Entrepreneurship is cool right now. If you aren’t an entrepreneur, you risk being a loser. But doesn’t society need the cogs in order to function?
How to Define Entrepreneur
The official definition of “entrepreneur” is a person who organizes and operates a business, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
That doesn’t relay the spirit of the word, does it?
Case in point is this article from Business News Daily that lists how 20 entrepreneurs define the word. Not many of those quoted define it in the sense of starting a business; instead, they describe it as a way of being.
My favorite definition is from Mike Malone, founder of Livestock Framing:
One must possess grit. The stakes tend to be high, the bumps in the road frequent. Remaining focused, regardless of the obstacles, is paramount. That said, being an entrepreneur means being in full control of your destiny. If that’s important to you, then all of the challenges associated with striking out on one’s own are but a small price to pay.
Being Entrepreneurial in Life
I never used to consider myself an entrepreneur. I never sold candy on the school playground as a kid or opened a lemonade stand.
Instead, when I got older and wanted money, my only idea was to get a job. And boy, did I have a lot of them:
- Baseball umpire
- Starbucks barista
- Fox News production assistant
- Birthday party clown
- Brand ambassador
- Hostel reception desk clerk
- Spanish school student coordinator
- Mountain bike instructor
- Dry cleaning store clerk
- Lawn mower
- Video game character
- Clinical study patient
Turns out my work history shows I’m 100% an entrepreneur.
How can that be?
Every job served a purpose. Maybe to learn something, make money, fuel a new idea or experience something. Starbucks? That was because I love to-do lists (you need to work there to understand). Clinical study patient? That was to pay a security deposit on an apartment. Fox News? That was following my political curiosity.
Right before my 26th birthday, I got an “office” job. I worked in customer service and it was thrilling to see the corporate world from the inside. But after a couple of years, the shine faded. I took my money and went somewhere else (to Thailand, I believe).
And that’s why I’m an entrepreneur.
Jobs serve a function, they have nothing to do with who we are as people.
Me, myself and I… we are the business. The jobs I’ve had have always worked for ME, to improve my business in some way, not the other way around.
Not everyone sees things this way. I know people who quit a job on Friday to start a new one on Monday. Instead of living and learning in the job, they are drones. If you leave a job without either money, fresh ideas or a new skill… then what were you doing there?
Are You an Entrepreneur and Don’t Know It?
Who controls your destiny?
You can answer this by identifying your values. Once you have your list of values, compare your life to your values and see if they align.
Do they align? Congrats! You are an entrepreneur because you manipulated your life so it expresses your values. You control your own destiny.
The mailman could easily be an entrepreneur. Let’s look at what your local mailman values:
- His wife and kids
- Reading and taking walks with his dog
- Being home by 4 p.m. every day to cook dinner for his family
- Living close to his parents
- His church community
- Feeling financially secure (pension, steady paycheck, etc.)
- Routine and predictability
His deepest values and desires are satisfied, and he is aligned with his soul. This man is killing it as an entrepreneur. He is using his job to express his values.
Now let’s look at what an advertising executive living in New York City values:
- Building things
- Adventure and outdoor sports
- Public speaking
- Political advocacy and fighting for humanitarian causes
- Solving complex problems and working with others
- A large living space surrounded by nature
Depending how she prioritizes her values, this advertising exec may not be an entrepreneur. If her top two values are political advocacy and being in nature, but she works in advertising in New York City, then she is only an entrepreneur if she uses her current position to get her closer to the life she longs for.
But if she has no exit plan and feels a “nagging” sense that she’s not living up to her potential, then the advertising exec is not an entrepreneur and not in control of her destiny.
Which Kind of Entrepreneur Are You?
The only true currency is time. The time we give up for someone or something else can never be replaced.
We are all given the same 24 hours every day. How we choose to spend this resource is personal.
- Entrepreneurs building businesses recognized a value, such as money, creativity or passion, and took the risks to honor them.
- Employed entrepreneurs recognized a value, such as security, predictability or passion, and worked their way through jobs to honor them.
- Employed non-entrepreneurs may not have recognized what they value. Or maybe they have, but they are scared of being in control.
We can all be entrepreneurs if we are willing to identify our deepest desires and values in life. Whether you are an employee or own a business, it’s in your interest to brainstorm your ideal life. Be honest with yourself and write down what comes to mind.
Then take that piece of paper and compare it to the life you are living today. Do you feel good with the alignment?
If not, for the sake of your friends, family, and the evolution of humankind, make a change. Make a plan. Baby steps are fine.
Just keep moving forward 🙂