Even Superman needs a day job to fufill his other ambitions


There are intangible advantages of continuing your day job while you consider your entrepreneurial ambitions.

One of the biggest misadvises going around in the entrepreneurship world is – just do it! There are more casualties than successes with this just do it attitude, for the survivor’s bias very conveniently overlooks the thousands that fell by the way.

Further, the glitter of the few success stories very conveniently glosses over the self-doubts the entrepreneurs had, the career backups that they secured, and the less than a risky mindset that helped them sail through.

The headlines seldom lead to the boring stuff, because the aspiring entrepreneur doesn’t want to face, or even read about reality.

As Wharton’s Adam Grant very eloquently discusses in his book Originals, and before that, Kevin Ashton in his How to Fly a Horse, most innovators and entrepreneurs are slow, late, risk-averse, and even self-doubting. They held steadily to their day job while romanticising with their venture ideas and didn’t kick-start their ideas till most uncertainties were cleared.

Steve Woznick, for one, started working in Apple as an engineer while at Hewlett Packard, and Jeff Bezos started coding while at the DE Shaw Company. Why did the (eventually) successful entrepreneurs hold on to their jobs?

The answer would offer you some new perspectives on how you can enterprising doing both.

There are three key reasons for continuing with a day job while you are entertaining your entrepreneurial ambitions.

Firstly, the very source of insights and ideas, which is your current job, would continue to serve you cerebrally and hence should not be abandoned unless absolutely necessary.

Secondly, not having a job that covers your living expenses can quickly lead you to desperation and flawed decision-making, such as onboarding misfits or pushing out half-baked products.

Lastly, your current professional network, courtesy your job, offers you several intangible advantages vital in taking ideas forward, which in an outside context would take time to establish.

Let’s discuss each rationale in detail.

Don’t dry out the spring of ideas and insights

Where did you first get your venture-worthy insight? Most likely it was from your day job - your colleagues, your clients, the problems you are solving, or the ideas that would have trickled through formal or informal networks. This might not have come as an epiphany, but most likely as a slow-hunch, and hence difficult to attribute to one single eureka moment. While amid your job, however boring it may be, there are lots of ideas and insights that you are gaining subconsciously. Several are difficult to quantify, but nonetheless are valuable.

The moment you decide to venture and cut down your umbilical cord, you have cut down the spring of ideas and validation.

While you commit to one course of action, which may work or may not work, certainly the extent of fresh insights and their validation is severed.

On the contrary, if you choose to stretch yourself a bit more and start building your enterprise on the side of your job, you would be well served. Your ideas, insights, and validation of those would continue. When you realise you have reduced the uncertainties to a significant extent, you are good to go.

Don’t let desperation set in

 There is nothing worse than not being in control of your actions. As an employee, you often think that you are losing your agency to your bosses or your customers. But while enterprising, the things aren’t much different. Here also you have your bosses – inventors and customers, to being with. But the moment you leave your job, in that state of high, you have really signed up for more-than-required pressure. While you think that your time and mental energies are now freed up to focus on more important stuff, in reality, the most basic non-issues become issues now.

With this new desperation to fend for your family, maintain your lifestyle and prove a point to the rest of the world, you end up short-circuiting your learning, calling wrong short, hiring sub-optimal talent, and getting into unworthy contracts. You need your EMIs to be paid, for God sake! What’s the end result – you are worse off now.

What if you could just stretch yourself and try out if you can really take on the pressure of being an entrepreneur.

The notional time and cognitive capacity that would be available without a day’s job remains a myth. I reckon that almost all worthwhile endeavours could be achieved while being more disciplined and maintaining your commitment. In short, don’t let your family pay the price of your enterprise.

 Don’t severe your fertile professional network

 A good idea is just the beginning. In fact, anyone who has ever taken a concept to its logical conclusion (read commercialisation) knows that ideas keep changing along the way, for one can’t remain rigid or fight it out all by oneself.

That’s where your networks, professional and personal, come in handy. In your high-headedness, you often think you can do it all by yourself.

The networks, both formal and informal, at your workplace and the community, not only help validate the ideas but also secure crucial resources to take those forward.

It’s the combination of talent, capital, and ideas that make it possible, and along the way, you need these to compete resources.

To sum up, one must persist to balance the needs of a day’s job and giving justice to personal ambitions. Once enough ambiguity is resolved, steps should be taken to move on.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)



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