Anyone who’s started a business knows how impossible launching one successfully can feel at first. In fact, the very notion of “impossible” stops many would-be entrepreneurs from ever starting companies and projects they’re passionate about – that could potentially change the world. Joel Runyon, founder of Impossible HQ, wants to change that. Why? It started with one simple reason: he got tired of only attempting things in life that he thought were “possible.”
So, he set out to live an adventurous life, working hard to accomplish things that he and many other people would consider impossible, including: running an ultramarathon, losing 20 pounds and gaining a six-pack, living in the mountains of Jamaica for five weeks straight, building a school, and going without internet for a month (gasp!). Joel began asking himself a question that many never take time to seriously consider: How do I live a great story?
And so, his journey to accomplish a long list of “impossibles” began. In the process of creating Impossible HQ, he unintentionally (but amazingly) created a network of followers who were inspired to accomplish their own set of “impossible” feats. That is perhaps one of the greatest rewards of entrepreneurship: how your risks and impossible accomplishments encourage others to take on and live out their own.
Below, Joel gives Technori readers his take on whether entrepreneurship is a learned skill, how to accomplish the “impossible,” and what he’s most excited about for the future.
MK: What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
JR: We’re entrepreneurs because we love writing our own stories. The adventure that comes from living life in the space between unfathomable success and catastrophic failure is infinitely preferable to living your life on a flat line and never having the chance to experience either.
MK: Do you think the propensity for entrepreneurship is innate, or can it be cultivated?
JR: I do think the desire to be an entrepreneur is innate. I think a lot of people would choose to create new things and have more control over their futures. The part that’s hard for people is the element of risk, and the tradeoff you have to make from a security standpoint in order to become an entrepreneur. The other challenge is that, unlike the structure you get at an established company, you have to completely create your own roadmap at a startup. There’s less certainty – but more fun – in creating your own roadmap.
MK: What advice do you have for the almost-entrepreneurs out there who are thinking about taking a leap into startup life?
JR: Start small. You don’t have to create the next Instagram or Facebook. There are so many entrepreneurs that make a good living for themselves by creating niche widgets that most people don’t know about. You don’t need to make $1 million the first year out. Figure out what you’re really good at. Understand what you do well based on your current or past full-time jobs, and figure out how you can contract those skills out to potential clients in your off hours. Try a couple of things. If you like doing what you try, stick with it. If you don’t, try something new. Use the time in your off-hours testing out new ideas without losing all of your security.
Most people are scared off by the idea of taking a big leap and hoping things work out. You don’t have to do that. Instead, try to create a mini-business in your free time. Figure out what works, and then when you decide to take a leap, you’ll have already learned from countless mistakes and will have a plan in place.
MK: What do you most want to accomplish with Impossible HQ?
JR: When I started it two years ago, the whole point of the blog was to have a platform to tell the story of my own life. Now, it’s become a platform to take people from talking about things to accomplishing things. That’s probably what I’m most excited about. It’s always nice when I hear from a reader who says, “That was a great blog post.” But, what really motivates me are the stories of people who start doing things they never previously believed they could do because of Impossible HQ. I’m also excited about creating tools, systems, and incentives for moving people from talking about doing the impossible to actually doing the impossible.
MK: What are you most excited about for the future, as it relates to you and the world at large?
JR: I really enjoy creating things – taking stuff from the ideation phase and creating something tangible out of it. Not just the end product, but the process of creating in and of itself. People have to transform who they are in order to accomplish the “impossible” – and it’s exciting to watch that kind of personal transformation, in myself and others. In the future, I’m most excited to see more people create more amazing things.
MK: Words of wisdom for all of the other full-fledged entrepreneurs out there?
JR: As an entrepreneur, you have a ton of decisions to make. There are countless ways things could go wrong and dozens of reasons why you should pack it up, start being realistic, and get a “normal” job. To top things off, you’ll have a million people telling you what you should be doing instead. The truth is only you know what you have to do. And when it’s time to make a scary decision, picture yourself as a character in a story: What would you be rooting for the character to do? Have the courage to do whatever that is.
The best stories feature characters who know they exist to make a difference. They’re so driven that you can’t help but watch. The story they’re telling- an against-all-odds attempt to accomplish the impossible- is so good that you can’t look away. As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to be that character. You only get one real shot to tell your story. Make it good. Do something that scares you. Do something impossible.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! At Technori, our aim is to celebrate and support entrepreneurs and startup culture. You can find plenty of content on our site every day that focus on the “nuts and bolts” of entrepreneurship. If this particular entrepreneur profile didn’t resonate with you, I’m sure there’s plenty of others on this site that will.
That’s understandable. You’re going with the “cast a wide net” theory, which is good for pageviews. I would, however, prefer more curated content as I have a long RSS reading list and my B.S. meter is going wild with this one. As an editor, I trust you to give me only the best and I know you can find better people to interview.
If you have any questions for me, you can ask me on twitter :).
For what it’s worth, I run a few other businesses (besides just my blog), have helped several startups (here in Chicago) and managed campaigns for international brands.
I hate B.S. as much as (probably more so) than you. If you have any questions, let me know.
Awesome interview! I’ve always loved Joel’s story. He has taken a value that matters deeply to him (doing the impossible) and not only designed his life and business around it, but has used it to inspire others. He’s also got a pretty broad theme that allows him to pursue many different projects, but they fit together cohesively through the sick branding and the “impossible” philosophy. Very cool.