On social media, you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of entrepreneurial personalities proclaiming their loyalty to “the hustle.” The message is generally the same: “I hustle harder than anyone else, and that’s why I’m rich and successful. I’m all-in.” While this may be true for some of these entrepreneurs, they may work very hard, I think most are full of it. They romanticize the entrepreneurial grind and try to make it sexy in a bid to prop up their brand. Truth is, they don’t even know what being all-in means.
A large percentage of the population has never really been all-in on anything – their commitment is flimsy. Results are embellished behind the veil of flashy social posts.
Sensational Instagram accounts aside, what does it mean to be all-in?
There are a few definitions; one means to risk it all, another means exhausted. Both apply for entrepreneurship, but let me give you a real-world example of being all-in…
I was reminded of what it means to be all-in a couple weeks ago. I took my son to the hospital because, for the second or third time, he managed to crack his head open while playing hide and seek with his brother. Boys find ways to hurt themselves anywhere, at any time.
Arriving at the ER, we discovered a packed waiting area with sick and injured kids. The place was full but for a couple of seats. Because we had stopped the bleeding on my son’s forehead, we were a less urgent case than most others in the waiting area. There were some really sick and injured kids in there. From pneumonia to the flu, mental illness, and what looked like a broken arm, many kids were hurting pretty bad.
I had a lot of time to people-watch while we waited to get my son’s head fixed.
And what I saw in that waiting area, from fellow parents, defined what it means to be all-in.
I remember looking at some of the faces of the parents in the hospital waiting area. They were exhausted — bags under their eyes, coffee in hand (even though it was nearly 9 PM), and one sibling hanging off their arm while the other sick or injured one lay down in their lap. I saw many parents in their early twenties who looked 40+. That’s what no sleep will do to a person. Yet they were there and at the ready to help, waiting to react at a moment’s notice for their child’s well-being. Their personal comfort, health, sleep, and desires be damned. They were singularly focused on getting their child healthy again. If you had told them the only way their child would get better would be to boat across the Atlantic to a particular doctor in Spain, and do so in a canoe, they’d ask for paddles.
I witnessed one mother catch vomit from her son in her hand so as not to make a mess around the other people waiting. I saw a Dad carrying three blankets, dinner, and a newborn in his arms as he met his wife and older child in the waiting area. I noticed another Dad sitting in a back-breaking position on a tiny chair while rocking both his babies to sleep. One of the babies had been crying non-stop since we got there an hour prior; so once he had her quiet and comfortable, there was no way he was moving – even if it came at the cost of his back being in pain for a few days.
Parents will do anything for their children at any time. There is no end of shift for parents, and their needs are secondary, never mind their wants. Their kids are their life. This embodies what it means to be all-in on something or someone.
So when you’re wondering what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur, think about what parents do for their kids, and what they give up for the betterment of their children. That’s the sort of behaviour you’ll need to replicate to be an all-in entrepreneur, which is often a precursor to success.
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