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Life of an entrepreneur: Tears and fears, guts and glory

By Krishna Kumar
Last updated on: January 20, 2015 17:28 IST
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Entrepreneurship is like boxing. Where every entrepreneur has to live his life in a 16x20 box, if lucky then in a 20x20 one. So is the case with me. Once inside the ring, you only have two outcomes. Either you get knocked down or you knock someone off. There is no in-between, says Krishna Kumar.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

Entrepreneurship, they say, is a game of sports, competitive sports, where you play to win.

What kind of sport is it?

Is it like swimming, where you have to go against the flow? Or, is it like sailing, where you have to leverage the tide?

They say it’s like running, not the sprint but a marathon, where you are in for the long haul. Hmm…

Some say, entrepreneurship is about long and high leaps, it’s not simple, it’s complex, so it must be a combo of both long jump and high jump.

Yes, it is complex, if not complex then I have to make it so. Complex like the problem they gave me as a kid. To draw a triangle and a circle simultaneously, holding pen in each hand. Big deal! My father is an engineer and my mom an artist, so I have a genetic predisposition to execute upon such a simple task.

Drawing a circle is simple; my left hand can draw it. For the triangle I will use my right. But wait, it’s not working… Let me swap roles. Circle with the right and triangle with the left. First try. Second try. Third try… Nth try.

Sorry, that was a stupid problem to solve, I am destined to take up and execute upon bigger challenges.

Hey, come on, you have digressed, we were talking about ‘playing to win’, so play, act, just don’t intellectualise.

Oh yes, I am sorry. Let’s get back to the basics.

Where were we? Ah yes, we left it at combo meal.

It’s not like running, it’s not like swimming, and it’s not like sailing too. What must it be like?

Maybe its’ like gymnastics, doing the fine act of balancing? Yes, it’s elegant, it’s beautiful, it’s elegantly beautiful.

Gymnastics is an individual sport, while entrepreneurship is teamwork. So it has to be more like football or basketball or for that matter volleyball. All these games are too tiring; they are for the ‘hoi polloi’. Entrepreneurship is for a certain class of people who come with a special background.

It’s like golfing, provided there is enough venture funding in the bank. I can then make all the right swings, once you have money in the bank you can hire several caddies while you hop around from one hole to another in the comfort of your cart.    

That’s how entrepreneurship should be, but then….

Any game of sports involves competition, so is it with entrepreneurship. I am not alone; there are others with whom I am competing and I need to know their moves, 10 moves ahead. Rather, I should lay the ground with a plot, so that I can trap others in my fifth, 13th or 19th move. I have done all the crunching in my head; it’s a done deal.

Well, but then why am I getting nightmares? Why does my body feel so heavy? Physical exhaustion is in equal measure like its emotional and spiritual cousin.

There are days… weeks… months when I have felt it, the pain has been real. So real that many a time I have felt it in my bones.

I feel entrepreneurship is like boxing. Where every entrepreneur has to live his life in a 16x20 box, if lucky then in a 20x20 one. So is the case with me.

Once inside the ring, you only have two outcomes. Either you get knocked down or you knock someone off. There is no in-between.

Defending yourself is like one feature in the product and avoiding punches a small subset of that feature.

No boxer, however good he is, can build himself up to avoid punches. If you want to avoid punches then boxing is not for you. The only expectation you have henceforth is punches, punches and more punches. Be prepared to get battered and bruised: physically, emotionally and spiritually, from the point the gong is sounded.

You may be lucky to get some quick and early wins but then, do not mistake winning a battle as winning a war. For the big fight is yet to start. When D-day dawns is when the real thing happens.

Left. Right. Left. Right. Left.

Left. Centre. Right. Centre. Left.

Before you know it the slow flow of punches quickly turns into a cascade.

Left. Left. Right. Right. Left. Centre. Left. Right. Left. Centre. Left.

Oh my god, I don’t even know anymore whether it’s on the left, right or centre, all I know is there are blows one after the another in such quick succession that I am punch-drunk; all I can feel is pain, pain and more pain.

As the fight progresses, the pain disappears, there is no more of it. For pain and I have merged and what is left is only pain.

As one round moves to another, my thought for a moment travels down memory lane to pick that instant when I decided to become an entrepreneur. Before I could come closer to picking that one thought, the barrage of punches has become fast and furious.

At that moment I look at the referee and plead to take me out of this hell. But he is helpless, as the key to the lock is with me and not him.

That key is either to knock out or get knocked out.

What can I do to transcend the matrix of space and time and bring an end to this self-invited misery? Even my soul seems caught in the whirlpool.

I can now see my opponent marching towards me. I feel like standing on the tracks, feet stuck to the ground, with the bullet train hurtling towards me. Once the train goes past, I know I won’t be left dead. Because there would be nothing of ‘I’ left.

In the depths of my soul I pray, beg, plead, cry, wail, curse, but nothing seems to help.

Exit is the only way to end the misery.

From the corner of my eye I can now see the final knockout punch coming at me, even before my opponent has raised his hand.

At that moment, searching in the far depths of consciousness, a speck of thought frees itself. As it starts it journey, in a flash that single thought has built itself into a massive avalanche, rolling down, gathering unfathomable momentum, and as it builds and builds and builds it transforms itself into the brilliance of a thousand exploding Suns.

Consciousness joins awareness to forge a final blow from me. I can now see my opponent flung to the far end of the ring. I see my own fear, doubt, anger, greed, and jealousy going down the side ropes.

In a flash everything comes alive, from the first day at the academy to the time I entered the ring. As thoughts flash by one after the another, a tear drop rolls down my cheek, merges with blood and sweat to become one.

All the thoughts come together to become a soap bubble ready to set forth on its mystical journey.

Krishna Kumar is a long-distance runner, inspiration seeker and speaker who helps companies grow by leveraging mobile internet. He can be contacted at

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