There’s Always a Trade-Off

In the most recent Inc. Magazine, Norm Brodsky used his Street Smarts column to answer a few reader questions.  One in particular caught my interest:

Dear Norm:
I am 17 years old and recently sold a website for $100,000. It took me and my partners eight months to build, and we had to overcome many obstacles. And yet, when we finally sold it, I didn’t feel excited or elated. Rather, I’ve been really depressed. I went to a dance with a date last Friday and had a horrible time. It reminded me how out of touch I’ve been. As I was building the business, I kept thinking, What are you willing to give up to get what you want? I gave up everything. I haven’t watched TV in months, and so now I can’t talk with friends about the shows they’ve seen. I gave up piano. I haven’t read a good book of fiction in a while. I haven’t done sports such as swimming, and I used to be one of the fastest swimmers in the club at my school.

So even though I reached my goal, I am not a happy kid. I’ve decided I need to quit business — or at least take a break for a while. I’m planning to study hard and go through school as normal people do. Do you think I’m making the right decision?
— Hanson So

Norm gave a very good answer, but the more important point is that inevitably, if you want to start a business, you’ll probably have to give up quite a bit socially, regardless of your age. In a lot of ways, being a student entrepreneur (something I generally advocate) can stunt your personal growth. I was lucky enough not to catch the entrepreneurship bug until the end of college, long after I had the “normal” high school experiences (football team, prom, etc etc) and after I got the college partying out of my system.

I pretty much sacrificed my social life from ages 22 – 25 to get myself and the business into a strong financial position. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Sure, it sucked sometimes, but much like Hanson I think I wouldn’t have been able to handle the social trade-off had I started any earlier.  Starting in my 30’s or 40’s with a wife and kids would be just as problematic in different ways. Not that it’s ever easy, but I’d make the argument that those first 3 – 5 years after college are the best ones to immerse yourself in starting a business.  Now at 26 I could conceivably do all of those “late 20’s” social things that people do: marriage, house, and kids. I don’t really want to do those things (quite yet), but at least I have the opportunity to.

That said, there’s never really an ideal time to do something that requires sacrifice. That’s what makes it a sacrifice.

1 comment on There’s Always a Trade-Off

  1. Oke says:

    Yep, there’s always a trade off. I’ve realize that more and more as I take this business stuff (the second time around) seriously. It is going to be some serious time commitment, but I’m ready and don’t want to continue the same thing that I’m currently doing.

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