Entrepreneurship and Stepping Into the Arena

Today, May 31, 2016, marks a point of no return in my career. For the last month, I have been test-driving running my own company. There have been plenty of points along the way when I could have turned back, but I didn't. Every step of the way, I've become less and less driven to pursue traditional employment, and more driven to do my own thing. Today marks the point where I either have to turn back and seek traditional employment or commit to the work of being a freelancer.

In all truth, I never really made an official decision to do this, but I think life has a way of transitioning us to the things we're meant for. It may have started when I got laid off eight months ago, or perhaps a month ago at the Young Entrepreneurs Convention with an inspiring conversation with a colleague. After I got laid off, I spent a few months in a state of emotional confusion, and a few more months picking up freelance work and working for a startup. Through those conversations with my colleague and dipping my toes in the entrepreneurial waters for a month, it's clear that starting my own company as a freelance creative is the best fit for me, especially at this point in my life. It's something for which I am excited to get up in the morning, something in which I'm thrilled to invest my time, and it's something that fits me better than anything else I've ever done so far.

It's not terribly shocking to me that I've arrived at this decision relatively early in my career. When I first started school in 2011 and again in the fall of 2012, it became clear to me that my place as a young professional was in visual communications. Ever since I found out freelancing was an option, I've had an inkling that it was a good fit for me. I have no idea if this is going to pay the bills in five years, and no one really knows that going into such an endeavor. That's what makes it a risk. As my colleague advised me, it's a lot of trial and error. Others who have succeeded have said it's a lot of failure. So far, it seems like entrepreneurship is a lot like backpacking. You hoist your pack on your shoulders and start down the trail, and at a certain point, you have to commit to the hike regardless of what's ahead. As a backpacker, as an entrepreneur, it's up to you to navigate the terrain.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
—Theodore Roosevelt

Brené Brown talks a lot about the Man in the Arena speech. Entrepreneurship requires vulnerability. It requires us to, as Brené puts it, show up and be seen. It requires us to be humble enough to not armor up against our critics, but to reserve them a seat in the arena. Entrepreneurship requires us to accept that the only thing that is certain is that if we choose vulnerability, we will get our ass kicked. So, here's to whatever this becomes. To mistakes and failure, to learning, to deadlines and all-nighters, to face-down moments and vulnerability that yields connection and creativity, to showing up and being seen, to being the woman in the arena.