At first that might sound like a good thing – something to be proud of. “I’m addicted to entrepreneurship” is a nice catch phrase but in practice, it’s a dangerous thing. Like any other addiction, addiction to entrepreneurship is nothing glamorous. It’s characterized by some of the same symptoms of gambling and substance addiction. Symptoms like not meeting obligations and ignoring personal responsibilities, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because you’re working, failing in your attempts to stop working (i.e. on vacations, weekends, after 6pm, etc.) and even going as far as experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop (on vacations, weekends and after 6pm as well).
Just like most drug addicts start using drugs for fun and recreation before they eventually become addicted, some individuals start entrepreneurship on a small scale – most time still having a full time job. They eventually become obsessed and progress to being serial entrepreneurs. Then the effects set in – insomnia, obsession, highs when you experience euphoria and low periods of disappointment and often anxiety. Do these feelings sound familiar? Then you might be on your way to addiction to entrepreneurship and not even realize it.
A survey was carried out, involving some “habitual” entrepreneurs. Habitual here meaning they all had more than one entrepreneurial endeavour running at the same time and also had a history involving a few failed businesses. All these entrepreneurs, when they spoke exhibited signs similar to substance addicts. Here are 5 of the signs they showed.
- Obsession: The addicted entrepreneur can almost not think of anything other than their business. The tasks of the workplace consume them so completely that other parts of their lives begin to suffer as a result. They feel disconnected when they’re not at work or doing something work-related. They burn out easily and their personal relationships with family and friends begin to deteriorate.
- Commit more than necessary: These entrepreneurs didn’t hesitate to take risks like borrowing large sums or selling assets to keep their businesses afloat, despite the great personal risk. They put in more money than was reasonable – not unlike a gambler, all for the feeling of euphoria that comes with a business breakthrough.
- Never return: Most of the serial entrepreneurs never returned to regular jobs after trying out entrepreneurship, even after facing multiple failures and losses on a large scale. This is again, not unlike gambling where those addicted keep returning after sustaining huge losses, oftentimes borrowing from loan sharks, putting their assets on the line and going into heavy debt, just to fuel their obsession. Regardless of the results of their activities, one thing is certain – they always come back.
- Feel emotional highs when they overcome obstacles: Their response to why they felt compelled to keep launching businesses were that they just felt better. They had this rush that came from creating something. They reported a positive feeling that turned their prior feelings of anxiety and frustration into joy. The general impression that was made was that their focus was less on the money and more on the feelings they experienced. They were simply attracted to the feelings that resulted from the experience.
- Feel withdrawal symptoms when they are not working: Anxiety, restlessness, depression and anger are some symptoms they experienced when they were not at work or performing work-related tasks.
Characteristics of several successful entrepreneurs include some obsession with work and the drive to achieve and though these traits may be requirements for succeeding, the side effects should not be ignored. Most times when an entrepreneur is successful, people tend to be less critical of the effects their work habits are having on their personal life, because people have such a high regard for successful people, regardless of the adverse effects on their personal lives.