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Entrepreneurship Sucks

The sad state of affairs is that working for yourself is really just a worse version of working for somebody else We really, deeply, unabashedly, lust after entrepreneurship. It’s the dream job. Do whatever you want! No rules! Your own office, your own schedule, everything exactly the way you like it. At Harvard’s Biz school where I am a student, they have a required course in entrepreneurship in the spring semester. But I’m going to take the contrarian position here. I think that entrepreneurship sucks.

And as someone who started his own company as an undergrad and sold it for 17 times its paltry earnings, I am somewhat qualified to give some commentary and to clarify some of the many misconceptions about the field.

Josh Petersel attends Harvard Business School, and actually was an entrepreneur at one point. This totally makes him a venerable authority on the subject. A version of this article first appeared in Harbus, the student newspaper of the school. If you’d like to partner up with him on one of your own stupid business ideas, send him an email at [email protected].

The sell: You’re your own boss.

The reality: You know what’s great about big, corporate culture? You’ve probably only got one boss. That’s it! Sure, you probably have at least one employee who is an obnoxious bloke who’s invariably more into reports, memos, and cover sheets than concerned about your self-worth. Big deal. I mean, haters are going to hate. Write his behavior off like you know what you’re doing and go enjoy yourself with the other (x-1) people in your life.

Here’s the weird thing about startup culture: When you’re the company owner, the line starts and ends at you. You’re not your own boss; rather, everyone else you’ve ever met is actually your boss. Supplier got the order wrong? Your problem; you fix it. Sales team can’t get their act together (despite a wonderfully choreographed song and dance routine)? That’s on your shoulders. People fighting? Smooth things over. Someone is only working at 103% efficiency, not pumping out enough likes and tweets and check-ins? All you to handle. But if Tide suddenly stops selling at Procter & Gamble because somebody’s been brewing three varieties of beer in the vats in the basement? Pfft. I’m just the guy in the Crest toothpaste division.Not my department.

The sell: Work from wherever you want; work from your desk at home.

The reality: Working from home is great! Why, right now, I’ve been squatting on Facebook waiting to see if anyone will sell me a last-minute concert ticket for cheap because nobody seems to have figured out yet that it’s a horrible idea to buy these things anytime sooner than the last possible minute… You were saying about getting some work done on an article?

The sell: You can make gobs of money.

The reality: Hah, seriously? That statement about what we sold my company for? It paid for about ten minutes of my pricey Hah-vahd education. But it sure sounds nice.

The sell: Do what you love.

The reality: Half true. To be more precise: “Do the worst part of that thing you love that nobody else is going to peacefully agree to do for you, or is going to do even remotely as well as you could do it.”

But honestly, I can’t see why you wouldn’t rather sit back in your ergonomically-designed desk chair, crack a beer you bought on the company’s expense account, and cut your biweekly salary checks that could feed a family of five for three months.

You know that big idea you’ve got that you want to center your entire life around? Guess what: if it’s not already being done, someone’s already come up with the same exact concept at least a year ago. In fact, the last person who thought of it probably had a way better version than the rather embarrassingly elementary rendering your feeble mind managed to conjure up. The Internet is a really, really huge place. Go Google it.

Not to worry, though. There is one thing that may actually separate you from the creepers who breed in the darkest corners of the cloud: You may actually try. You can pound the pavement, make on-the-fly decisions where both options are the wrong answer, sell until your face changes color, invest your own hard-earned money, invest other people’s hard-earned money, ruin someone else’s social life, and even ruin your own.

But honestly, I can’t see why you wouldn’t rather sit back in your ergonomically-designed desk chair, crack a beer you bought on the company’s expense account, and cut your biweekly salary checks that could feed a family of five for three months.

Businessman photo from Superstock

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