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The Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion

October 29 2014 – 08:06am

There’s little more exciting than working on your own idea. Time flies by, your brain lights up, and your blood pumps a little bit harder. You feel alive. You’re in a perfect state of “flow.”

When you get excited about your idea, you start fantasizing about what it could become. You imagine your usage graph soaring like a hockey stick.

You start to imagine what your life will be like when your idea takes off.

You imagine escaping your cubicle. You’ll finally be the one calling the shots. You’ll look forward to Monday mornings. You can almost feel the ocean air on your face, as you sip on a fresh coconut and answer a few emails from a beach in Thailand.

But when does all that you’ve imagined become a reality? “Maybe,” you think to yourself “3 months, maybe 6 months, maybe a year from now?”

For most entrepreneurs, it will take much longer than that. For many entrepreneurs, it will simply never happen.

The fate of those caught in the Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion

These poor souls will languish in the Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion. One of three things will happen:

  1. They’ll decide something else in their life is more important. Some people call this “giving up,” but the person doing the giving up doesn’t call it that. (Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re delusional.)
  2. They’ll forever blame their boss, their spouse, or other factors in their life for not being able to make their ideas a reality. It will just never happen for them.
  3. They’ll break out of the Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion, and learn how to put their ideas to the test without wasting energy. They’ll pick the right idea and move forward.

The Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion has strong currents that will keep Wantrepreneurs in limbo. They will either stagnate – adding to the putrefaction of this cesspool – drown, or swim their way out.

The mechanics of the Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion

The Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion is a complex network of forces, all colluding to protect the Wantrepreneur’s ego, while making sure they never make any real progress.


The “Tangibility Bias” keeps you concentrating on all of the wrong things. As you can see in the diagram above, Wantrepreneurs are protected from reality by their Delusions and Fears, which are supported by the Tangibility Bias.

Things that are tangible – such as prototypes, co-founders, and investors – take up more space in the Wantrepreneur’s mind. Things that are intangible, such as the business model, what value they are providing with their idea, or the characteristics of their target customer, don’t get as much mindshare. They concentrate on the “things,” when they should concentrate on the “stuff.”

The “Delusions” of the Wantrepreneur keep them from taking action. Things like “building a prototype,” “finding a co-founder,” or “getting investors,” are all very hard. They take multiple steps, and each one can take months, even if one knows what they are doing. The Wantrepreneur is convinced they can’t make progress without doing all of these things.

So, the Wantrepreneur engages in “Neurotic Time-Wasting” by doing things that can only loosely contribute to all of these very hard “must-haves” that are the subject of the Wantrepreneur’s Delusions.

Neurotic Time-Wasting often takes the form of reading articles from news sites such as Hacker News, attending meetups, and futzing with A/B tests that don’t ask important questions, and don’t collect sufficient data.

These are all things that have only some value, which makes it easy for the Wantrepreneurs to fool themselves into thinking they’re being productive.

Meanwhile, the Wantrepreneur gets all of the satisfaction of proclaiming “I am an entrepreneur,” when, in reality, they are supporting themselves with their 9-to-5 (or by some other non-entrepreneurial means).

Even if the Wantrepreneur gains awareness of “Reality,” “Fears” of things that come along with Reality, such as “Talking to people,” “Selling,” and “Accountability” further buffer the Wantrepreneur from taking meaningful action.

Poornima helped me stop my Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion

Poornima: definitely not a wantrepreneur.

Poornima: definitely not a wantrepreneur.

How do I know so much about wantrepreneuritis? I’m a recovering wantrepreneur myself. I’ve been at this for more than 10 years, and I’m still figuring it out.

Over the past year, I’ve been teaching Visual Design in a “Lean Product Development” class lead by Poornima Vijayashanker.

Poornima is not a wantrepreneur. Not even a recovering one. I doubt she ever has been a wantrepreneur.

In fact, she was the founding engineer at Mint, (yes, the Mint) where she helped build, launch, and scale the product until it was acquired by Intuit for $170 million.

Teaching the Lean Product Development course with Poornima has helped me with my wantrepreneurial flare-ups tremendously. Sure, I wrote a best-selling book, and built an email list of 30k subscribers, but I struggled to get products out the door, and collect money from customers.

But as soon as I watched Poornima’s lectures, my business changed. I was in the middle of cooking breakfast on a Saturday, and the methods she introduced had me brainstorming on my whiteboard until 3am.

I completely re-thought my customers, and how I approached their problems. I spent the next few months doing deep research based upon the methods I learned in the course. I was able to gain clarity and confidence in my vision – all before building a thing – and developed a plan of action.

Since then, I collected money from customers before I even finished building my product. When I finally launched, I knew there would be sales. I made $17,000 in sales in 4 days, thanks to the methods I learned from peeking in on Poornima’s lectures.

A free workshop to break the Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion

I’m teaming up with Poornima to bring you a free workshop on how to avoid wasting your time and energy in the Wantrepreneurial Cycle of Delusion. I’ll be picking her brain LIVE for an hour to show you:


Space is limited, and there’s a live Q&A so click here to register >>


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This post is filed under Entrepreneurship.