A year ago, I sent out a survey to all the students at the college to get their thoughts about pursuing entrepreneurship in their careers. I received over 900 replies, and gathered good insight which pointed to the fact that entrepreneurship was held in high regard by a great majority of the respondents, who could also see themselves pursuing it. The questions in that survey were not open-ended; there was no room for respondents to enter their own comments.
This month, on the first anniversary of the first one, I sent out another survey, with slightly different questions but with the same intent. As of the time I collected the data for this article, 266 people had replied, of which 75% said they had an idea that they would like to turn into a business or a social venture. This time, I included a question at the end to get open ended responses and a pulse for what respondents had to say outside of the multiple-choice options. The question was: “What are the biggest obstacles that stand between you and your entrepreneurial dreams? We made available a generous amount of space where respondents could write up their replies. A total of 115 of the respondents included an answer to the question. People mentioned one obstacle, or a combination of various that kept them away from their dream of becoming entrepreneurs.
A quick scan over the five and a half pages of responses starts to show a common theme. Of the 115 respondents, a total of 73 or 63% included money, startup funds, investor funds, finances, financial obligations or a similar response as the biggest or one of the biggest among various obstacles. I spent the long weekend thinking about how I feel about this, making sure my opinion about it does not come out as farfetched.
I also spent the weekend reading a Kindle book about good habits that can make you successful in life and techniques on how to acquire them. I had been looking to read this $3.99 book for a few months, maybe five or six, which truly sounds crazy when I think about it. The reason it took me so long is very explainable in my excuse seeking mind: I have a physical Kindle, which I inherited from one of my daughters when she stopped using it in favor of another device, and I set it up with my own account and ordered a few books in it about 3 years ago. Within the last year, I installed Kindle on my iPhone, and the books on the physical Kindle appeared on my iPhone App version as well. I downloaded a sample of the habits book I wanted to get, read it, but had no way, on the iPhone, to purchase the entire book. This was a bit puzzling to me, I had ordered books directly in the physical Kindle before, but the App gave me no option for that, and I was too busy to continue trying to figure it out. Then life got in the way and months went by. It took a call to Amazon in Seattle during my commute last Wednesday to find out that some petty (in my user mind) conflict regarding their competing business models and devices does not allow me to purchase via iPhone Kindle App as I could always do directly from the physical Kindle in the past – so I simply needed to purchase through the Amazon App and send the book to my Kindle App, which I did.
This was a simple solution although not the best user experience to accomplish something I was “obsessing” about (arguably, in hindsight, not enough) for the past 6 months, but life got in my way. My life, and the life of all the people that intersect it during half a year, got in the way. Depending on how you live your life, this can be a valid excuse for having taken so long to get this problem solved so I could read this book. Who obsesses about a $3.99 Kindle eBook, anyways? There are many more important things to worry about.
It was a quick read over 3 days in which I was able to make time sporadically to complete it. Nothing in the book was new to me, based on my accumulated knowledge on the topics of effectiveness, efficiency, diligence, or whatever you want to describe it as. The book had overall good reviews, between 4 and 5 stars average, although there is nothing groundbreaking here. One habit towards the end resonated with me – the ability to focus – especially because it was my lack of focus that prevented me from getting this book 6 months ago, when I sat down with its author at the request of a friend of mine: “Come by the hall tonight, you need to meet this kid, he’s deep into cryptocurrencies.” I stopped by the house, grabbed my son – as I usually do so we spend time together in a social setting – and made it to the hall. A few minutes into the conversation and clued by my son, I realized the other kid was Robert’s son. He is 20, like my son. They did all their elementary and High School together. I see Robert frequently; I just hadn’t seen his son in a long time. I interrupted the crypto theme and asked him: “Tell me about the books you wrote, your dad was telling me a few months ago, he’s very proud of how focused you’ve become.”
By March of last year, my son’s old classmate had already published 3 short Kindle books on self-help. When I had the conversation with his dad, towards the end of the year, he had combined sales of over $13,000. That was 6 months ago. A week ago, Robert was telling me how his son is now building other businesses with the capital he has been able to raise from his first venture.
Is it too farfetched for me to think that perceiving lack of investor funding as a main obstacle to start a business is basically a self-imposed crutch in minds that watch too much Shark Tank or don’t realize the sacrifices and the hard toil behind all success stories you read about in the South Florida entrepreneurship news? Another friend of mine, who arrived in this country as a child, was relocated to California and struggled with poverty, made it his goal to get out of it for good. He focused, persevered and built an ecommerce business that sells $4M per year. His preteen kids by all accounts don’t realize how rich they are, and he has taught them from an early age to be self-reliant. They buy and resell chocolates in shopping centers and are on their way to finance their own cars when they turn of driving age.
Let your greatest obstacle be focus and execution. Let it not be money. Use your given talents and focus to build a skill or two. Going to bed early and getting up early to make it daily to a job you can hold for a while is a skill you can build, if you don’t know where to start. Realize that focus and execution precede money. Let your greatest obstacle be focus and execution, and then get rid of the damn obstacle! It only depends on you.