By Elijah Medge, Long Beach, May 2015
I received this question from a mentee:
“Entrepreneurship is tough. I’m working long hours without a guaranteed paycheck; I make tough decisions every day; and I’m always outside my comfort zone. I know that ‘great things take time’, but sometimes I’m tempted to throw in the towel. What advice can you give me?”
My answer? It comes down to understanding the difference between the pain of discipline and the pain of regret.
The pain of discipline is the temporary discomfort associated with making difficult choices for the benefit of long term success. Success in any field requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline, which often means forcing ourselves to do the things we don’t want to do.
When it comes to running a successful business, the same rules apply–possibly even more so, since there’s no one but you to pick up the slack. I don’t always want to work long hours, go to bed early, wake up early, miss out on birthdays or weddings, spend money frugally, have uncomfortable conversations with employees, tackle the less glamorous parts of my business, and so on–but I suck it up and make the tough decisions anyway.
The main reason I choose to live a self-disciplined lifestyle is to avoid the pain of regret. The pain of regret is the permanent discomfort caused by missed opportunity. Do I really want to look back in 20 years from now and wish that I wasn’t still working all the time, and had more time to spend with my family? No, I don’t. This sounds like a nightmare.
And for many, it’s a nightmare come true. It is easy–and unfortunately all too common–to stray from long term goals in favor of avoiding short term discomfort. Choices of this nature prevent far too many people from living the lives they’d imagined they would have. Unrewarding work, financial stress, and a poor work-life balance are just the tip of the iceberg for those whose career decisions have been based on short term pleasure, rather than long term gain.
In life, the pain of discipline weighs ounces, while the pain of regret weighs tons. We can’t rewind the clock and tell our younger selves to make smarter choices. People who have this foresight are able to avoid the permanent results of bad decisions.
That’s why I live by this principle: “Successful people do the things unsuccessful people don’t want to do; Successful people don’t want to do them either, but they know they have to.” This quote (by an unknown author) rings in my head all the time. It’s even part of my email signature. It reminds me to keep pushing through the pain if I want to become the entrepreneur that I know I can be.
Elijah Medge (Long Beach, CA) owns and manages direct marketing firms throughout the United States. He is a coach and mentor to budding and experienced entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. Be sure to connect on Facebook and Tumblr.