The corporate world is calling with nice cars, fancy lunches, and guaranteed paychecks — if you're willing to put your dream company on hold and sit in a low-walled prison five days a week. If you're torn between stable income and the wish fulfillment of a bold new venture, listen up to someone who's had the pleasure and pain of living in both worlds.
By Jun Loayza
It was the Fall Quarter of my last year at UCLA. I had 12 interviews lined up with the top consulting and finance companies in the nation. I had been preparing for these interviews for 2 months, and was able to achieve my mom's dream when I signed with a litigation and corporate finance consulting firm for 55K a year.
Mom was so proud.
Though I had a full-time offer in the bag, I decided to start a company with my good friend Yu-kai Chou while we were still undergraduates. That experience changed my life forever.
Never in my life had I been so challenged. I was forced to network, learn new skill-sets, hire employees, get clients, and lead a team of peers, some older than I was. To be perfectly honest, it was the toughest thing I had ever done as an undergraduate. I loved every minute of it.
I was three months into my corporate job, when I suddenly felt like the 4-wall prison I was sitting in began to close around me. I felt trapped, under-utilized, and average. I looked at my co-workers and smelled the stench of people settling as they worked till 6:30pm, drank at happy-hour, watched Lost at home, and woke up the next morning to do it all over again. I decided then and there that I want to be remembered; I want to make a positive difference in this world. I am an entrepreneur.
I've experienced both worlds. I can tell you exactly what are the pros and cons of each one. Most importantly, I will try to give them to you without any bias:
Work/Life balance vs Lifestyle
This is by far the biggest difference between the two. The corporate world is completely distinct from your personal life. You work 50 hours a week, and have the other 118 hours to play and sleep. Therefore, you have time for your girlfriend, to watch TV, to go out with your friends, and to relax on the weekends. Your career is not your life.
Entrepreneurship is not a career – it is a lifestyle. As the founder of my company, there is no end time for the work I have to do. I can stay up until 3am working every night. There is always work that needs done.
Because of the lifestyle that I have chosen, I have very little time to devote to my girlfriend, family, or friends. When everyone is out drinking for the weekend, I am developing a proposal for a client; when I'm watching a movie at home with my girlfriend, I'm sitting next to her with my laptop typing away at a company blog post.
Think about it: Can you sacrifice time away from TV, video games, and friends? Do you cherish watching Heroes at night while eating dinner, or do you long to be productive 100% of the time and strive to be remembered in the history books?
Steady Income vs No Money
I won't lie to you: having money makes life fun. Steady income means stability and tranquility. It means paying off your student loans, phone bill, credit card bills, and car insurance all by yourself. It means paying for rent and becoming fully independent. Wow, doesn't that just sound so perfect!
On the other hand, entrepreneurship means having no money, living off of your savings, and moving back home with your parents. I lived off of my savings for a whole year before we started generating revenue with Future Delivery! Guys, I'm being totally honest here: having no money sucks!
You are likely NOT the next Mark Zuckerberg – you will fail, and you will run out of money.
Think about it: Is entrepreneurship really that horrible? Yes, I'm afraid that it is. So why do I keep pushing and working hard? The answer is that while it's miserable, I'm honestly having fun. I am learning more as an entrepreneur that I could ever have learned as a 1st year analyst at any company. I have to hire and train people, find clients, pitch to corporations, and develop a product. And I have to learn how to do this all by myself. Are you up to the challenge?
Good Enough vs Better than All the Rest
In the corporate world, you only have to do good enough for your next promotion. Just work a little harder than your peers, and you're right in line for the next 15% raise. If you feel like slacking off a little, that's no problem at all. There is no way a company will fire you unless you do something unethical or against company policy. The corporate world is like putting your life on cruise control. You can just smoothly sail until you reach the end.
There is no “just good enough” in entrepreneurship. If you're not the best in your industry or the best in your field, your competition is going to eat you alive. There is so much pressure for you to get funding or to get a strong user base that you can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Entrepreneurs must be productive every minute of their lives so that they can gain that small advantage over their competitors that will allow them to be successful.
Think about it: Do you do just enough to get by or are you an over achiever? If you're an over achiever, do you like working on what other people assign to you or do you have ideas of your own? And if you do have ideas of your own, do you have the guts and tenacity to act upon them, and the courage to risk everything to achieve your dreams?