a coffee shop beckoned as I had mentally added three new things to my to-do list and knew I couldn’t relax until I ticked some tasks off of this growing list.
On top of this, when something difficult or bad happens you have very little support. I’ve had to deal with some tough conversations and situations lately. I know that I would have reacted differently if I had the protection of being permanently employed. Now I have to be aware that every conversation I have represents my entire brand and company and so have to handle situations very differently. This is obviously worlds away from being able to go to your manager and hand off the situation to them.
Managing your own company means that the amount you achieve and the progress you make is directly proportionate to the amount of effort that you put in. Therefore motivation plays a huge factor in the success of the business.
In my 9-5 roles I felt that I could easily “hide”, in that as long as I turned up to work and did what needed to be done then no more was required. There is no hiding as CEO – you have to be on it every single day.
So you begin to learn a lot about yourself very quickly. It is unrealistic to think that anyone is motivated every day. So you self analyse and learn how to deal with yourself when you are experiencing low points and swings in mood/motivation in order to get the work done.
I believe that there is an expectation that successful business owners are on top form everyday. Take Gary Vee as an example or social media influencers as another, from their persona you would think that they never feel a negative emotion or had a down day. The truth is we are all human and you learn that you have to be a bit kinder to yourself and take the rough with the smooth.
I have always been an outgoing and sociable person and one of the great things about working in advertising is that it is intentionally a very young industry. If I wanted to take a break, I could go to chat with someone like minded and have a laugh while making coffee. You could have lunch with your team or go for drinks after work to socialise – it was a lot of fun and helped me find a lot of friends, as I moved to London on my own without knowing anyone.
So the transition from office life to remote working is difficult and requires extreme self motivation. Although I have a small office at home, I spend pretty much every day travelling from coffee shop to coffee shop just to interact with people and enjoy the hustle and bustle of life going by. These days much of the time my verbal interactions are with baristas (a great bunch by the way)!
In true blockchain fashion our team is decentralised and we work remotely all over the globe. Although there are the inevitable calls and video chats, you find yourself craving face to face interaction.
I’d like to end with a few words on image. By this I mean the image I portray of myself to others. As anyone working in Crypto is aware there are numerous platforms – Telegram, Twitter, Discord, Slack, the list goes on. In the position I am in, I receive many, many messages on a myriad of platforms. While I am grateful for this and welcome the messages, I would be disingenuous if I didn’t say that it becomes extremely taxing to keep up at times.
This means that there are many outstanding messages that I simply don’t have the time to respond to as prioritisation of communication is essential. This concerns me and potentially impacts on my image but more than that from a personal perspective I fear that I appear self-obsessed or have bad manners but the truth is it really is just a time issue.
In the early days I would reply personally to every tweet I received on Twitter as I felt that if someone had taken the time and trouble to contact me then I should take a few seconds to write back. Now sadly other commitments mean I am only able to log on to Twitter a couple of times a day.
There’s a tough trade off between risking someone thinking you’re an arsehole for not responding and knowing that you need to think about your business’s priorities first and foremost.
But hey, It’s not all doom and gloom! I’m aware that I’ve talked about many things here that may seem negative and paint things in a bad light, but the reality is that it isn’t meant to be easy and I know that I am incredibly privileged to be doing what I love.
I believe there’s a reason the adage is that you have to really love what you do, as there are many challenges to overcome. If you didn’t love what you were doing it would be very easy to just give up and throw in the towel.
Mark Twain once said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
The truth is that in the last six months, despite the challenges, I’m proud of what I have created and love it so much that I would hesitate to class even the worst days as “work”.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and feel that I’ve provided some insights as to what to expect if you decide to take the plunge.
Thank you for reading.
The Daily Chain
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