You really want to do that ?

The last few days have seen a lot of mental, psychological and emotional acrobatics towards answering a question : what do I want to do ? I mean really want to do.

Of course, what I really really want to do is travel a lot, meet tons of people, write a few books, share experiences. I also really would love to be able to impact Urban Planning positively, and help drive the right goals for the city.

But then as an entrepreneur, how do you decide whether you want to dive into that exciting sounding idea ? I've written about "passion" earlier - but how do you even figure out whether you're really passionate about something, or what exactly is it in a story that you're passionate about ?

One thought thats emerged - in discussions with fellow truth-seekers - so you can evaluate something like this more meaningfully is:

Imagine what you'll be doing, and see if you like it...

This involves a fair bit of homework.

For starters, you need to understand the various aspects of your venture/job.


How do you get it off the ground ? How do you validate the technology, and the business parts of it ? What does it take to get all the "unknowns" answered - contacts/travel/interviews/research. Is there a brick-and-mortar part to it that'll need observation from close-up? Do you need to learn a new language to get it running ? And I mean Kannada/French, not Ruby :)

Up, running:

Lotsa coding ? Setting up operations ? Simultaneously ? You probably need to start pursuing the stakeholders for a buy-in, not just information. Thats a lot of pitch-creation along with collateral for that.That could involve a lot of sucking up, travel, deal-making. Is it time to hire some folks already ? How much cost cutting are you starting to do on the personal front already ?

What are the reactions/strategies when you hear a bunch of people saying "no" ? What happens when you encounter muscle ? Who handles that, and how ?

Grow! Awesome.

Operations : manpower, processes, glitches abound. This takes up a lot of effort. What are the day to day challenges ?

Sales : Finding new leads as you expand becomes a huge challenge. And since you're not "reacting" to a few reference/early customers or consumers, it becomes tougher to come back and change stuff too easily and the focus shifts to packaging/messaging things so that you can get the point across. Hit rates could drop, so you need a wide audience. A full time job, again. Deal cutting with the big guys becomes nastier, and there's some competition you start to become aware of that you knew nothing about earlier.

Development : Its kinda on auto pilot, since you're focused on the ops and sales. But hey, there's lots more inputs flowing in, and then you're suddenly scaling, and quality glitches are starting to show up.

Stable State:

What makes or breaks the company now ? What drives growth ? Is the primary focus managing relationships ? Deal-making ? Financial jugglery to keep costs/margins healthy ? Is operational efficiency what your business depends on ? Is an ever-widening network of contacts the mainstay of growth or even sustenance ?

In each of the above states, identify what tasks are important. Don't just pick stuff thats sexy, or that you would like to do.

Identify the important external stakeholders in each. They'll need to be cultivated, managed, engaged. Thats a job! Irrespective of what the venture is. (Or even in a job)

What are the likely problems that might arise in each phase ? Which are the human issues, or technological, or marketing related, or financial ? You'll be fixing all of those whether you like it or not :D

List down the important tasks in each phase that will need doing to answer the above, and more questions if you have them in your venture's context. See if between all the founders, you're ok doing all of those. Sorry - make that enjoy doing all of those.

What do those tasks involve ? Coding ? Travel ? Negotiating ? Groveling ? Financial skills ? Language skills ? Marketing ? Creativity ? Talking ? Documentation ? Elevator and other pitches ? Collaborations ? Mild lying ? Hiring from tons of fluff ? Convincing and managing people with lots of attitude ? Being "available" all the time ? Dressing up and attending parties ? Getting your hands dirty and legs dusty "on the street" ? What ?

Cause when the chips are down, just being "ok" with those task will not be enough. You'll tire of things, or get bored, or distracted by other stuff that really interests you. The early challenge of exciting problems to solve, or a fuzzy dream of pots of gold at the end - these fade quite easy but for a very very very few souls. Each little task that you do owith some sense of resentment builds up stress, and fatigue - especially when the going is tough.

For most of us, the love of the underlying space will see you through the troughs. The goals and even the ideas might continue to change, but none of those tasks will seem too painful if you're in a happy place vis-a-vis what really interests you.

So go ahead and write it all out - and see if its a happy picture that emerges when you draw it in detail.

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