There is a pervasive myth in our culture that glorifies the role of the entrepreneur as the symbolic representation of the heroic risk taker, the rags-to-riches icon, the driven loner questing for success, the no-holds-barred go-getter, or the master builder who has cracked the code of starting businesses.
Don’t believe it. It’s nothing but a cultural stereotype and hype. People love a hero. Rags-to-riches stories appeal to our dreams and sell magazines.
The truth is that entrepreneurs are everywhere, come from all walks and are driven by many passions and follow widely divergent paths. There is no homogeneity to entrepreneurs, they cannot be clustered and categorized. Each is unique, and, in truth, everyone is an entrepreneur, not with their business, but with their life.
Entrepreneurs are Born or Made?
There is significant debate in academic and professional circles about whether entrepreneurs are made vs. born, (nature vs. nurture) i.e., they either can be taught or they must be born with some unique quirk that makes them somehow different from the crowd. The answer is that both can occur. Many entrepreneurs are like zebras, horses of a different stripe, genetically predisposed to being undomesticatable. Others, like much of our growing senior population, have entrepreneurship forced upon them by economic need.
Entrepreneurship is a path, not a type of person.
Entrepreneurship is a path to walk in Life, not a stereotyped type of person. Some people seek this path, others stumble onto it, while others have it forced upon them by circumstance or happenstance. Some entrepreneurs simply have good luck.
It’s a process
The point is that entrepreneurship is a process, not stereotypical person, and entrepreneurship can be enhanced and guided with structure and counsel through the stages and steps. The hurdles one must face are becoming more identifiable as universities study it around the globe, and solutions are becoming more readily available. The knowledge and teachings of the steps of entrepreneurship are, after 20 or thirty years, now becoming mainstream knowledge. Furthermore, the population in general is recognizing that entrepreneurship is simply a part of the cycle of economic beginnings, the process of innovation, the source of new industries. This is human nature and economic sustainability in general. It is not iconic heroism, Every person is faced with the life dilemma of how they manage the building of their business, namely the business of their life.
Everyone needs to master the basics
As a consequence, every person must master the basics of entrepreneurship in order to grow their life. One must understand leadership, management, marketing, operations, branding, advertising and all of the others iconic elements of “entrepreneurship:’ if one is going to be successful handling a career, kids, personal finance, getting a new job every few years and making money for today as well as for retirement, even if you are a biologist. Everyone has to sell themselves and master these skills if even in a small way in order to make the best of the business of their life.
The “Business” Myth
Entrepreneurship seems to take on a mythic stereotype when the entrepreneur steps over the bridge to “start a business”. It is then that all of the “stuff” and experience and expertise of entrepreneurship become enmeshed in the crucible of leadership and the uncertainty of innovation and inexperience, and people tend to lose their minds. They fail to realize that they have been entrepreneurs all their life. Common sense is often lost in the mythic skills one must master in order to succeed or in the haze of planning or over-analyzing or in simple ignorance, and the entrepreneur gets lost. They lose themselves and they lose their way. Hope give way to despair or overwhelm or the pursuit of gurus, experts and investors right out of the box.
Common Sense is Underrated
But much of entrepreneurship is about perspective and common sense, tending to the basics and paying attention to basic principles, such as “walk before you run”, “pace yourself”, “do your homework”, “pay your taxes”, “garbage in-garbage out”, “build it and they will come rarely works”, “anything good generally comes from hard work”, and “growth and transformation is required”.
“The Forest For The Trees”
Many people who set out on the entrepreneurial path do so in a rush for information, knowledge, process and products. They seek technology, techniques and teachings of the latest and the greatest. But they miss the tree for the forest. What they need is wisdom. They need basic guiding principles and values to pave the way for their journey. Entrepreneurship is the journey of life. And all the spiffy technology and money and things that go with it mean nothing when one fails. Losing a marriage, a house and a fortune are all part of the game, unless one sticks to the fundamentals and listens to basic wisdom.
Part of the problem is that entrepreneurship is glorified by the press and our culture. People look for iconic leaders to put on a pedestal; to model their behaviors. The media report on heroic successes, but rarely report on the catastrophes and failures that led to the success or the dozens of failures that occur for every success. And most of those who report on entrepreneurs are reporters and journalists, whose jobs are to aggrandize the stories of success in order to make for compelling journalism.
Hence the myth of entrepreneurship is perpetuated in our society on a pedestal, when in fact, entrepreneurship lies within Joe and Jane Everybody. And the principles of entrepreneurial success lie far away from heroism or iconic success. The principles lie in basic wisdom, time proven principles and common sense.
What Really Lasts?
If one talks to successful entrepreneurs, the ones who are still standing with successful companies after 20 or 30 years, you will find that they generally chalk their success up to several factors: hard work, diligent planning, sound principles, good people, a vision, making mistakes, learning, learning and more learning, planning for the unexpected and dumb luck.
What this means for the prospective entrepreneurial leaders is what every good venture capitalist will tell them; Focus on fundamentals. Do your homework. Surround yourself with good people. Have a plan, and a backup plan. Plan for success and failure. Have a disciplined work ethic. Learn how to get and take advice. Be careful with other peoples’ money. Everything takes twice as long as you think and costs twice as much as you have planned for.
The list goes on, but the principles remain the same. It’s the process, not the outcome that remains the holy grail of success, and it all depends upon people and leadership. It is simple basic stuff. If you don’t know what you are doing, look for wisdom first, information second.
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