As you might expect, people like to talk innovation and entrepreneurism with me. They want to know what it’s like to live the life of a startup. When did I decide to go out on my own? How did I know it was the right time?
And, inevitably, they ask me if I think they have the right make up to do it, too. Could they make it as an entrepreneur?
I can’t help thinking they’re asking the wrong questions. And, frankly, I know the answers to those questions simply because they’re asking them. More on that in a minute.
What they really should be thinking about and talking about and asking me about is their idea. Their dream. Their vision.
I can’t tell you if you’re an entrepreneur or not. No one can. It is the most personal of decisions and requires a deep understanding of yourself and what motivates you.
In my case, I never actually cared about being an entrepreneur. I was 27 years old with three patents and nine awards under my belt. But those were just proof of concept, not the concept itself. What I cared about was whether or not I had the grit. It was sheer ambition. I believed I could do anything, build anything, do something great. So I did. I threw myself off that cliff and never looked back.
But that’s me. This is about you.
Something that might be helpful is to remember that innovation doesn’t live solely in the world of the entrepreneur. Amazing work is still being done within the corporate structure. Some people want to create for someone else – an existing company. There is nothing wrong with that. Companies can provide the processes and minds and financial support that form the foundation for innovation to thrive.
For others, the mere thought of a corporate structure is stifling and confining.
I can also tell you that after my cliff dive, I learned a few things…
- There is a lot more business, and a lot more selling, than I thought there would be. Coming up with the idea is only the first step. If you can’t monetize it, you have no business. You’ll need investors and companies to continue moving along the path to market. That means selling – yourself, your idea, your ability to make it happen. And then selling some more. And when you’re tired of the selling, you have to sell even more. I love it.
- Ordinary is surprisingly easy. It is the default pathway for most people. Ordinary can bring a good living and a lot of cool invitations. But ordinary is the enemy of the entrepreneur. It was never in the cards for me. I’m just not wired that way, and neither are the people I admire and try to surround myself with.
- We hear about the need for perseverance throughout our lives. Believing when everyone around you is a skeptic, and pulling yourself out of bed after a bad round of investor meetings, is the essence of perseverance and the essence of the entrepreneur. Jay-Z was deceptively perceptive when he said, “The genius thing we did was we didn’t give up.” I love the hustle. I live for the magic. Success is the byproduct, not the driver. I love the journey.
- I’m amazed at how many people are afraid to make a mistake. I mean, truly afraid. This risk aversion cannot live in the same body as the entrepreneur, because we excel at making mistakes. Where we’re different is that the mistakes don’t define us. The solutions do. There’s always a solution if you look hard enough.
And that point I said I’d return to? Generally speaking, if you have to ask whether you’re an entrepreneur, you’re likely not, or you’d already know. That follows what I call the Miles Davis Test. Davis was asked late in his life whether he planned to keep making music. His paraphrased response: “I have to. I can’t help it.”
That’s the soul of the entrepreneur.
Read More : Forbes