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Employment or Entrepreneurship?

Money is critical, but so is freedom. What about the need to feel important? Of course you also want to feel secure and stable. Earning a living requires a choice between two radically different paths; both of which come with very different benefits and drawbacks. The fundamental choice is between employment or entrepreneurship. 

Of course the most common path is to work for someone. To be employed is to give away your productive time for the promise of security and perhaps some amount of prestige or status. The problem is that anything achieved through employment is transitory. Nothing can be riskier than relying solely on one employer for all of your income. What may once feel stable can disappear in an instant with little or no reason at all. When your employment contract has ended, you are left in a state of panic as you face monthly expenses based on on your former income.

As for status or importance, whatever sense of status you may have felt within a job is stripped from you as easily as your livelihood when the devastating decision is made to let you go. To the outside world, you're only as good as your current position. The tragedy of employment is that we dedicate our lives to a career only to find ourselves scrambling to hold onto it. But it should be said that, while the job lasts, at least you can rely on a paycheck and you can believe that life is good. For most people, this is enough.

For most of my career, I've earned a living as an employee. But for these past two years, I have relied entirely on my sales agency to earn a living. During this time as an entrepreneur, I have come to understand that running your own business brings as many challenges as it does benefits.  

Let me explain the pros and cons of entrepreneurship:

Pro: You are free to do what you want with your time. It is an amazing feeling to have the option of mountain-biking on a Monday morning without any risk of consequence.

Con: You can only enjoy your freedom if you are able to manage the business properly and avoid stress and worry. Some months, you may not generate enough income to pay your expenses. Other months, everything is great. I do my best to manage this stress by diving into my "other world" (playing guitar, writing, mountain-biking, going to the gym, taking walks, etc.).  I've also found that meditating every day helps me avoid the peaks and valleys.  But I do sometimes lose sleep at night from worry.

Pro: Unlimited earning potential. This is really what it is all about.

Con: You have to invest not just hard work, but also capital. Owning your own business means becoming an investor. How much money do you put in with the expectation of making how much in return? How safe is the investment? What are the risks? Is the business model sound? Are the customers satisfied? With unlimited earnings potential comes a need to risk money, time, and energy (see previous point about stress and worry).

Pro: Not having to answer to a boss. Answering to a boss means playing politics. In a job, so often we do what we are asked to even when we know it isn't the best way to complete the task. Our goal is perception and self-preservation. I have found this to be a really unhealthy distortion. Living this way runs against my nature; which is to solve problems in the best possible way and work in the most efficient / productive way.

Con: Business owners have to answer to customers. While we don't fear losing a customer the same way an employee fears losing a job, the fear is still real and it is multiplied across your entire customer base.

Ultimately, running your own business is a difficult path even if you succeed! It isn't for everyone. Running a successful business is a chance to live the dream of wealth and freedom. But it is also a lonely path filled with stress, worry and at least as many failures as successes. Some days, having a job looks like a far better option!

Posted by Mark Manney.

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