What it means to want it badly enough

I was recently asked what it means to “want it badly enough” in a sub-comment on Reddit and I thought I’d share my response with everyone here as a post.

A little about me:

  • I started a consulting business when I was 12 selling logos and websites on eBay
  • I ran an agency that generated 40k/mo before I took the plunge into SaaS
  • I founded a YC-backed startup called Draftbit that made it easy for folks to build mobile apps visually
  • Now I’m working on a new mobile app called Backpack

I’m 33. I’m the oldest son of Polish immigrants that escaped communism in the late 70s that found their way to Chicago. My mom worked hard at home, my dad worked hard in a factory.

Like many of you, I’ve had to learn “the hard way” what it means to be an an entrepreneur and quite frankly, I still don’t know if I really know what I’m doing, but I know I want it badly enough to keep going.

My parents have been here for 40 years, barely know English yet are remarkably successful for starting with nothing. Their real estate investments will allow them to retire and gave us kids a shot at 10x the life they fought hard for.

When folks say the US is “the land of opportunity” I’ve realized that phrase speaks to the men & women with the fundamental skills that build great enterprises. They were either born with it, were lucky enough to be mentored or wanted it badly enough they got there by sheer determination.

Naval makes the point that you could drop him into any foreign country and he’d be successful again 5-10 years later. I believe this and I also believe that it is a skill you can learn. It might be the hardest skill of all, however.

My friend’s dad taught him everything he knew about building a real estate empire.

Paul Graham taught Alexis Ohanian and the Collison brothers how to build internet companies.

That leaves all the rest of us who don’t have parental connections or mentors.

Whether you come home at 5, 8 or 10pm. Whether you just put your kids to sleep or had a shitty day at work, you’re probably beat. Fatigue is a feeling we all get and all feel in some way or another.

I know folks that get home at 5pm making 400k/yr+ yet still complain about how unfair life is and spend their night playing Call of Duty.

I also know immigrants who barely know English delivering groceries to the complainers during the day, then put their kids to sleep and spend the next 2 hours working on getting their construction business off the ground.

Whether you get thirty minutes or four hours each night, what you do with the time that you have for yourself will define who you’ll become in the future.

The future you want to build could take 2 years, or realistically 10, but as long as you work at it every day, you’ll get there.

That defining moment is up to you: “Do I want to figure out how to live the life of my dreams OR do I want to watch Netflix again tonight?”

Now don’t get me wrong, the chances of an immigrant going from delivering groceries to billions is extremely small, but going from $15/hr and turning that into a 250k/yr construction company is living the dream.

Becoming an entrepreneur is really hard, but not impossible. It’s especially hard if it’s your first time, you don’t have anyone to learn from, you don’t have a lot of time, you’ve got a family to take care of, the list goes on.

The first couple of years will be painful. You will fail 100 times over but you will learn from your mistakes and keep going.

I’ve had friends who were piss broke at 35 that retired at 40. I know someone who started a new company with 3 kids and are on track to hit $1M ARR.

Some folks figure it out early. Some folks figure it out faster. Some folks get a head start. That’s life. It’s not always fair.

So what does “wanting it badly enough” mean?

Wanting it badly enough means instead of watching Netflix tonight, watch a “how to” Youtube video.

Wanting it badly enough means instead of going to the bar, going to bed early and getting a head start on your day tomorrow.

Wanting it badly enough means looking past the uphill battles and life’s inevitable unfairness.

Wanting it badly enough means not feeling sorry for yourself and being resentful at the world for the easy choices that YOU’RE choosing to make.

Wanting it badly enough means putting in the work every single day.

I still haven’t figured it out, but I’m working hard to get there making sure every day counts.

I wrote this out for myself because I too need to be reminded. This is a life long battle and not something that will happen over night. I know through hard work I will get there and I know you will too.

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