Every so often a magazine or a book contains a list of "Top Five Traits of Entrepreneurs" or "Top Ten Signs of a Good Leader." I have nothing against such lists, but there is something they always leave out. We always read about being charismatic and optimistic and paranoid or even the servant leader. They tell us to have attention to detail, and attention to the big picture. We are supposed to be planners and we are supposed to be doers. But something is missing from all that. This something is a thing you may never realize until you go down this path and experience the exhaustion of the roller coaster that is entrepreneurship. The problem with all those traits is that they don't address a very important characterisitic of entrepreneurs – how they handle the ups and downs of starting a business.
It really is a roller coaster. The peaks are very high, the valleys are very low, and sometimes they are very close together. What I mean is that when you start a company, there are days when good things happen (sometimes several good things at once) and you feel so confident you are doing the right thing. You know that you will be successful and you feel unstoppable. But the very next day, or at least the next week, you reach the valley. Nothing goes correctly on these days. The big client you thought you had landed cancels. A bill comes in for something you didn't expect. Your best person quits because he can't deal with the uncertainty. Your ad hits a media publication and the phone still doesn't ring. There is a trait that allows people to deal with all this, and for lack of a better word, I'll call it steady realism.
As much as any other task an entrepreneur must face, she must deal with these manic highs and depressing lows. The peaks and valleys will come and if you get too high on a peak, you'll just come crashing down that much harder when the valley arrives. If you sink too low into the valley, you may never climb out. Therefore, entrepreneurs must have this steady realism to realize that the peak or the valley is not the end of the game. They must learn to temper the news, and take it all in stride. I don't really expect to see this in any lists anytime soon, but if you ever think about going out on your own it is something you definitely need to ask yourself. Can I deal with the highs and lows? If so, then just like a real roller coaster, the trip can be very rewarding.