Entrepreneurs, Stop Trying To Be Elon Musk

If you want to be successful, first figure out what kind of founder you are

Joe Procopio

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image by Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A couple weeks ago, I answered a great question from a very young founder about the options for selling his startup, now that he was losing his personal passion for it. Believe it or not, I hear this question a lot, especially from young entrepreneurs.

The answer to his question was easy, at least in terms of how to approach a potential acquisition. He was surprisingly already doing a lot of things right — starting with critically thinking through his commitment, to proactively soliciting multiple offers from various buyers, to refusing to settle just to get it done.

The difficult thing was how torn he was about the decision to sell, and the fact that he didn’t know what his lack of passion said about his still-nascent entrepreneurial skills.

Let’s unpack that.

First, understand that if you’re really an entrepreneur, you’re going to get bored

I’ve been at the startup game for well over two decades now, and I love the earliest days — every moment from the initial idea to the launch to the first million dollars in revenue. I’ve gotten really good at that part, because I’m so driven to fire the initial rocket.

But that passion led to my founding several startups that did really well only to hit a ceiling of stagnation.

It’s only been over the last ten years or so that I’ve forced myself to get really good at the rest of the startup lifecycle — the boring (yes, boring) slog of climbing from that first million dollars to the second million dollars and then to $10 million and beyond.

To get good at that, I had to essentially rewire my entrepreneurial brain to find the dopamine in those later stages. And in doing so, I realized that I wasn’t lazy or unfocused — or any other label that would make me a “bad entrepreneur.”

As it turned out, I wasn’t good at the growth stuff because I hadn’t learned it, and you need to learn it, because if you don’t, the growth stuff is scary and dead boring at the same time. Who wants to live a life in those two camps?

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com