A few hours ago, I got an email from a close friend about his family’s disapproval of his entrepreneurial pursuits.
I decided to answer his email on the blog, because family disapproval (or at least misunderstanding) is an exceedingly common issue for entrepreneurs, multipotentialites, and really anyone intent on living their life differently.
I also wanted to post this publicly because I have a feeling that you guys might have some words of wisdom and stories of your own to share…
Here’s the email my friend sent me:
I just had a rude awakening today. I had planned to use the next few months to grow my Renaissance Business, and make small headway. I was going to take things slow, and try to make sure everything was as good as possible before launching my coaching services.
Unfortunately, my family had other plans.
Today I discovered they’ve been discussing the fact that they don’t think my business is a real, sustainable thing. None of them believe it’ll make money, or that it’s even worth pursuing.
They want me to get a job, and do it on the side, so that I have options in case it fails. I refused, and they’ve told me that I have their support until July. As such, I have till July to prove to them that I have a viable business on my hands.
I know it sounds weird, like I shouldn’t care so much about their approval, but I’m not gonna lie, if my family isn’t backing me, I’m not going to feel good about doing it.
Additionally, I won’t be able to pay for my cost of living once July hits, if I don’t have a steady income. I had them to rely on before, but apparently not any longer.
But it also means that I have 4 months to work up to $1,500 a month, which is the minimum I need to survive on. Which means my business just went into overdrive.
I have $6,000 saved up, but that’s going to go fast once August hits, so I basically have till July to make it.
Is it a dream killer? Or just a really big push off a cliff to teach me to fly?
First of all friend, this SUCKS. I’m so sorry that you had to endure this little intervention your family put you through. It’s a horrible feeling to know that your family has been discussing your future behind your back, and hearing straight from their mouths that they don’t believe in your talent or vision?! Ouch.
However, know that you are not alone. At WDS last year, Pam Slim began her talk by asking the 500 of us whether anyone has ever experienced family disapproval. Every single person in that room started laughing.
If you read interviews with entrepreneurs and listen to podcasts like Mixergy and the Lifestyle Business Podcast (which I highly recommend doing on a daily basis), you’ll begin to understand that disapproval and a lack of support from those around us is so common, that it’s almost a right of passage for entrepreneurs.
And dude, of course you care what your family thinks! You want them to be proud of you. We all do. It’s incredibly annoying sometimes, just how much their approval matters to us. I hope every parent reading this right now knows just how much of an impact their approval (or disapproval) has on their children. Know that your opinion matters– a lot. Don’t abuse that power.
However (and this is hard for me to write), the truth is that your family wants the best for you. They want you to be happy and they want you to succeed. Their disapproval is coming from a place of love and concern. Unfortunately the way they’re expressing this love is not at all helpful to you!
The real problem is that your family doesn’t know any better. They are not familiar with this new business model. Like most people, they are still living in the old world of business, where starting a biz involves a ton of risk and upfront investment, a physical shop, and so on. They don’t understand that millions of people are making their livings through legitimate online businesses. They haven’t read books like The 4 Hour Workweek, The Millionaire Messenger, and The Art of Non-Conformity.
While I would hope that once seeing your success and happiness, your family will come around, the sad truth is that some people never get their parents’ approval.
I can’t remember who this quote is by… Some entrepreneur who had just had a million dollar launch. Upon sharing his achievement with his mom, she reacted by saying something like, “That’s great… When are you going to get a real job?”
You need to be doing this for you.
Without sharing too many identifying details, you have a fantastic business on your hands, my friend. It is a beautiful smoosh of two of your broad interests, each which exists within a very profitable market.
You’ve done exactly what I talk about here: you’ve used your multipotentiality to “become more specialized than a specialist.” Your business exists in the intersection between two very profitable markets. On top of everything, you have a beautiful, inspiring message. There is incredible potential here.
But my belief in your vision isn’t enough. You need to believe in yourself. And even more than that, you need a community of other people who are also pursuing their passions and who support you and will provide guidance and accountability. Barbara Sher says that isolation is the dream killer. She’s right.
Thankfully, that’s exactly what we’ve got here on Puttylike: a community of people who are following their heart, and believe that it is possible to build a life around your passions. And once The Puttytribe opens up (April 17 — Holy wow, it’s getting close!) it will be even even easier for you to get direct feedback and support from other multipotentialites.
For now, try to avoid talking with your family about your work. Surround yourself with positive people and inspiration in whatever ways you can, even if it’s only online. Listen to podcasts with people who are doing what you want to do, watch YouTube videos like this on a regular basis. Do what you need to do to stay inspired.
Next, use the hunger. As my man Tony Robbins says, you need inspiration and/or desperation to motivate change. Comfort or mild discomfort is what keeps people still. Put your head down and hustle hustle hustle.
Finally, I want you to understand just how lucky you are. You are a single guy in your twenties. No mortgage, no kids. Your financial cushion is more than sufficient. Never again will be the risk of jumping be as low as it is now. Even if you do fail, your worst case scenario is not bad at all.
Sit down and write out exactly what you would do if you failed. What would happen if you couldn’t support yourself come July, 2012? Would you get a job and continue building your business on the side, then quit your job once you hit your income goals? Would this be the end of the world?
Regardless of what your family says, there’s absolutely no reason that you need to give up on your dreams in July, 2012. This is your life, not theirs.
And to be honest, friend, I know you, and I don’t think you could give up on your dreams, even if you wanted to. You would end up returning to them eventually. You’re an artist and a dreamer and a multipotentialite. You have no choice but to do this.
But most of all, you have a responsibility to do this. You have a responsibility to all of the people that you’re going to help and inspire.
Don’t let them down.
Siiiigh… After spending a couple hours writing this thing up, I got a followup email from my friend:
Continuation of story. At lunch, my brother and mother hammered me about a real job. Dad sat silently throughout, and didn’t say a word. He even walked out halfway through the conversation, to go take a nap.
Two hours ago, he took me out to dinner for an important reason: he told me not to quit.
How’s that for a shocker?
He said that the family means well, and they care about me, but that my life was my own.
He’d dreamed of writing his whole life, and gave up that dream for steady work and raising a family. Although he didn’t understand what I was doing, he made sure I understood he believed in me, and said “if this is your dream, then follow it to the end. Even if you fail, so what? Fail two, three, four times! You’ll get it right on the fifth. As long as you believe, and you work hard, and you care, you will succeed. But don’t you dare give up.”
Then he gave me a conspiratorial smile. “Don’t tell mom I said this, or I’ll be in trouble.”
Your dad said it so much better than I did!
Got any stories about dream-pursuit in the face of family disapproval that you’d like to share?