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Building A Startup Takes Sacrifice – What Are You Going To Give Up, To Step Up?

Ask yourself this:

Are you willing to make sacrifices in your life to achieve success?

Because if you are not, then this article (and building a startup) is not for you.

You see, I firmly believe that to do anything of importance in this life requires sacrifice. The problem is most people say they are willing to make sacrifices, but when it comes to working late, getting up early or missing that party few people rarely follow through.

It doesn’t matter what your chosen pursuit is, whether it is climbing Everest, running a marathon or building a startup to achieve success (however you define it) will require sacrifice.

The only difference between the sacrifices you make running a marathon, studying for an exam, or dedicating time to learn a new language versus building a startup is that a startup can cost you a lot of time, a lot of money and lot of effort and still leave you with absolutely nothing to show for it at the end.

Prior to immersing myself in the startup scene and building a company for a 3rd time I had a period in my life where I was dedicated to competing in ultra-endurance events.

PaulTowersToughMudderI was fortunate enough to travel to the US on two occasions to compete in a 24 hour Obstacle Race, known as World’s Toughest Mudder, and later the Spartan Race World Championships as part of the Australian contingent that went over there to race.

Closer to home I competed in a number of 75km and 100km Ultra-marathons on both the road and trail, some of which took me almost 14 hours to complete.

During this time I sacrificed a lot of time and energy to train up to 15-20 hours a week and compete in these events. But they gave me a great sense of pride and accomplishment to be involved in a sport where people push themselves to a physical and mental limit on a regular basis.

One person who I got to know quite well during that time was my friend, Will Lind. Will is a lifelong fitness professional with a long list of accomplishments on the bike and the trail. I remember that Will once said that if you want to be the very best you can be at something then you can only focus on two of the following three areas:

  • Your fitness/sporting pursuits
  • Your career/building a business
  • Your family/having free time

To be clear here, I believe (and I know Will does too) in balance. But balance only gets you so far. If you are aiming to be in the top 1-3% then you can only choose two of those three areas to focus your time and attention on.

I didn’t necessarily believe Will at the time, but he turned out to be right. I have an amazing wife and two beautiful children so that bucket of time was of course locked in. But after selling my second business and starting a new job, as well as Startup Soda and Task Pigeon on the side I couldn’t keep all three balls up in the after. Something had to give and I had to sacrifice my passion and interest in these ultra-endurance events.

I know that there are benefits to being fit and healthy. I know that I enjoyed a lot of what those sports had to offer but I also know that if I am going to make Task Pigeon as successful as it can be then those 15-20 hours are better spent elsewhere.

I share this story and concept of the three buckets with which to fill your time and focus because startups need to be an all or nothing game. You can’t do a half-arsed job and expect to wake up one day with your name in the paper next to an acquisition offer or IPO.

And to be clear if your goal is to run a side-business that only takes a few hours a week of your time, that’s cool. The people I am talking to are the people who dream big and want to achieve big, but aren’t willing to give up anything big in order to get there.

I have previously written that I believe people are born entrepreneurs. I also believe there are some people who are willing to make sacrifices and a bunch of people who are not.

If you would rather attend that party than work on your startup, or care more about watching the next episode of a show on Netflix than closing a deal or put off an important task till next week so you can catch a game of football how serious are you taking your startup? Are you actually making any sacrifices at all?

I’m willing to sacrifice my nights, missing parties, buying new clothes or gadgets all so I can focus that energy and attention into Task Pigeon. I love building and creating things. I love the process of trying to get a company or an idea off the ground so while these are all things I sacrifice I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The question is, if you are sitting here today, in 2018, thinking about doing something big with your life what are you going to sacrifice to make it happen?

Also published on Medium.

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  • I think sacrifices are part of success. I agree what you said that it is good to focus on 2-3 things and master it than be a jack of all trades but master of none. This is something that businesses can look into. Its good to provide multiple services however, its important to ensure that you can provide the best product/service.