To read a book by an author who lives in the same city as you brings with it an element of familiarity. Perhaps unwarranted, but somehow this physical proximity allows for a connection to be established right off the get go. You have something in common; you know many of the references or local haunts they mention in their work. This is not to say, however, that just because you don’t live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the city both Ms. Dickinson and I call home, that you shouldn’t read her book, All In. Quite the contrary, actually, as you hear her voice, resonating from the pages in a very down to earth, straight to the point style, it makes you feel that you have had coffee with her recently, wherever you call home.
As you may be aware, Arlene Dickinson is a venture capitalist on the TV show Dragons’ Den and The Big Decision. This is not her first book. In 2011 she wrote, Persuasion, which was something of an overnight success. The TV gigs and books are just some of her side projects while she continues to lead her own company, Venture Communications, where she is CEO. I know! That is quite a list of credentials she has built for herself. I’m a wee bit tired just reading it and, at the same time, duly impressed by all that she has accomplished. She would tell you that it wasn’t always like this — success was elusive at best, personal challenges of raising four kids as a single mom with little income to speak of and coming to terms with the fact, that at her core she is, and always will be an entrepreneur.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t a cakewalk. Deep, inner strength is required to succeed as one. Ms. Dickinson says that is why she wrote this book. “There are plenty of great books out there about how to run a company, but there isn’t as much information on how to build the inner strength you need to succeed as an entrepreneur.”
The Big Idea
Entrepreneurship is a way of life
"Entrepreneurship isn’t a job; it’s an identity, a way of life, and a powerful guiding instinct."
The subtitle of this book is “You, Your Business, Your Life” which sums up a critical fact that many overlook when considering leaving their current cubicle job for independence and freedom. The fact is there are no boundaries that can be readily identified when you live the life of an entrepreneur. All lines are blurred. Your business is not regulated to the work you leave at the office. You thrive on living and breathing the business you are building. It is a whole package deal. Your business is your life and your life is your business, and most entrepreneurs wouldn’t want it any other way.
Be sure you want it
"“You need your own bulletproof reason for doing what you’re doing.”"
Arlene Dickinson suggests that before you go “all in”, you know what you are getting yourself into as there isn’t room for going part way. You need to know why you quit your day job, why you re-mortgaged the house, and why you are burning the midnight oil. Being able to answer this question in such a way that it becomes your personal mantra is what will be your anchor during the tough times. As the author says, “You need to know up front that being an entrepreneur is demanding, rewarding, scary, and thrilling.” The level of commitment required, especially when you face obstacles and the naysayers that will inevitably circle, is something of superhero proportions. Your inner strength will be put to the fire and whether you melt or hold up is up to only you. Emotional preparation is something that few talk about in entrepreneurial hallways, but Ms. Dickinson doesn’t shy away from tackling how being an entrepreneur can wreak havoc with friendships, marriages, and relationships in general. The best defense going in is anticipation and preparation. For example, she suggests that the biggest threat to an entrepreneur’s marriage will be absence. So often an entrepreneur is at work, thinking about work, dreaming up new work, or seeking new work. Even if they are physically present, their mind may be still on the work and the cell phone will become an appendage. What to do? Recognize that this is the lifestyle of an entrepreneur and talk about how life will change for both of you if you embark on this path. Remember that you aren’t the only one on this wild and crazy rollercoaster ride. Be very sure you want it.
There is no work/life balance
"You get to have a love affair, instead: with your work and your life as a whole."
All of us recognize that life is busy. We feel it. We don’t have a lot of extra time just dangling from the ceiling waiting to find a purpose. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to achieve this thing called “work /life” balance. Arlene Dickinson says, in her charmingly blunt way, that it doesn’t exist so stop feeling guilty about it. It took her many years to come to terms with this but it was very freeing once she did. She advises that you give yourself permission to see your work as a creative expression of who you are and that you love it. Once you give yourself this permission you can then find ways to incorporate your family, friends, and interests into your business life. Accept that life will be messy. Make being present wherever you are a priority. Find a way to be reliably, consistently reachable to those who need you at home no matter the time zone you are in. Celebrate the fact that this thing you call work is so completely what you want to be doing that you don’t distinguish between it and your life. Most people are doing work they would never consider fulfilling if it was their entire life. Not so for the entrepreneur. This for them is the Holy Grail; the whole reason why they left their day job in the first place, to achieve the freedom to combine their work and life.