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The Entrepreneurial Spirit

I can’t remember who told me this, but they said “not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur.” (If it was you please let me know and I’ll give you credit.) Since then it’s been swimming around in my head non-stop.

To me an entrepreneur is someone who wants to follow their own path, not necessarily someone who runs their own business. They’re leaders, not followers. They find joy in breathing life into an idea. They prefer fewer instructions, not more.

Personally, I can’t imagine wanting things any other way, but lots of other people can and do. There are a ton of individuals out there who would prefer to do what they’re told and like the structure and regimen: They enjoy executing someone else’s vision.

It was an important reminder to me. I think it’s an important reminder to many of us. We are not ‘regular’.

For me it’s always been this way. At three I wore two different socks because I could. In kindergarten I refused to do the math problems everyone else was doing. In middle school I proved the teacher wrong on a question he had been asking classes for 20 years. I’m not bragging, just saying that I never knew it any other way. (Seriously, though, who brags about wearing two different socks?)

When I was told that not everyone thought that way, an idea that I’m sure sat somewhere in my mind, all of a sudden surfaced. I’m not saying one is better than the other, just that we don’t all have the same thing driving us. Many seek stability, normalcy and routine: They prefer to have a job they could easily describe to a stranger.

Different things make each and every one of us tick and I don’t think we acknowledge that often enough. I know I fall into the trap often of overgeneralizing based on my own experiences, or the experiences of a select few around me. It’s important to dig deeper and look beyond our own prejudices. Sure you can use your own world to draw larger ideas, but once in a while we all need to get shaken up a little bit and reminded that what we see as normal might not be that way to everyone else.

At least that’s what “not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur” means to me. How about you?

January 5, 2007


  • Alex Becker says:

    I though that had something to do with being a leader and not a follower. To me an entrepreneur deals with taking financial risks and doing it your way.

  • liz says:

    Nice topic. Marching to the tune of a different drum (or even a different instrument entirely – I prefer the cello or sax myself) is not necessarily a comfortable thing, but it’s always interesting.

    I knew at an early stage in my working life that organisational life wasn’t for me – and then went about finding ways to thrive economically and personally that took me away from there.In the process I have met so many people who live and work in many different ways (including those who stay in organisations) – and really enjoyed and respected them. There are days when I envy the routine and regular pay cheque – and know that I wouldn’t change the way I choose to create my life, with all its risk and rewards.

    My way certainly aint the only way. I often would have clients who say they one day want to be entrepreneurs – as if that’s an ultimate goal. My reply is – why? It suits me but I wouldn’t recommend it to many people.

    Fundamentally it’s about working out what’s important to you and how you want to work in the world – and then – doing it with energy, integrity and enthusiasm. To me, that’s success.

  • candice says:

    I had a relative ask me over the holidays if I had applied for some job or other. Job? Are you kidding me? I work six or seven days a week and go to school, why on earth would I be looking for a day job?

    A lot of folk will discount you as a lazy bum if you call yourself a freelancer, too, which is annoying.

    They can say what they like. I am so much happier professionally when I’m not an employee.

    We need more girls in this camp, too.

  • Joe Andrieu says:

    Spot on. I also agree with Liz’s comment about why non-entrepreneurs would desire it.

    Me, I’m addicted. I have a hard time working for other people. The few times it’s worked well were fleeting and depending heavily on the intensity of the project and my respect for my boss.

    Give me the freedom of entrepreneurship, and I’ll take the risks and insecurities that go with it any day over a nine-to-five job.

    In fact, just a few weeks ago, my cousin’s wife suggested I move up to their part of the country. “Lot’s of great jobs around here. You’d find something perfect for you in a hurry.” When I said I don’t want a job I think she thought I didn’t want to work. ;) Oh man, that’s rich.

  • Michael Karnjanaprakorn says:

    I had this conversation with a friend over lunch a couple of weeks ago. Some people just like the security of coming to work everyday, getting their shit done nad going home with nothing to worry about. (I’m speaking from the perspective of owning a company versus working for one)

    You can also have the argument that you can still work for a company if it has the right structure that fosters entrepreneuriship. I just think that in advertising, we get paid for our creativity and thinking which is intangible so we often jump to the conclusion that we can do it ourselves without our boss, our clients, our company, etc.

    In London, I read that the top banker got a bonus of £50 million pounds which comes out to $100 MILL USD. Imagine getting a bonus like that for winning a new business account for your company. I guarantee you that a lot more people would be working a lot harder.

  • Josh says:

    Excellent post. I think it’s easy for entrepreneurs (or artists or free spirits or what-have-you) to fall into the trap of thinking that risk-taking and uniqueness are more valuable than moderation and routine. I mean, in some instances of course they are, but the reason we admire companies like Apple and Google isn’t just that they’re so adventurous—it’s that they’re adventurous without forgetting to keep things simple.

    Our culture tends to put entrepreneurs (or “superindividuals”) on a pedestal, and at first glance that makes sense—there are fewer of them, and when there are fewer of something that thing is more valuable, right? Simple economics. But when you’re dealing with people, it’s not that simple. A brilliant leader is useless without solid followers, and I think most people would say they’d rather fight a war with an army without a great general than with a great general without an army.

  • nate archer says:

    Your post touches on a lot of things I have been thinking of recently. I recently hung out with a couple of friends from high school and after a few years apart, the ways in which we have all changed is very noticeable.

    It was my understanding that everyone thought the way I thought. All my colleagues and friends in the design world thought the same as me and I assumed this extended beyond them. However when comparing my high school friends and myself, I realized how different we have become in only a few short years.

    The world doesn’t think how I think and I am only beginning to understand how large this difference is. (The very fact that I can’t define what I do would scare the shit out of some people, but to me it seems right.)

    As you said, “I’m not saying one is better than the other, just that we don’t all have the same thing driving us.â€? I believe this is what it comes down to: motivation. I believe the separation that exists can be divided into two parts. The majority of people are driven to work so they can live their lives the way they want. The rest of us are driven by an intangible force. By this I mean that work isn’t work to us, it is a passion that we cannot deny. Our work is our lives, and vice versa.

    The notion that “not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur” follows this logic by the fact that there are those who work to provide and those who define themselves by their work.

  • Johanna says:

    Could it have been my partner Eric who said that to you? hm.

    (Seriously, though, who brags about wearing two different socks?) – who doesn’t? It’s cool ;)

  • Mike says:

    I had this same revelation a few years back..”not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur”. I was starting a business and we were hiring employees. The problem was that there wasn’t any reason for the employees to work for us. Meaning there was no barrier to entry. For the job we were hiring, there was almost no reason that the employee wouldn’t just cut the owners (us) out and do the business themselves.

    We found that we hired people and they stuck with us and didn’t start their own venture (doing the same exact thing) because they didn’t want to be entrepreneurs. They simply did not want to be in charge of their livelihood – even if it only meant a 2% increase in the workload.

    As for a definition of entrepreneurship I was lucky enough to go to a university that had an entrepreneurship minor, and some great teachers. The definition we used –
    “ADDING VALUE by using a UNIQUE pool of resources to EXPLOIT an OPPORTUNITY”

    3 parts (caps). There is a lot more to the definition, but it was years ago that I learned it.

  • David Carlson says:

    Interesting post, and very true. I think that being an entrepreneur is all about passion. Passion for new things to happen, to see ideas develop, to get feedback from your friends and others. Without the passion you will not reach the stars, maybe just the top of the trees…

  • barbara says:

    Don’t want to take away from the high caliber comments, but just to set the record straight: it was two different shoes, not socks, and you were four. At 3 you didn’t understand why your teacher never gave you homework and just in case, carried one of Dad’s old leather briefcases to nursery school :)

  • Noah Brier says:

    Thanks everyone for the great comments, sorry about being MIA and not contributing myself. One of the interesting themes that runs throughout all of them is a different definition of success. I hadn’t thought about that as a part of the equation, but it’s so true. For some success is a steady paycheck and for others, especially those for whom a job is more than a job like Nate mentioned, success means something very different. I think for me it’s more about continuous learning, intellectual stimulation and general happiness. What about you all? How would you define success?

    Also, as I’m writing, I’m thinking about the role of self-esteem in this whole equation. You need to believe in yourself to be willing to bet on you. For me the having of a job is not a point of pride, but for others I’m sure it is. Does that make sense?

  • Drahmir Hraplavy says:

    Ešte platí tá z?ava?

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