You’re a freak.
That’s right. A freak. And so am I. Don’t be offended—it’s a compliment. Every single person you have seen on the cover of SUCCESS is also a freak. In fact, they’re super freaky, and that’s probably how they got on the cover.
Let’s define freak.
freak |freek| noun: a person who is obsessed with or unusually enthusiastic about a specified interest
If that’s not a definition for an entrepreneur, I don’t know what is. No doubt you have to be “unusually enthusiastic” and pretty freaky to get on this roller coaster. Most don’t have the courage to even step into the car of this thrill ride. But you do, and that is exactly why they will call you a freak.
Not only are you rare in your courage, but it turns out you’re unusual for even wanting to ride in the first place—only about 10% of people are entrepreneurs. That means the other 90% are “normal.”
Let’s define normal.
normal |nawr-muh| adjective: conforming to the standard or the common type; usual
Yuck! The “usual,” “common type,” or “standard” societal normal (that big, herd-like 90 percent) don’t like it when a “freak” steps out of line. That kind of nonconformity threatens them. It challenges their choices and identity. Rather than step out themselves, it’s safer for them to scorn your choices and attack you, in hopes of dragging you back into the herd so they can feel better about themselves.
So, yes. They will call you freak. They will call you crazy.
And that is good.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
—Apple Inc. ad, 1997 after Steve Jobs returned to Apple.
So hello, crazy one! Welcome to the freak show! The good news is you don’t have to catch cannonballs, swallow swords, or breathe fire in order to join this freak show. (Unless, of course, your business actually is running a circus.)
The bad news is that being a freak can be painful at first.
Beware the Crabs
I was once told about a type of crab that cannot be caught—it is agile and clever enough to get out of any crab trap. Yet these crabs are caught by the thousands every day, thanks to a particular human trait they possess.
The trap itself is simple: a wire cage with a hole at the top. Bait is placed in the cage, and lowered into the water. A crab comes along, enters the cage, and begins munching on the bait. A second crab sees the first crab and joins him. Then a third. For a time, it’s crab Thanksgiving. Eventually, though, all the bait is gone.
At this point the crabs could easily climb up the side of the cage and leave through the hole. But they don’t. They stay in the cage. And long after the bait is gone, even more crabs continue to climb inside the trap. Not one leaves.
Why? Because if one crab realizes there’s nothing keeping him in the trap and tries to leave, the other crabs will do anything they can to stop him. They will repeatedly pull him from the side of the cage. If he is persistent, the others will tear off his claws to keep him from climbing. If he persists still, they will kill him.
The crabs—by the power of the herd—stay together in the cage. All the fisherman needs is a tiny bit of bait. The rest is easy. Then the cage is hauled up, and it’s dinnertime on the pier. Like crabs, most of the human world has been conditioned by academia, corporate culture, media, and society to follow the status quo. For most people, that means becoming an employee. And that’s exactly what 90 percent of the world becomes.
When you decide to walk away from the 90 percent and step onto the entrepreneur roller coaster, you’re like a lone crab trying to leave the trap. When you chose to become an entrepreneur—to be different—and walk out on that 90 percent, something strange happens. Instead of encouraging and supporting you, your friends, family, and colleagues become crabby and start trying to drag you back down into the “trap.”
Human crabs don’t usually use physical force—they don’t rip your arms off. But they don’t need to. They have far more effective methods at hand (or in mouth, as the case may be): innuendo, doubt, ridicule, derision, mockery, sarcasm, scorn, sneering, belittlement, humiliation, jeering, taunting, teasing, and dozens more. These are the insidious tactics the human crabs around you will use to pull off your claws and kill your dreams.
But why do they do it? Many of these people love you. Why would they want to hurt you (emotionally) and kill your hopes, dreams, and desire for something more?
There are two key reasons:
1. You make them look bad. When you step outside the status quo, you become a giant mirror that reflects the reality of their life back to them. They know they should be doing what you’re doing, but they’re afraid—your choices make their cowardice all the more obvious. Instead of joining you, it’s easier to make fun of you, or try to convince you that what you’re doing is foolish, risky, or destined to fail in the hopes that you will give up, come back to the pack, and take the mirror away.
2. They simply aren’t as courageous as you. They can’t get over the idea of leaving the security of the corporate bosom—their weekly employee paycheck and their meager “benefits.” What you’re doing just doesn’t fit their model of the world, and they aren’t brave enough to follow your lead.
It’s easier to mock you than follow you.
I can tell you why crabs do what they do, but it’s still easy to be caught off guard by their crabby behavior. When friends and family reject your business, it can hurt a lot more than the rejection you might experience at a job.
A customer, a prospect, even a boss or colleague, can criticize, question, or say ‘no’ while on the job, and it doesn’t hurt so much. It’s not you; it’s just work. But when friends and family reject your business venture, it feels far more personal. It hurts.
‘No’ to your work at the office is one thing. ‘No’ to your passion, your vision, the business you’ve fallen in love with feels a lot like they’re saying ‘no’ to you. What you’ll soon realize, though, is that it’s not about you at all. They are really saying ‘no’ to themselves. They’re rejecting their own inner voice that prods them to do more. To step out. To be brave. To take risks… like you. They aren’t resentful of you. They’re resentful of themselves. But it still hurts. And it can derail you if you’re not prepared.
Anyone who has a dream—one that might get them out of their day-job-crab-trap—had best beware of the fellow inhabitants of the trap. They’re part of your roller coaster ride, and they can be very persistent in trying to drag you from the tracks. This chapter is about dealing with crabs and other dips and drops on the entrepreneur roller coaster. It’s about accepting and loving your “freaky” nature. It’s about facing disapproval, discouragement, and downright ridicule, and coming back stronger and more resilient than ever.
I remember a great quote from Gandhi that I think every entrepreneur needs to keep close at hand: “First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I like that. We win. Blessed are the freaks… for they shall inherit the earth.
Darren is a New York Times bestselling author and SUCCESS Publisher of The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster