Staring into the Abyss — What it’s like to Start a Startup

Elon Musk is often quoted as saying something along the lines of “starting a startup is like staring into the abyss while eating glass and pretending everything’s fine”. He’s not wrong.

After all, who in their right mind would spend the best years of their life working towards something that has an infinitesimal possibility of succeeding? Not only that, but all while walking away from high paying salaries at top companies, any sort of financial and mental stability, work-life balance, and distancing one’s self from the people they care the most about — Not to mention missing out on anything your former friends, now acquaintances, consider ‘fun’ (and being reminded of it every day via the social media platform of your choice).

In face of all of this, some of us just can’t have it any other way. Entrepreneurship is a calling. It’s looking at the world through our unique lens, identifying that we have a unique skillset, and deciding that there are far too many problems yet unsolved.

When faced with this life-altering realization, one can not just walk away from it. Knowing that you can make a meaningful impact in other peoples lives, pursuing this call becomes your duty, and not doing so is frankly selfish and irresponsible.

Yet knowing that it is the right thing to do doesn’t necessarily make it easier. There will come many times in the life of a Startup in which you will question if it’s all worth it. You will be able to rationalize why it makes sense to quit, why you can make more money somewhere else, why it was destined to fail from day one. This is why it’s critical to identify with purpose. You know, that stubborn belief that you’re making the world a better place? You’ll need it. It’s the one thing that will keep you going when you’re facing the abyss (and you will, many times).

Starting a startup is not easy and this small text is not meant to provide any answers or consolation in your entrepreneurial solace. But be courageous, know that those around you who seem to be doing better are going through the exact same thing. They’ve simply gotten really good at hiding it, which is part of the counterintuitive nature of entrepreneurship.

Startups will face problems, lots of them, all the time, always. That is just the nature of creating something, solving something that hasn’t yet found a solution. The real kicker is the inevitable and reoccurring contemplative episodes in which you question if this is going to even work. In short, it will, in time, and perhaps after a few pivots in unpredictable directions.

Part of the fear of embarking on a journey towards the abyss is not being able to see through the fog of war. This will scare most people from even making the attempt. After all, the journey will profoundly change you, your relationships, and every other aspect of your life. Perhaps you will emerge victorious on the other side as the captain of the latest Unicorn, but most likely with a few years lost at sea, an empty bank account, and some battle scars to prove it.

Launching a startup is not for everyone, the same way that skydiving isn’t. Yet if you do decide to pursue this, if you’re one of the brave ones, or simply can’t ignore the calling, be courageous.

Nothing will be handed to you, and the initial luck you might experience during the honeymoon phase of your Startup will likely run out, but if you persist, relentlessly, inexhaustibly, perpetually, with purpose, you will prevail.

Find problems worth solving — Build the future you want to see.

Claudio Fuentes

Author Claudio Fuentes

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