Entrepreneurship is in kind of a peculiar place right now.
Today, entrepreneurship is seen as more of a viable and desirable career option than ever before, when not that long ago, it was seen as more of a controversial alternative to the widely considered “more traditional” path.
Today, the most successful — and digitally accessible — entrepreneurs are like rockstars. And I know this because I used to work for one. In fact, I was with Gary V. one time when a fan first ran up to him on the street to ask for a selfie, and I remember him saying that it had been starting to happen more and more. Fast-forward a handful of years and the man has thousands of true fans who show up to see him everywhere he goes.
We’re living in a time when the Jack Dorsey’s, Kevin Systrom’s, and Evan Spiegel’s of the world are not only becoming household names, but their achievements are becoming the new standard for success for many adolescents who are growing up online and using their products and services on a daily basis.
And that’s great! On one hand, I love where entrepreneurship is at the moment. I love that kids are starting to grow up with businessmen and women as their idols, I love that their idea of what’s possible is dramatically expanding, and I love that they’re starting to be taught and can better understand that entrepreneurship is an option (in some cases, the option) for them to pursue their dreams.
But let me be clear about one simple thing: entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody.
Entrepreneurship is AN option but it’s not always THE option.
A Deeper Examination of Brand ‘Entrepreneur’
There are two lines from J. Westenberg’s article above that I felt the need to highlight:
I don’t want to imagine a world where nobody is willing to work on someone’s idea just because they didn’t have it themselves.
There are a thousand different ways to be a human being. No, make that a million.
I think somewhere along the line, the marketing around the idea of being an entrepreneur went a little stale. It’s kind of tough to explain, but damnit, I’m going to try…
The way entrepreneurship has always been marketed, at least in my experience, has generally been by attacking the long-perceived traditional route I mentioned earlier. By pointing out the flaws in the traditional “system” — the corporate ladder, living at a desk, answering to corporate overlords, building someone else’s dream— entrepreneurship was always made to seem like a very enticing alternative to that system.
The problem is that even though entrepreneurship is now in its golden era, that marketing has never changed. Sure, it’s shifted a little. There’s looking at the benefits of living an entrepreneur’s lifestyle — being your own boss, working from anywhere, building your dream versus anybody else’s — but that’s more or less saying the same thing, just coming at it from the other direction.
If the original goal of this marketing was to create more entrepreneurs, the internet itself has already taken care of that, because your favorite social network is FILLED with them (and I’m one of them, by the way).
So, how about an update? What might a brand refresh look like for entrepreneurship?
Signing Up for the Right Reasons
If you’ve made it this far, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to either of those questions. I signed up to be an entrepreneur because, frankly, it’s something I always wanted. From an early age, I exhibited what some would call “entrepreneurial tendencies” and before I even knew the word ‘entrepreneur’ existed I was already adept at building little side hustles.
I never bought into the façade that entrepreneurship equaled guaranteed success. After all, the more popular entrepreneurship gets, the more success stories there will ultimately be. But anyone who tries it will know that success is more like a never-ending chase.
When I think about it now, the fact that I always wanted to be a quote-unquote “entrepreneur” is why I ever even gave myself permission to call myself one in the first place. Not because it was the cool thing to do, but because it was simply the best word to describe what I was truly intent on being.
‘Entrepreneur’ shouldn’t be branded as something that’s any different or better than any other job title that’s out there. It requires a bit of a different mentality, sure, but really it’s just a contrasting way of going about things in terms of one’s career. It’s a word less so than a state of being.
A Friendly Piece of Advice
When I think about what I’ve set out to do in creating The Ascent, I didn’t set out to create a community that’s by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. No. The Ascent is a community of people. People who are documenting their journeys; their journeys up the corporate ladder, through school, past obstacles or hardships, and yes, even building their own businesses.
If I were to end this article with a friendly piece of advice, it would be to decide how you want to live your life — how living your life could best suit you — before committing to one path over another. And regardless of what that path is called, make sure it’s what’s right for you.
Everyone only gets one life. The career path you choose shouldn’t be the sole thing that defines it. Live, instead!
Now here’s a slight call-to-action because I do identify as an entrepreneur 🙂
Read more: The Ascent