Men Wanted For Hazardous Journey: A Startups Metaphor

I recently finished reading Steve Case’s biography and manifesto on the future, The Third Wave. In the book, Case referred to an old ad placed by famed explorer Ernest Shackleton as a metaphor for startups. The ad Shackleton placed in the 1912 London Times was dubbed “Men Wanted For Hazardous Journey.”

After reading this the ad and hearing the comparison, I felt like it did a disservice to entrepreneurship and dissuaded individuals from pursuing their own entrepreneurial adventure, because all companies don’t show success in the same way.

Here is a copy of the original Shackleton ad:  

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. 

– Ernest Shackleton, Explorer (Wikipedia)

Newspaper clipping of original ad by Ernest Shackleton calling for men to join his hazardous journey for low pay and risk of no return.

Okay, okay. I get the premise. Startups, specifically tech startups, are fucking crazy! They are hard and non-stop.  You’re constantly going 1000 miles per hour, and you hope that your hard work and vision will propel you to the next level in your entrepreneurial journey. 

As you might know, I’m the Chief Marketing Officer at Inside. Even though Inside has been around for a few years now, the current iteration of Inside that I’m part of has only been around for a few months, so we are indeed in “startup” mode. And holy hell do we move fast.

And yeah, for me personally, that ad from Shackleton is incredibly relatable and exactly how I feel on a daily basis.  I really do believe that “honor and recognition” will come my way if success is achieved. 

With all of that said though… 

While I can relate to the metaphor, I don’t want every entrepreneur to think that is the only way to succeed. Not every startup or business needs to be a life or death matter. Sure, there is some debate around that, but I think it comes down to knowing what kind of business, or vision, do you currently have and what kind of business do you actually want to have? More importantly, what does success look like to you?

You don’t need to head off into the wild and cold for low pay with only a mere chance of success. Being small and independent is okay. Growing slowly is okay. Having a $1 million ARR business is okay. Having a $100 million ARR business is okay. It’s all relative to what your aspirations are as a founder and entrepreneur. 

As the Reum brothers coined, there are two types of companies: sail boats and speed boats. 

One is not better than the other, they are just different. 

Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes with all different goals. 

Right now, I’m part of a blitzscaling startup. For my next act though, I’ll be going after a calm and profitable business that grows appropriately and makes sure quality of life plays a key role in the business direction. 

My advice is this: don’t read startup books and think that “get big fast” is the only way to find success. That’s just not true. It is A WAY, but not THE ONLY WAY. 

In fact, here are a few other books that might help you in your journey to entrepreneurship. 

1) ReWork
2) The 4-Hour Work Week
3) It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work
4) Company Of One
5) Essentialism

Success comes in all different forms. For some, it’s starting a venture backed business that skyrockets or bursts into flames – and shit it’s a wild ride. 

For others, its having a good income, being able to have high quality work-life balance, owning your time, and doing things your way. 

There’s not right or wrong answer, you just have to do what’s best for you. 

Don’t let metaphors like Men Wanted For Hazardous Journey scare you from your entrepreneurial future. 

-AJM

Want to connect, you can always write me an email or connect with me on Twitter or Instagram

PS – If you ever want to jam about marketing or website design, I’m game!

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