A Guest Post by Ravi Kurani
Let me start off by saying that I don’t consider myself a professional entrepreneur — at least not yet. What prompted me to want to write about the mindset required to be a professional entrepreneur is that I just realized how much I have to learn.
The Amateur vs The Professional
As a young entrepreneur, with an MBA and an engineering degree, I felt I was fully equipped and educated to charge off and build a company. Our community gives us that impression with all the articles and books like The Lean Startup, The Art of the Start, The 4-hour Workweek or The E-myth — all of which I have read.
What none of these books addresses is the journey from amateur to professional. Specifically, what does it really take to go from I have an idea to I know how to make my idea a reality. For me, that’s the difference between the amateur and the professional. At least, that’s what I thought.
This notion of the professional mindset I got from author Steven Pressfield, who has written books such as The War of Art, Turning Pro, and The Warrior Ethos. He also blogs and that’s where I first read about The Professional Mindset.
Mental Toughness is Tough
Pressfield talks about that the true professional has the mental toughness to be in the moment no matter the pressure or how bad she screwed up moments before. For a young entrepreneur like me, this state of Dudeness, is my biggest challenge. How am I supposed to keep cool when my startup is running out of money, our product is full of bugs, and I can’t figure out how to growth-hack our email list? I’m sure all of us have felt that.
So how do you foster mental toughness so that you can turn pro? According to Pressfield:
The professional maintains, as her touchstone, the trajectory of her lifetime practice as a pure artist or entrepreneur. She follows her bliss. She serves her own Muse.
Follow your bliss? Serve your Muse? I’m not a Yoga master. I’m an entrepreneur. All that sandal wearing, patchouli oil, man-bun, hipster stuff is not for me. Heck, I have an MBA, afterall. Aren’t I supposed to run a spreadsheet or something to figure out my Marketing plan to get my MVP tilted up so I can go raise an A-round?
Your True-Heart Work
I jest about the hippy-dippy stuff but it got me thinking about what keeps me going when everything comes crashing down. Pressfield has a name for that. It’s your true-heart work.
This is the work that is what you were put here to do. If that aligns nicely to a market, then the company you have created just might make it. The professional does their true-heart work. The professional pursues excellence in their true-heart work and gives in to the fact that it might not amount to much. Once you can do this and I mean really do this, you have become a professional.
How To Figure Out Your True-Heart Work
To be clear, I have not fully figured this out yet myself. I struggle with my true-heart work daily but I think I have a pretty good idea. It actually all started with my childhood and an interview. First, my childhood.
I grew up in Southern California. Riverside to be exact. My dad owned a pool and spa supply store so I naturally helped him when I was old enough. I spent countless summer days cleaning pools, helping customers, and appreciated the effort it took to keep water clean. This led me to get an engineering degree, work for a VC in India focused on water, and then form my current company, Sutro Connect.
The interview was part of a book called The Entrepreneur Ethos. Jarie Bolander, the author and a good friend, wanted to know what it took to succeed. This is what I said:
Aggressively fight for what you believe in all the way to your core. When you get down to your raw core, push a little more. That’s what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
At the time, I had no idea that what I was saying was that my true-heart work was making water safe and not just for pools but for the world. I’m not there yet but the closer I get to that, the closer I’ll get to turning pro. If you can find the thing that pushes you to your raw core and makes you want to push more, then maybe, just maybe, you have found your true-heart work.
Ravi Kurani is the founder and CEO of Sutro Connect — a company dedicated to making and keeping water clean.