I didn’t “choose” to be a startup founder or entrepreneur.
It is something I have always had (and wanted) to do.
It may be hard for people who aren’t entrepreneurially inclined to understand but I have always known that being an entrepreneur was something within me.
It wasn’t something I was taught.
It wasn’t something I decided to do.
It has just always been part of who I am.
And if it’s not clear from my statements above I fall firmly in the camp that “Entrepreneurs are born, not made”.
For some people that may be a controversial stance to take. There are countless business schools, colleges and Universities all around the world that teach business and entrepreneurship. They aim to churn out the business people of the future.
But here’s where the distinction lays. I do believe you can be taught to be an effective business manager or leader. But you can’t teach entrepreneurship.
Because being an entrepreneur isn’t a skill. It’s a mindset.
According to James V. Koch from Old Dominion University, Virginia “Significant portions of personality traits critical to entrepreneurs, like the willingness to take risks and the ability to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty, are heritable.”
Not only that Koch refers to research between entrepreneurs and a control group of non-entrepreneurs in a book he co-authored called Born Not Made: The Entrepreneurial Personality. In the opening chapter the book highlights that:
“Entrepreneurs are different. They have the ability to deal with uncertainty, to take risks and tolerate ambiguity. They usually have a personality that is mercurial, and they have highs that are really high and lows that are really low. There’s good evidence that they have strong self-confidence but also tend to be overoptimistic. They rely extensively on their own intuition.”
This, in addition to my own personal life experiences, paints a compelling picture in my mind that what makes someone be an entrepreneur is an innate part of who they are.
In my own life I have seen these traits play out since very early in my life. As a child I was always setting up “Garage Sales” by the roadside to sell old toys and anything else I could find around the house.
With the emergence of eBay I started buying and selling products here and there. And when I had a pamphlet run I saw an opportunity to “cut out the middleman” and went direct to local businesses to deliver their promotional material and learn 4x in the process.
No one told me to do this. No one taught me to do this. I just did it and learned from my mistakes along the way.
But being entrepreneurially inclined isn’t always great. As the research Koch highlights shows entrepreneurs often have highs that are really high and lows that are really low. It can be a roller-coaster at times. But at the end of the day I believe if you ask any entrepreneur what makes them happy it is building new things, turning ideas into reality and tackling the challenges that come with trying to launch or grow a business.
Finally, while I believe you are either born an entrepreneur or not. That doesn’t mean I am “anti-education”. There certainly are valuable skills and knowledge that you can pick up from attending business school or studying economics. I just find that most of the time entrepreneurs are naturally inquisitive and have usually done their own research before they even step into a classroom.
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Also published on Medium.