Back in 1999, every time I walked into a coffee shop in Austin, Texas, I’d overhear people talking about their Internet startup plans.
Now, in 2012, it’s the same thing when I walk into any coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado. Probably more so.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s a great thing. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 14 years, and I’ve tried to motivate and educate other entrepreneurs for over 6 of those years … because I wouldn’t trade the entrepreneurial life for anything else.
But it’s not for everyone. Or, better put, it’s open to anyone who can deal with the reality of what being an entrepreneur means.
Here are 5 character traits that knock the stars out of the eyes of would-be entrepreneurs. See what you can do to overcome the ones that apply to you.
1. Categorically Impaired
They get a hold of us as little kids, and effectively take away our crayons. Stay inside the lines, this goes in this box, not that one, this is not the same as that, etc.
We’re taught to think in categories, drawing distinctions between things instead of seeing how things are related. We now know more than ever, however, that creativity is all about the intersection among seemingly unrelated things.
You need to grab back your crayons. Draw outside the lines, think outside the box, insert you favorite cliché here and set it on fire. This is what entrepreneurs do.
2. Afraid of Ambiguity
Like everything in terms of black and white? Need a definitive structure to guide your daily, weekly, and monthly actions?
Well, modern life itself must be unpleasant for you. A startup would send you screaming for mommy.
Relax, because fearing ambiguity is yet another creative block. Anyone can learn to surf if they’re willing get in the water and try. Learn to ride the entrepreneurial waves as they come, because there’s really no other choice.
3. Averse to Failure
Hopefully this one has made it onto your radar already. Forget instant success, and let’s embrace failing fast.
You’ve got to learn quickly and make smart decisions, and this requires trying things that don’t work that deliver you invaluable feedback. Unfortunately, this is exactly the opposite of how most people are wired.
If you try too hard to avoid failure, you’ll also avoid success. Imagine a world where it’s not only okay to fail, but beneficial and essential. Doesn’t that feel better?
4. Allergic to Selling
You’re a visionary, not a salesperson, right? Wrong.
An entrepreneur’s primary role is to take a product or service into the marketplace to make money, otherwise known as sales. That’s true of even advertising-supported models, where you’re selling your audience for relatively small amounts.
Steve Jobs was an exceptional visionary, and he was an exceptional salesman. If you’re hoping to win an Instagram-style no-revenue lottery rather than learning from Jobs, you should probably go do something else.
It’s not a sin to sell great stuff, and free is not a business model. So, realize that your primary job is to make great stuff and figure out how to get a bunch of people to buy it.
5. Easily Discouraged
A lot of talented people go the startup route. And then one day you realize, hey … maybe talent isn’t enough. And then you start getting discouraged.
It happens to everyone, so anticipate and accept it now. And also realize that perseverance is way more important than talent – I know plenty of highly-talented people who simply gave up. Sometimes you need to pivot, but that’s not the same as quitting.
All of the other character traits above can challenge and discourage you. But if you persevere, learn from mistakes, and deal with the world as it exists (instead of how you wish it would be), you might just change the world, after all.
Over to you …
What did I miss? Are there other character traits that make the entrepreneurial game even harder to play?