“Entrepreneur” – this word has become synonymous with bold, creative, courageous and daring. I’ve struggled with seeing myself as an entrepreneur over the years for two main reasons:
1. I am not fearless. Far from it. I think about everything a million times before I take a step. Sometimes I don’t even act on ideas that I spend tons of time researching and that have some real market potential.
2. I have failed A LOT. To say I have failed is an understatement. I have a long list of disappointing non-starts. Most of my ‘failures’ didn’t even get the chance to properly fail. What kind of entrepreneur does that?
I frequently ask myself if I am simply a wantrepreneur, a term that successful serial entrepreneur Noah Kegan uses to describe people who dream but never do. I question my abilities constantly, and for good reason. Sometimes everything around me says that I couldn’t possibly be an entrepreneur. That I do not have the ‘stuff’.
The Big Question
In the midst of all this mental gymnastics, I am currently in the exciting early stages of a health startup that is going to change how chronically ill individuals are cared for. I am doing what entrepreneurs do and yet I struggle with being an entrepreneur.
This weird phenomenon leads me to the question I want us to explore in this post: What is the defining factor that makes you an entrepreneur?
The Big Answer
For as long as we breath air we are going to have struggles. Life is a struggle. Startups are a struggle. Growth is a struggle. Entrepreneurship is a struggle. Struggling with your identity only makes you human. Having the ability to create in the midst of the struggle is what makes you an entrepreneur.
Identifying the struggle and leveraging it to build a thriving organization is what sets you apart from the rest of the world. The single defining factor that makes you an entrepreneur is the ability to stay in continuous motion.
How do you stay in motion when everything in you, and around you, wants you to stop? Here are three tips that will keep your wheels turning towards success.
Pack your BHAGs for the journey
I like to think of entrepreneurship as a journey. A journey that can be riddled with pain and failure. A journey that can be long and arduous.
For example, most entrepreneurs go through with famed entrepreneur Paul Graham calls the trough of sorrow. Simply put, the trough of sorrow is the place where you realize that nothing is working out the way it should. You are burning through money, your customers hate your product and you have no clue how to fix the various problems in your startup.
During this dark night of the entrepreneurial soul, what you brought with you on this journey could be the difference between giving up or pressing on. Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGS) are the kinds of goals that will sustain you when everything else is telling you to quite.
The bigger the goal the more power it offers you through the dark days. If you believe that what you are doing needs to exist, you’ll fight to make it a reality. On the other hand, if your goal is only to become rich and famous, you will pack up and leave at the first sight of struggle. Big Hairy Audacious Goals will keep your feet moving when all you can see is emptiness.
Be Real
There is nothing worse than believing your own hype. As an entrepreneur, you likely care more about what people think than you are willing to admit. This can play as a strength in your journey but it’s a double edged sword. Wanting to project an image of success and fame can cause you to ignore what is actually happening. You can’t fix what you won’t diagnose.
Be real. Come to terms with the struggle. It’s not a friendly companion but it’s along for the ride. It’s going to be a part of your story. A vital part. Look at the struggle as an ascending stairway. The higher you get, the more difficult the climb. The good news is that you are also getting close to the top.
Be A Starter
So you’ve tried and failed at several projects. Worse yet, you’ve actually never fully completed a project. So what? As Samuel Beckett famously said
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.”
There is one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty, you will fail at 100% of the projects you do not start.
To rise above the noise and become the entrepreneur you want to be, you have to commit to being a starter. Wherever you are, start something that will make the world a better place. Build your capacity to start. You will get better at starting. You’ll improve in executing. You will fail but you will succeed as well.
Oh and by the way, you would be living the entrepreneurial life you’ve always wanted.
Final Thoughts
Being an entrepreneur is who I am. It is not something I do. I am an entrepreneur at home with my wife and kids. I am at entrepreneur when I am playing pickup basketball. That is actually refreshing to know. It makes me happy to know that regardless of what I do, I will always BE what I am and so will you.
The world needs you to be you. The world needs you to dust yourself off and press on to create solutions to its problems. BE an entrepreneur.