Are Entrepreneurs happier than their corporate Pals?



That is a 1 million dollar question that many have either tried to answer, or tried to find out through trial and error.


To cut the story short, the answer is YES. Entrepreneurs are happier than their corporate pals. They live a life of adventure, success, fame and wealth. They hold their own destiny, they report to no one, and are an aspiration to their surroundings. 


Wait, I change my mind. In fact, entrepreneurs are miserable, and according to some statistics, they are more likely to commit suicide than their corporate pals. They miss the stability and security in their lives. The continuous stress, the late nights, the financial uncertainty, the pressure to attract customers or clients, the burden of carrying the weight of their micro and macro business challenges 24/ 7; all this puts them on the lesser lucky chair.


Does my approach seem indecisive? You are right, as I am trying to make a point.


On one side, there is a lot of literature that supports theory 1; that entrepreneurs are the happy crowd out there.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013 Global Report, prepared by Babson College and other universities and released in January 2014, findings say that entrepreneurs really are happier than other people. Another study by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business dwells on the very tangible rewards of business starters, and finds a strong correlation between entrepreneurship and happiness, one that holds true even if the start-up in question was not phenomenally successful.


Yet on the other hand, we read a lot about  the 80 - 20 intimidating statistics, that 5 out of 10 entrepreneurs fail within the first 18 months of their startup, while another 3 join them in the second 18 months. How could all this stress and failure be associated with happiness?

Let’s not limit this to failure. What about success? The first 60 minutes of the “Wolf of wall street” movie is an aspiration for many entrepreneurs. The second 60 minutes is a lifetime lesson! Since most entrepreneurs merge their persons with their company, any downturn in the company performance results in high levels of depression, unworthiness, and self-scrutiny.


After fairly representing both point of views, its time to share with you mine.

The answer is a conditional yes!

If you are an entrepreneur that is motivated and driven by the right reasons, then it is a yes; while it is a big NO, if you are swayed by the shallow motives.


Couple of years ago I had the chance to visit Bhutan; a small country on the borders of Nepal that prides itself for having replaced the popular GDP economic indicator with GDH – Gross Domestic Happiness. The term was coined in 1972 by Bhutan's fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who wanted to make sure that prosperity is shared across the society, and that its growth does not come on the expense of preserving culture and traditions.


Some of my most interesting discussions about the meaning of happiness, I had in Bhutan with simple and kind people. My favorite was Yeshi, our tour guide who shared with me insights about how true and sustained happiness stems from fulfilling Needs rather than satisfying Wants.


I get the chance to engage with many colleagues at different stages of their corporate business lives; many of which aspire to start a business, or collaborate in a new venture. Yet, when I start hearing common phrases such as “I am tired of working for someone else” or “I can easily make ten times my paycheck” or “Look at Mark Zuckerberg” or “I am fed up of the pressures or Corporate life” or “I have 3 great ideas but not sure which one to pick”, I start getting worried about the prospects of success and happiness once they make the shift. If these are your main drivers to make the shift, then better not.


Rightly motivated entrepreneurs are those who embark upon a journey of fulfillment. Like anyone else, they do want to succeed, make money and get famous, yet this is never their primary motive. What drives them is passion and love for what they do, or want to do.

An interesting book by Sir Ken Robinson called “The Element” defines the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. Every one of us has his/her own element, and when we find it and shape our lives (personal and professional), we achieve at our highest levels, we feel fulfilled and happy, and our work becomes our hobby rather than a task.

When you are in that status of mind, potential setbacks could lead you to disappointments, but not frustrations – to anger, but not sadness – to loss of opportunities, but not loss of hope.


So as you prepare to make this big jump, make sure to really understand your motives as well as have a deep understanding of yourself – your passions, your areas of strength, your talents, your ethics and your values. If you do that, I bet you that you shall succeed, be fulfilled, and be HAPPY!




About Bassam Falah

Bassam Falah is the Founder and Managing Director of INNOVEST, a management buy-in firm that partners with Entrepreneurs during their startup stage, as well as SME management teams during their expansion phase.

Prior to that, Bassam had gathered more than 15 years of corporate experience at leading blue chip global corporations with assignments across the Middle East and the Far East.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *