Editor’s note: Ikechukwu Obi writes from Lagos
Two days ago, I turned the fifth job offer in 4 months. This is apart from a number of partnership offers, marketing offers and like “opportunities” I had passed up earlier.
I quit my job at the end of July to pursue an idea, a startup, internet startup business. Apart from having launched two products — Kobowise, an online accounting tool for small businesses and Gospoteric, an online store for gospel and like messages — I’m yet to record any significant progress in revenue.
It looked like a dumb move, quitting, considering the fact that I didn’t have plenty cash tucked away somewhere. My primary reason for quitting was because I felt unfulfilled. I was suffocating. I felt like I was running away from some kind of entrepreneurial responsibilities, like Jonah. I finally made up my mind to walk after listening to Steve Harris’ podcast titled “Would You Please Fail?”.
I did save something up in the months I was working, but it ran out in no time. My products haven’t seen much traction. To be honest, I have felt discouraged many times, carrying the heavy load of two internet startups (technical, marketing and everything else in between) alone. The discouragements, coupled with little or, mostly, no funds, have derailed me quite often, resulting in the kind of inconsistency that makes it even harder to succeed. Of course, no man can serve two masters, much less when he’s the only one doing all the service. So I suspended one and followed the other.
I have also considered freelance gigs – in fact, I’m about to sign up as a home tutor on Prepclass to teach Math, Piano, or Tech Entrepreneurship.
Why then did I turn down the job offers? If I am broke and my startups are still not starting up, why am I still wasting my time?
First there is that sense of entrepreneurial responsibility. That loud voice in your head showing you different societal problems and charting possible solutions, showing you how many possible ways things could be done differently, reminding you of all the stuff you have read from books, blogs and other materials concerning entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship and how you long to try them out. A call to duty. All those ideas looking up to you expectantly like starving children looking into the fridge.
Then there is curiousity – the craving to know. To know what will happen if you tried, if you pursued those plans you have been contemplating, if you held on a little longer. To know if those voices in your head are right. If you can truly make a change, create something; convert an invisible opportunity to something tangible. To see how far your potentials can take you. You want to know if you too can become another intriguing success story.
Next is a strong sense of purpose, that superman, man-on-a-mission feeling; the conviction that you were “born for this”. By now, you have believed that first voice in your head and you have stepped out, and you have probably had your fingers burnt a few times already. But you are inexorably tied to the belief that it is up you and that you are up to it to your very fulfilment and happiness. Giving up will make you doubt if you can ever amount to anything at all, if you’ll ever lead a fulfilling life or ever taste victory. You start wondering if that is how you will keep chickening out forever.
Then there’s the bragging rights. To be right. To say “I did it. I made it”. A story to tell, a proof that you are indeed the man. That you held through. A trophy, your trophy, from which you can draw the confidence to attempt even bigger things. Even Jesus was said to have endured his cross because of this. This thought fills you with energy. If you are lucky, it drowns out the rumbling of your empty stomach and the aching legs that you have used to trek from Sabo to Anthony.
It could be a couple more things, but the fact remains that you have to have a strong enough reason to keep going till you get there – wherever it is you left your job to go.
I probably could have done a number of things differently that would have eased my journey. Saved up a little more money, maybe. But no one ever has enough money. Bishop David Abioye once said that God gave us brains for when there is not enough money. Quitting because of lack of funds feels like an insult to my brain. I believe that you develop some kind of mental muscle and prove your mettle by searching for ways around obstacles like this. I refuse to concede any excuse. Everyone that made it has had a reasonable excuse to quit at some point.
That is what this journey is about – making it, regardless of the how badly the odds are stacked up against you. Like many before me, I have attributed the consequences of my own foolishness. To the challenges of startups. Some to the devil. Still, they are all obstacles. They are in the way. Whether it is lack of funds, inexperience in negotiating and acquiring the rights and licenses for messages or the downside of your temperament; that is your own cross, and you have bear it to make it. I would rather face my challenges and learn – and I am learning – than hide behind a desk in some company.
So this Christmas, the guy that played it safe and kept his job can afford to go shopping, while I keep looking for how to get a user with just 10MB bonus data on a 3G network to buy and download a 32MB audio message. Be that as it may, I’m still not taking that job.