Most of what the average person reads about entrepreneurship sustains the mystique. We revere the outstanding successes achieved by extreme entrepreneurs from Edison to Jobs. Reading about these giants colors our perception of entrepreneurship. We admire their achievements but consider them beyond reach. Their stories sustain misleading myths about entrepreneurship that combine to keep capable people from embracing an entrepreneurial career. Here are some of the distortions that deceive us:
– Entrepreneurs are born and cannot be made
– Entrepreneurs are gamblers who take reckless risks to achieve high rewards
– Entrepreneurs work 24/7 and have little or no personal life
– Entrepreneurs need to fail in order to succeed
These established stereotypes derive from two specific types of entrepreneurs. First are the misfits or rebels who either cannot or will not conform; the gamblers to whom few of us can relate. Second and even more prominent are the tech entrepreneurs immersed in the world of venture capital where risk is high, failure is frequent and the rewards for success are dramatic. However Silicon Valley is not the center of the universe and these are not the definitive entrepreneurs; they are but two types of many, both removed from the traditional economy and the rock solid problem solvers that collectively form the engine that drives the economy. Those are the achievers that make things happen especially creating jobs while big business is chasing lower costs around the globe.
Let’s set the record straight
Entrepreneurship can be taught. It should be taught and it is being taught
Becoming an entrepreneur is all about the mindset not the skillset. Entrepreneurs find the way to make things happen they don’t always know the way. This is a teachable philosophy, entirely appropriate in a world dominated by change which generates knowledge and new problems at a phenomenal rate. Finally after fifty years of a flawed model focused on turning out executives for large corporations, colleges and universities have turned their attention to promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is not about the risk you take but the results that you achieve
It’s a startling paradox. Too many good opportunities die prematurely because so many potential entrepreneurs are risk averse. At the same time businesses are failing because of absurd risks fostered by the idea that being an entrepreneur is nothing more than a gamble. Entrepreneurs succeed through determination not by taking unwarranted risk. Managing your risk as you embrace it is critical. Not all ideas are opportunities and every opportunity is not viable.
Entrepreneurs need to find balance and will make mistakes and have regrets if they don’t
Having a work ethic is critical. During your startup phase and later when you encounter bumps in the road you will work long hours with great satisfaction. But as things progress and you don’t find balance you are missing something – failing to build your team, keeping too much control or limiting your own development. Both you and your business will suffer. Never forget: you are your most valuable human resource. Balance is a subjective decision but dividing your time does not preclude you from succeeding as an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs do manage their risk and avoid failure – if they fail they learn and move on
Describing failure as an essential part of success is pure rationalization. Admittedly many entrepreneurs are motivated by the fear of failure more than the rewards of success. Avoiding failure is a powerful source of determination. We do learn from failing because we take the time to analyze it. Success is elating and it masks our faults. Entrepreneurial infallibility is another myth that leads to bad decisions and setbacks that result from forgetting the basics.
What is an entrepreneur?
Most of us will never reach achievements like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. That does not demean what we do achieve. Society needs to recognize a broad definition of entrepreneurship at every level and value entrepreneurship of every type because in a world dominated by globalization and technology the one thing that we can count on is change across every element of our economy. Resilience and adaptability are important entrepreneurial qualities that allow us to embrace the ongoing pressure for change. In the simplest terms entrepreneurs are problem solvers who consistently make things happen. They are agents of change in an era of change. They are disruptors at a time when the status quo is a moving target. Do you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem? We can all become more entrepreneurial in our beliefs, break out of prison thinking and think outside the box. The alternative is personal stagnation and uncertainty evolving from lack of job stability, declining upward mobility and the shift in income distribution toward the rich. The most important skill you can develop is the ability to create and manage your own career,
Do understand: we can’t all be innovators but for every innovation there will be thousands of entrepreneurs finding applications for it that solve everyday problems producing jobs and independence in the mainstream economy. Being first is over rated. Doing things better and different often brings greater opportunity. Remember that coffee shops existed in London in 1650 but Starbucks found a new appeal and a great market niche for this old product that resonates in today’s economy.
Believe in your own ability. You can establish the mindset of an entrepreneur. You can eliminate the word ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary. You can approach problems by skipping right over the question “if” it can be solved and skip directly to the question “how” it will be solved. You can find opportunity and you can analyze to make sure that opportunity is viable. All of this can be done within the context of the traditional economy and you don’t have to be a tech genius to do it. Technology is not a threat but offers a great tool for you to use. We are entering a new era of entrepreneurship which means it really should be an option for almost anyone.
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