Sunday Snippet: Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn Founder)

“Starting a company is like throwing yourself off the cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down.”

Entrepreneurship, on any scale, can be an incredibly daunting and intimidating venture. I took that momentous leap of faith ten years ago to launch my own freelance writing business. At the time, I didn’t even have the faintest of clues about the kind of aircraft I would need to survive this journey. And yet here I am, still soaring through these skies into more uncharted territory.

Oftentimes misquoted as the definition of an entrepreneur, this quote from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman illustrates the very scary reality of starting a business. When you get hired by an established company, after you’ve survived the initial probation period, you don’t have to feel like you’ve just jumped off a cliff. Instead, it’s more like you are a new passenger on an existing train. And the other people along for the ride can help you with directions.

When you start your own company, particularly as a solopreneur, you don’t have that kind of support system in place. As much as you try to plan ahead, as much as you try to scout out the conditions that may lay before you, at some point you just have to throw yourself off the cliff. You may think that you have the right components to assemble your plane, but you likely have an incomplete blueprint. And then you realize, as you’re free-falling, that you’re missing a part.

Entrepreneurship means that you will always be on the brink of total catastrophe and perhaps that is part of the appeal. It’s the adrenaline rush. It’s having faith in your own skills and abilities. It’s patching up your aircraft on the fly (terrible pun intended) and making adjustments to keep yourself afloat. It’s about owning your success and learning from your failures.

Even though Reid Hoffman may not be a household name like Elon Musk, his influence on the tech industry has been profoundly significant. He launched what may have been one of the Internet’s first social networks in 1997, several years before that became a “thing.” He was a part of the board of directors when PayPal was founded, going on to serve as the company’s chief operating officer and later its executive vice president.

And yes, he co-founded LinkedIn in 2002 as the first business-oriented online social network. In addition to his work there, he has become one of the most successful angel investors in Silicon Valley. Ever hear of, Kongregate, Flickr, Digg or Airbnb? He has been involved in all of those and more. As of last year, his estimated net worth is just shy of $5 billion.

Reid Hoffman has hurled himself off several online cliffs in his day. And he has demonstrated that he’s pretty great at building planes.

Image credit: Joi Ito (Flickr)