I’m not one to be very introspective, but the other night I was at a cocktail party and I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in about fifteen years. She was reminiscing with me about how we used to work together when she was at Avalon Communities and I was heading my PR firm, Beckerman PR. I started to think back about the great memories from when I was in the crazy expansion phase of my business and was often traveling to multiple states in a single day.
Unfortunately – or fortunately depending on your perspective – I have always had that entrepreneurial drive and never worked for another company. I began my career in my early 20’s when I launched Beckerman PR and I had no formal college education. I was a D+ student at best and didn’t have any contacts or networks in business to help me get started. To be honest, I had no idea how to start, manage and grow a company – but I knew how to work hard. It was the school of the hard knocks that I excelled at :)
All I did was work, work, work and stress, stress, stress, but after about 25 years, it started to pay off and our firm thrived. Unfortunately though, as a result there were few vacations and even fewer peaceful nights. Looking back, I’m sure I seemed calm and collected on the outside but the truth was that I was a wreck on the inside.
Now with a great partner, Keith Zakheim, running my PR firm, I was able to launch my newest venture, a real estate tech company called The News Funnel. Through this journey, I realized that I truly love the process of building a company from scratch – a blank canvas. I come from a family of artists and I was always fascinated by those who painted or created music or crafted architecture; where there was nothing, they saw something.
It’s almost impossible to describe the scariness, fear and absolute abandonment of rational thinking that comes with the territory of launching a new business venture. Imagine envisioning something that you think is so great, but few others understand and/or support. Virtually every day, people will tell you that your ideas suck, your site sucks, and you have no chance. As entrepreneurs we all face that virtually every day in the startup phase. Some prosper, most fail…it’s a huge gamble.
But I am a different person this time around and my friend from the cocktail party made me realize that. Maybe it’s because I finally got married and had kids. Maybe my wife’s Buddhist lifestyle has an influence on my calm[er] spirit. Maybe its just because I am approaching 50 and am trapped in a midlife crises. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s that I learned some valuable lessons from the first time around. This time around, the stakes are bigger and the odds are even larger but my calmer self realizes that it’s so much more important to keep focused and steady on the climb. Rather than allowing myself to be influenced by each high and low, I observe each obstacle and move on. Of course I still feel the pressure, but now I realize that reacting emotionally only drains my energy and focus.
So, my advice to anyone on their first time around is to "hurry up and slow down." Meaning, be wildly ambitious and dream big, but don’t make yourself crazy. Take it from an old-timer on his second time around, all of the little things that will make you crazy as you pursue your dreams are only part of the scenery on your journey. Enjoy the ride – it goes fast!