Stories From The Shift – Chasing Shadows

Every single day, aspiring first-time entrepreneurs around the world spend their time chasing the shadows cast by LinkedIn reports of their peers getting funded and they enter Dreamland, where they start chasing one shadow after the next after the next.

Over the past few weeks, I have been approached by a number of folks about how does one take that leap of faith into the wild world of entrepreneurship. The questions I am often asked are:

Where do I start?”, and in the same breath “When can I expect funding?”,

“Can I bill $10,000 per month to the company as accrued salary?” and

“When can I exit?”

Because I am on video cam, I cannot do this; however, a part within me silently does this incognito: 

Some of us almost always seem to look for the quick fixes; the get-rich-quick schemes. That is precisely what chasing shadows is all about – chasing initiatives that aim to generate speedy results that have a next-to-nothing chance of success.

You stretch yourself and your arms as far as they can go; gawking and frantically grasping at the moment of triumph in front of you; It is tantalising within reach! Finally! Finally, all of your dreams are about to come true! As you tighten your grip; however, your fingers simply pass through it.

Another shadow…

You finally wake up from your daydream and remember where you are. You look around, pick up your mobile phone and resume scrolling on Linkedin. Most media stories of entrepreneurial achievement turn out to be shadows which exist in an alternate reality of endless vacation and the lingering disdain over its climax, that we can never seem to be a part of. Very few of us seem to have a realistic realisation of what it takes to realise long-term entrepreneurial success.

Before diving into any further specifics, I must say something first:

“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die”.

There – I got that off my chest.

Entrepreneurship is bloody hard.

Don’t let motivational speakers fool you into taking that dramatic leap of faith. If you’re more passionate about “founding a business” than the actual business itself, then it’s a classic facepalm moment.

However, as Naval aptly put it: “You’re never going to get rich renting out your time.” So, people will continue to explore entrepreneurship as an option. Why do people continue to put themselves in a state of uncertainty without thinking through the journey they are embarking on?

How will you do it in the future if you’re not willing to do it now? It will not get any easier in the future. Step back from the moment. Think about what you are about to embark on.

Entrepreneurship is a marathon of marathons.

Just when you think one marathon is complete, the next one begins. And it is relentless… unforgiving… unemotional…  Even post-jumping through all the hoops viz– Validation of idea -> MVP -> First Client -> Breakeven -> Funding, the challenges continue to continue… 

  1. Funding isn’t validation
  2. Traction isn’t profits
  3. A Business Plan isn’t a business
  4. Three co-founders don’t mean it’s a team
  5. Sales isn’t good if unit economics is bad
  6. PR articles isn’t a signal that you have arrived
  7. A zillion App downloads isn’t a zillion paying customers
  8. Getting an Angel investor isn’t divine intervention
  9. Getting an ex-CEO of a listed business isn’t divine intervention either
  10. Having a mentor doesn’t mean you’re getting good advice
  11. Scale isn’t guarantee of survival
  12. Valuation isn’t actual wealth

But the three most important lessons I have learned in the last 12 years of entrepreneurship are:

  1. You won’t know it, until you do it
  2. Success isn’t an absolute
  3. Failure isn’t permanent

The deathbed perspective

Step back from the moment in your current situation (COVID-19 impacted or otherwise). Contemplate – What’s going on? How will you think of this time a couple of decades from now? Are you actually awake and aware of what’s going on? Is time just quietly slipping past? Pause. Reflect. Look at the bigger picture of your life. Look back at life from your deathbed perspective.

Parting thought till the next blog:

“The pain of regret is always many times more than the pain of failure”

How will you do it in the future if you’re not willing to do it now? It will not get any easier in the future.

See more from this series here.

About the author: 24x Founder, 3x Success, 2x VCExit, 19x Failure, 100x Resilient, 14x Sectors, 6x Continents, $2+bn deals originated and advised.

Chennakeshav (Keshav) Adya is an eclectic value creator for mid-sized firms and PE/VC funds on Fund-raising, M&A, growth, corporate strategy and deal-making (currently, as co-founder of Adan Corporate). He is a resourceful entrepreneur with 20+ years of global experience in building businesses from a concept and growing global teams from 2 to 200+.

A deca-lingual, multi-talented zymurgist, Keshav is skilled at using the founder’s mentality and thrives in uncertainty and chaos, directing teams through the “Unknown” in the initial 1-2 years of setting up any type of new venture.

As an Entrepreneur Mentor in Residence (EMiR), Keshav is associated with London Business School’s experiential entrepreneurship activities supporting students and alumni who are interested in pursuing a career in entrepreneurship, whether launching or growing their own ventures.