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Frustration is Good: Part 2 [Entrepreneurship
Posted on August 1, 2014 @ 09:41:00 PM by Paul Meagher

After my last blog, Frustration is Good: Part 1, I had the opportunity to discuss some of what I was learning about frustration with an entrepreneur/friend who has become fairly successful (2 million fund raise) but would not want to admit it for fear of jinxing things. He experienced over 5 years of frustration trying to get his company off the ground, came very close to company bankruptcy, but discovered an opportunity related to what he was trying to achieve, and capitalized on that opportunity which put everything back on track again. Now he is experiencing new frustrations associated with dealing with difficult people, not having enough time to enjoy the summer, and not feeling like he is working for himself. It seems life is never without its frustrations, we often just trade one set of frustrations for another. He is, however, much happier living with his current set of frustrations, than the frustrations that came when his company was teetering on the brink.

This entrepreneur was able to achieve what he achieved because he persevered through the many frustrations he encountered along the way. The frustrations he experienced along the way were also learning experiences that hardened him up, educated him about the perils of taking government money (e.g., they control spending often on their own economic development personnel), and taught him how the real game of raising private money is played. He was not a young man naive about the world when he learned these lessons. He had already had a successful career as a pharmaceutical representative when he decided he couldn't take it anymore, and started a business with a friend and partner who also left his job as a pharmaceutical representative. The world never stops frustrating you as long as you keep pushing the envelope.

It is very difficult to judge when the frustration you feel is telling you that you should give up versus try again or try a different route to your goal. It is unlikely, however, that you will achieve anything of significance without a considerable amount of frustration along the way. If you were fortunate and everything came easy, then how much would you have learned and do you think that you could repeat your success again? How satisfying do you think your success would be? Probably not as satisfying as if you achieved your goals by overcoming some frustrations along the way.

So in addition to helping us come to grips with reality, frustration is also generally a prerequisite to achieving a significant goal in life, and it can also heighten the satisfaction you feel when that goal is finally attained.

The mindful approach to frustration is to recognize that frustration is the price we pay to learn how the world works, to achieve big goals, and to feel a greater sense of satisfaction when we achieve our goals. The tricky part, however, is that frustration can also be a signal that the idea or business has no legs and perhaps we should try something else. My feeling is that the entrepreneur has a bit more persistence than most in the face of severe frustration, perhaps because the set of frustrations associated with owning and running a business are preferred over the set of frustrations associated with working for someone else.

I'll end this discussion on why frustration is good by pointing out one more reason it is good: because it is often the source of innovation and business ideas. There are some who accept the frustrations of life as givens, others who see them as unacceptable and come up with innovative solutions to avoid them. The story behind many successful products and services begins with frustration that an entrepreneur experiences when trying to do something and seeing a way to avoid or lessen the frustration.

I hope I have made a good case for viewing frustration in a more positive light. For the record, I don't think all frustration is good or positive, but for entrepreneurs in particular, I think we need to be very mindful about our frustrations, where they are coming from, whether they might be useful, whether they suggest an opportunity, what our reactions should be, and whether our present set of frustrations is better than other frustrations we might envision ourselves having if we were to do something different.

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