I was never very good at balance. I have an unofficial standard philosophy of balls-to-the-wall or don’t-even-bother. Contrary to a commonly believed definition, the term “balls to the wall” actually originates from the world of aviation. I love the correlation between a fighter pilot and myself, by the way. Maximum speed achieved by maximum output, throttle to the cockpit wall.
Really, you can draw similarities between a fighter pilot and an entrepreneur.
Passion for the job. If you don’t completely love what you are doing, no rational person would become a fighter pilot or start up a new business. My friends tell me I am brave, my family says I am crazy…they just don’t understand the fascination and lust for the career I have. This blends right into being courageous as well. Call it faith, call it bravery, but we are the people who believe success will happen. And if it doesn’t happen right away, it doesn’t deter us, rather we keep at it. Even when it means quitting our corporate job with our secure income. Even when it means we chip away at our savings nest egg. Our passion is so great for our idea, that it is almost easy to be courageous. We just can’t see another option.
Natural ability. I’m sure skills can be honed, however you need solid base to go off of. If you don’t have the knack to fly well or to be creative and bold enough to launch a venture, then no amount of practice will make you love your job. It can be cultivated, but not created.
Have you ever played speed Uno with Polish teenagers? I have. And let me tell you that is the definition of being competitive. If you aren’t quick, if you don’t want to slap the hand of the person next to you, if your adrenaline hasn’t rocketed to high-blood-pressure status, you aren’t playing right. These kids understand what it is like to be an entrepreneur or to be in the aviation field. The best of the best. That is the only way to succeed. You are always in competition with the person next to you. If you don’t understand that, you probably aren’t entrepreneur material.
I can sense problems. And more than that, my intuition crinkles its nose and points to solutions. Situational awareness is essential. You have to recognize not just the tide of where things are going, but foretell where they will be in 2 years. Being able to identify the changes in the wind is what makes aviators and businesspeople successful.
Pace. Do you love speed? Is rest something that you don’t know how to do? Do you stride back and forth when you are on the phone, do you think in lists, do you have 3 new ideas working at the same time? Are you bored if chaos is not a little bit in your life?
It’s this very pace that gives me the motivation to be an entrepreneur, but also causes me to be unable to draw a solid line between work and life. I’m not talking about balance here – that is learned in advanced entrepreneurship class. I mean being able to clearly carve out personal time, even if it’s only 20% of my day. My friends and family get frustrated when I have to take that call, or have to find internet immediately so that I can forward something. So many things have suffered from my inability to turn off my electronics, from relationships to enjoying an activity (heaven forbid I go to the movies! 2 ½ hours of non-tech time? Absolutely not.)
Fighter pilot or business owner, our “down” time is spent thinking about the next step, what we can do better, what we can do faster. There’s no time for relaxation or separation of work and life. Our life is our work.