There is a fine line between entrepreneurship & insanity*

“It is true that there is a fine line between entrepreneurship and insanity. Crazy people see and feel things that others don’t. But you have to believe that everything is possible. If you believe it, those around you will believe it too.” Anita Roddick *


The Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland (Sir John Tenniel,
1865. Wood-engraving by Dalziel)

Many of my  friends think I’m as Mad as a Hatter! I gave up a well paid stable job to pursue hare brained ideas. And I continue to spend ever increasing amounts of money without return. They say, “I just don’t understand.” or “it makes no sense.” Not many people working in comfortable jobs seem to understand. They see only danger and risk. However I don’t see it as risk but as opportunity.

The academics say entrepreneurs don’t see their actions as taking risks. The entrepreneur sees their decisions as calculated judgements. “isn’t it a risk staying in your job year after year” I heard. My more sympathetic friends tell me how brave I am having a startup, especially with a young family. In fact, people have been telling me how ‘Brave’ I am for years. Like when I moved to London OR when I left a well paid job in London to go traveling for a year.  “I wish I could do that”. Well you can!! Live your dreams and don’t let fear rule you.

Are entrepreneurs mad or unstable? Is there something  more sinister lurking in the mind of startup entrepreneurs? I think not. Insanity, craziness or madness is described in Wikipedia as “the behavior whereby a person flouts societal norms and defective function of mental reasoning”. As Anita Roddick put it so well- entrepreneurship is about beliveing and seeing things that others don’t.” Its having a dream of how things can be. This is the Successful Product dream Simon, my co-founder and I are chasing with our website monitoring startup:


Understand the Risks, from Tim Berry’s
Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning

We dream of building something great! A consultancy service is less risky and brings immediate revenues but has a smaller upside. Whereas the product startup needs more time and has much greater risks but also massive potential rewards.

We can all dream of a brighter and grander future. Martin Luth King had a “dream” which is now coming to fruition. Entrepreneurs see a clear pathway into an uncertain future and are prepared to pursue that dream with vigor and determination. Doubters will only believe in entrepreneurs dream when they see it forming into reality. It just takes time before an idea starts to become real.

A final thought:There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”(Oscar Levant, 1906 – 1972). To truly create we must leave convention, the norm and even reality behind. For a while at least 😉


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12 Responses to “There is a fine line between entrepreneurship & insanity*”

  1. distillednotions Says:

    I completely agree that we should follow our dreams and not allow ourselves to be ruled by fear. But maybe we’re all ruled by fear to the same degree, but it’s our views of the world that, differing drastically, create an entrepreneur here and a domesticated human there.

  2. Nick Barker Says:

    Hey distillednotions 😉

    Thanks for the comment. Your right fear is in all of us. Its in our nature with the fight-or-flight response. How we deal with stressful situations is determined by our experience and physiological tolerance to epinephrine stress.

    I’ve met and studied career Entrepreneurs i.e. people who started companies straight after leaving/dropping out of school or college and have never worked as an employee. They don’t know it any other way. To them the stresses of running a business which many employees would find very challenging are natural and normal.

    I think some people are naturally more suited to having startups than others. However managing stress and dealing with challenging situations can be learned. In the modern day world rarely do we encounter emergencies that require the fight-or-flight response. Its a willingness to learn and adapt that’s at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit. And we can all learn.



  3. Jon Says:

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for this post, it really got me thinking about some of the traits of working in the web industry.

    I think web workers can sometimes be left frustrated when explaining the work we do and why it is important. It may even lead us to doubt our visions.

    Open a shop on the high street or start a brick and mortar business and people are instantly impressed. Build a ‘web site’ and they may not be. “Surely it only takes a few of hours to put one together?”

    We must remember though, that for many, the Internet is just a place to check emails or to browse FaceBook.

    Without the knowledge of how so many companies have been succesful through web-based products and services, many people are not qualified to judge whether what we are doing is worthwhile or not.

    So I think the only time we should be concerned about our work is if people in our own industry think we are insane. The rest of the time we must just work hard and keep focussed on our goals.


  4. Nick Barker Says:

    Hi Jon

    Glad you enjoyed the post – good feedback always appreciated 🙂 The Tech/web industry certainly is unique. Software, SaaS/web apps -there are no other products like them in our economy.

    Your right people are so used to a Windows GUI front-end and websites they think it’s easy to do. Admittedly it has got alot easier than it used to be with web frameworks, etc.

    Most web people we’ve met are very positive about what we are trying to build and our vision for Aware Monitoring.

    Thanks for the support.



  5. Keith Dixon Says:

    Hi Nick

    I really hope you are successful with the new company. I think you have defiantly made the right decision with the change of your company name. What I am fascinated by is the ongoing work you have to do in the background while still developing the product. I am also fascinated by the financial investment that has to be made before you start to see a return. You deserve all the success that I am sure will come.



    • Nick Barker Says:

      Hi Keith

      Thanks for the support and good vibes. Glad you like the name, although the URL is a bit long. There is so much to do in the background with a startup whilst building a product. I hope your right and it all turns out good. Thanks again!



  6. Stress Personalities Says:

    Thanks for a great blog! Checkout my site if you like. Really a nice design and content you got here…

  7. Nick Barker Says:

    Hi Stress Personalities

    Why thank you 🙂 Glad you like the design and content.

    I hope the fact you are commenting on my blog does not make me a stressed personality?

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