Entrepreneurs are a rare breed. While everyone else is content with playing it safe, we have an undying urge to forge our own path in life.
I’m a firm believer that the entrepreneurial calling is in our DNA. It’s something we’re born with.
That doesn’t mean that anyone can’t take the necessary steps to create a successful business. But it clearly comes more naturally to some of us than others.
However, life has a way of keeping things balanced.
Some of the most defining traits of entrepreneurs work for and against us.
The trick is figuring out how to leverage these traits when appropriate, and knowing when to ignore them when they are holding us back.
1. We’re dreamers
Entrepreneurs dare to dream bigger. The most powerful innovations known to man all started as a dream in someone’s mind.
I’ve always been an avid daydreamer myself. I spent more time creating imaginary businesses in my mind than I ever did listening to my teachers.
If you’re a fellow daydreamer (I have a feeling you are) then you know that feeling when the light bulb goes off and your mind starts racing. All of a sudden whatever you’re doing becomes irrelevant and you quickly grab a notepad to start frantically recording your notes.
We always have this fear that we’re going to miss out on our next big opportunity if we forget this current genius idea.
The problem with this trait is that dreams don’t come true without action. To be successful at anything you have to spend more time practicing and doing than you do thinking.
We enjoy dreaming. We feel comfortable dreaming. But when has success ever been prefaced by comfort?
You have always been a dreamer and you always will be; relax, you’re not going to run out of new ideas. Now is not the time for dreaming.
Now is the time to take action!
“I’m not much of a math and science guy. I spent most of my time in school daydreaming and managed to turn it into a living.” – George Lucas
2. We hate asking for help
It’s not that we don’t like asking for help, we just absolutely despise it. This desire to do things on our own is usually what drives us to start businesses in the first place.
Who needs a boss, receptionist, and accountant when we can do it all ourselves, right? Wrong.
Sure we develop a ton of great skills by not asking for help, but we are only human. As mere mortals we need help and lots of it.
Here are the three primary reasons that we need to ask for help:
- Avoiding burnout
- Ensuring things are handled properly
- Scaling our business
As much as you hate it, asking for help is a necessary evil. The good news is that it grows on you with time.
Speaking of time, how much of yours would you have saved by asking for help sooner?
3. We’re stubborn
Entrepreneurs are notoriously stubborn. That’s how we’re able to overcome obstacles that make others give up.
It’s not that I think I’m always right, I just prefer to do things my way. Sound familiar? The problem is, my way isn’t always the best way and yours might not be either.
How do we know when we are on the verge of a breakthrough or when we are being stubborn about the wrong things? Most of the time, we don’t. (Refer to number two)
Never be afraid to pivot. Successful businesses do it all the time.
Did you know that Twitter was originally a company called Odeo, a network where people could discover and subscribe to podcasts?
My point exactly. No one will look down on you if you pivot, as long as you follow through with something valuable.
4. We’re very particular
I’ve been accused of having OCD because of my attention to detail, but I prefer to call myself particular.
As entrepreneurs, we’re very particular about things. The details matter more to us than they do to others.
We want everything to be just right.
Steve Jobs was known for being extremely particular about the design of Apple products, often forcing his engineers to adhere to designs that weren’t even feasible at the time. Of course we all know how well that played out.
There’s a fine line between particular and nitpicky. You can come close to the line, you can even walk the line, but don’t ever cross that line. When entrepreneurs cross that line we turn into that micromanaging boss that we ourselves hate.
Even worse, this carries over into our personal lives. You know how many of my ex-girlfriends got annoyed with how particular I am? All of them.
Yes, the details matter, but don’t sweat the small stuff. It does more harm than good.
5. We are emotionally tied to our business
Our business isn’t just a company or a brand, it’s our baby. We gave it life, nurtured it, raised it, and we are incredibly proud to watch it grow. So naturally it’s difficult to not be emotionally attached to our business.
When I was building my first company in the oil industry, my mood was completely tied to my business. When profits were up, I had a kick in my step and a smile on my face. When a deal didn’t go through or I struggled to solve a problem, it felt like a cloud was lingering over me.
Being emotionally invested in our businesses is a good thing. It’s that passion that defines entrepreneurs. But you have to learn to keep it contained. Emotions cause us to make irrational decisions and they affect our productivity.
Once you can learn to keep those emotions in check, without putting out the flame, you’ll be in full control. If this is something you struggle with, look into the philosophy of Stoicism.
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” –Richard Branson
6. We enjoy breaking the rules
If we followed all the rules we wouldn’t be good entrepreneurs. True visionaries know how to change the game by breaking the old rules and creating new ones.
There’s a special satisfaction that comes from breaking the rules and not only getting away with it, but being rewarded for it. But there’s a problem with indulging in this trait too much.
You either break too many rules or you break the wrong rules. Most people who get busted for white-collar crimes didn’t start out with criminal aspirations. I’d estimate that most of them once believed they’d never break the law, other than minor traffic offenses.
What happens is they get away with something small, so they decide to take it a little further. As long as they get away with it and they are rewarded for it, they keep pushing the limit even further. Before long it feels normal and they forget they’re even doing something wrong.
Don’t let yourself get caught up in that cycle. White-collar thieves, sleazy scammers, and frauds usually start out as well-meaning entrepreneurs.
Break the rules, yes, but don’t break the law and don’t ever compromise your principles.