Wisdom from Starting and Ending a Business

by Jacqueline Bull February 26, 2018


ethan-senturiaJewish entrepreneur Ethan Senturia, who ran an online business lending platform, has turned his business failure into a valuable lesson and a candid book about what it is really like to immerse yourself in the startup world in “Unwound: Real-time Reflections of a Stumbling Entrepreneur.”

During our phone conversation, (early morning to fit in with his schedule), Ethan casually shared so many pieces of wisdom, so I’ll let him do the talking.

Finding a new image of the entrepreneur

“There is a romanticized vision of being an entrepreneur – this idealized vision. Painting the picture of the entrepreneur as sort of in many ways the explorer, or the adventurer, or buccaneer, or cavalier, or warrior. They talk about ‘being in the trenches’ and all that stuff . It is not nearly as heroic as people make it out to be … If you drill into the head or into the life of each of those people, you know they are still just people who wake up and go to work, and gotta figure out how they are going to pay the employees, and make sure your wife or husband is happy and keep the kids going to school and make sure their homework gets done.”

Living in between high highs and low lows

“We have this grandiose sense of self and and tend to be narcissistic and think what we are doing is creating the future and are like artists – we create something out of nothing the same way someone paints a canvas or writes a song. But I think for someone going into it, I wish I had more of a balanced picture of like ‘Hey you know in between those punctuated moments of high highs and low lows, there is a lot of grinding and nothing heroic about it. You have to find a way to take pleasure in that.”

Building self identity

“We tend to associate ourselves with what we achieve. We kind of measure our worth by our successes and in large part those tend to measure in dollars or in the car you drive or the house you live in. And for anyone who has invested deeply in something whether you are a parent or a volunteer in a nonprofit or an entrepreneur who has created a business. You tend to build an identity around that thing and associate your worth and your confidence with the efficacy of what it is that you’re doing. And what I had to struggle with as I went through a failure is that the company can fail without me being a failure. And really trying to understand what it means to divorce the who you are from the what you do or what you achieve. My hypothesis is that having gone through that experience and having that realization is that I’ll be a better business person, I’ll probably be a better person.”

Finding balance

“In the valley, in the startup world, there is this fear – and this is going to sound ridiculous – but there is this fear that ‘If my company fails, I lose my manhood’ … It’s like this ‘I’m emasculated. I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed.’ That fear can lead to some toxic behavior… I think even though the startup world believes you have to beat your chest and run through brick walls and be myopic and maniacally focused on only your company. That is sort of what defines you. My hypothesis is that balanced entrepreneurs with broader perspectives will outperform and that is a false prerequisite that you need to be overly obsessive about what it is that you do and tie your identity to the outcome of it.” Α


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