You’ll never know everything you need to succeed, because there’s always more to learn.
What, exactly, does it take to be an entrepreneur?
And what in the world even is an entrepreneur?
The economist Jean-Baptiste Say is credited with first popularizing the term, which is a derivative of the French word ‘entreprendre’, meaning “to undertake”. In its purest definition, ‘entrepreneur’ refers to someone who is taking steps on a journey toward the creation of new business opportunities. This can carry with it all sorts of highly romanticized notions of becoming a massive force in the marketplace, but the reality can tend to be much less glamorous and fraught with complexity.
One important realization for anyone who wants to be considered an entrepreneur is that it involves taking actual, real-world steps in the direction of bringing an enterprise into existence. This has to extend well beyond the realm of “blue-sky thinking”, where someone can dream unfettered by the practical considerations of money and logistical constraints. At its very core, entrepreneurship embodies risk-taking, commitment, and just plain hard work. Although there might be “one in a million” success stories where somebody immediately hits the jackpot, most people on this journey will find the path to be lonely and full of unmarked twists and turns.
There’s also no formal set of prerequisites for stepping out as an entrepreneur. Some who venture into this territory have significant educational backgrounds and years of practical experience in various forms of business. And yet, there are others who opt for this course with nothing more at their disposal than talent, passion, and a strong work ethic. In a humble garage at a residence in Los Angeles, a high school dropout named Walt Disney started a company with his brother that would later become a massive global corporation and a phenomenon of popular culture. Irrespective of where someone is starting on the journey, the focus needs to be on the journey itself.
The old expression “turn lemons into lemonade” seems to have been tailor-made for the world of entrepreneurship, where overcoming obstacles is never something that’s just an optional pursuit. Intentional focus on the greater goal has to be embraced by someone from the outset or there’s little likelihood that they’ll be able to persevere through those times when things unfold a bit differently than originally planned. An important truth to grasp is that the very struggle often associated with entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be viewed as a deficit – developing the will and determination to push on in the face of extreme challenges will itself serve as a character builder. No one enjoys the crushing feeling that occurs when momentum is interrupted and everything seems to grind to a halt, but it’s during those times that the greatest growth toward true success can actually take place.
Business education can definitely help, as can previous work experience, but even these are insufficient unless they’re framed in the proper mindset. The most powerful tool you can leverage in the pursuit of entrepreneurship is perspective. Setting clear goals before you start, balancing everything judiciously so that you have realistic expectations, and defining benchmarks to gauge your progress can combine to sustain you in situations where viewing the circumstances purely in a logical realm might well convince you to throw in the towel. Transforming obstacles into opportunities isn’t something that just automatically happens – no one but you can give you the impetus to continue on when things seem to be unravelling.
One of the most impactful ways that you can fuel your determination is by embracing whatever it is you’re passionate about. Not every business pursuit has to fall into the category of being your life’s dream, but you’re much more likely to be fully invested in something that motivates, excites, and inspires you. Passion, in and of itself, might not be capable of fully sustaining you as complications arise and greater challenges vie for your attention, but it will always serve as a balancing influence when you face the temptation to become despondent, frustrated, or lethargic. Remembering your true purpose – why you even started on this crazy journey in the first place – can help to be a firm and fixed target to keep aiming at, even if you’re struggling in the present moment.
Embracing failures as learning experiences is the healthiest possible approach, more impactful than any “feel good” pep talk a motivational voice might offer. Nobody likes failing, but remember – everybody fails. And, unfortunately, there isn’t a shelf life for how long you have to deal with failure. It might seem simplistic (or even unsettling), but failure has a way of continuing until it ends up turning into success. And every setback, every great idea that didn’t pan out, every exhausting undertaking that never produced good results carries with it practical experience that will serve you well in years to come, in ways you might not be able to imagine today. Even once you’ve become a success – whatever that looks like for you – you’ll still have to deal with pressures, challenges, and responsibilities, and the lessons learned during your journey can be more valuable than a bank account full of money.
Another important aspect to consider is that you’ll never know everything you need to succeed, because there’s always more to learn. “Good enough” doesn’t really exist, because even once you know what’s needed to reach a certain level of success, the success itself will push you into new levels that bring their own sets of opportunities and challenges you’ve never been exposed to before. This will automatically require you to learn new skills and master new disciplines so that you can prosper on the platform you’ve already established and build to a higher level in the future. Become an informational sponge, absorbing everything you can from workshops, conferences, seminars, books, and webinars. And never overlook the incredible benefit of receiving tutelage from a mentor, someone who’s already walked through the difficult times and learned how to adapt to the demands you might find yourself facing right now.
Embracing a growth mindset as you navigate the obstacles in your path is a critical component to keeping your journey on a healthy trajectory. Underlying this is the reality that everything in the business world is dynamic, not static. Even once you’ve met some goals and begun to enjoy success, you can never rest on your laurels and expect things to stay the same. The thriving business today that isn’t looking to the future and taking practical steps toward growth will end up being the declining business of tomorrow. Just keeping things at status quo automatically ushers in stagnation. It’s important to operate today as what you envision becoming a year from now – don’t do bare minimum and feel that you’re keeping things on an even keel. Challenge yourself to do and be more, and allow that to become a motivator to keep pushing forward even in the face of adversity.
Always remember that, no matter how great your visions and ideas are, you’re not likely to get very far if you fail to surround yourself with like-minded people. You may be able to achieve a lot by yourself, but fostering a cohesive, focused team of people who care passionately about the same goals you do can catapult you into all new territory. Varied creative input and differing perspectives can challenge you to step well beyond the confines of how you’ve previously envisioned your business journey unfolding. Having trusted voices to speak into your life can give you a level of clarity you’ll never experience otherwise. And taking steps to partner with others, even those outside of your own organization, can broaden your horizons and open you up to greater possibilities.
A willingness to be adaptable might not be you natural inclination, but adopting this mindset can help you to remain relevant to the people you’re hoping to serve. Don’t embrace trends just for the sake of it, but be watchful about influencing factors that serve to capture people’s attention and meet their needs in ways that are meaningful to them. Technology can seem like an endless avalanche, but take the time to learn, even on a basic level, how to use new tools making inroads in the marketplace. Doing things today the way you did five years ago “just because” will never do you any favors. Your competition is actively looking for ways to streamline what they do and increase their productivity, so it’s always in your best interest to keep abreast of new tech developments as they come along. You don’t have to master everything overnight, but you should always have a willingness to learn new things, even if they seem complex and overwhelming at the outset.
No one likes adversity, but it’s important to remember that challenging circumstances can sometimes be just a wrapper around innovation. Creative problem solving can help to remove that wrapper and reveal what’s inside – new breakthroughs or alternative ways of doing things that might end up being a discovery unique to you. You may find that you’ve gained a tremendous advantage over your competition because you’ve looked beyond what was holding you back and found a way around the obstacles that lay in your path. New product ideas or marketing strategies can end up being the outcome of persevering in the face of something that would normally stop you dead in your tracks.
There’s no single, distinct qualifier for what being an entrepreneur is all about. Your journey will be uniquely yours, with its own distinctive set of challenges, problems, and rewards. You obviously started on the path to creating a business because you were driven by an idea, a passion, or a focused determination to succeed. Resilience and resourcefulness can be the greatest components of your strategy, and they can help the “lemons into lemonade” concept become a reality for you as you continue on your entrepreneurial journey.
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