Are entrepreneurs born or made? I do not even need to finish my search query to get the result I was looking for. There are many characteristics one could list for an entrepreneur. You could argue that some are innate, while other traits are learnable. But whether an entrepreneur is made or born doesn’t matter to me, the only important question is: do they have courage?
I want to dispel a myth that entrepreneurs are fearless creatures -- someone who jumps off a cliff and builds an airplane on the way down. To me, entrepreneurship is a journey to know thyself. You are not born strong, you become strong. You are not born brave, you become brave. You are not born passionate, you become passionate. You are not born an entrepreneur, you become an entrepreneur.
My first entrepreneurial experience started very much the same as most children in America -- I launched a lemonade stand. I had a single purpose: to raise enough money to buy my cousins’ and a childhood friends’ tickets to the local fair. Once I achieved that purpose, I retired and enjoyed the rest of the summer. I was not born an entrepreneur. I was born a problem solver. Problem-solving is not a great trait to have when you are a six-year-old questioning the inefficiencies within the classroom. As a result, I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office throughout my academic career!
Courage is a muscle, much like will, determination, resilience and focus. You never know how strong you are until you are faced with the impossible. But, I am here to tell you on behalf of myself and the rest of humanity, you can do it. If not you, then who? One of my favorite quotes is by Katherine Center who said, "You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs." How do you keep your courage muscle ready for action?
1. Get over your fear of failure.
The reason you are afraid to fail is that no one walks around celebrating their failures. Failure is invisible. All you see on resumes and social media are people’s success. It doesn’t mean they aren’t failing hard. Publicly admitting defeat is such a novel concept that when Princeton University Professor Johannes Haushofer created a resume of his failures -- it went viral. Big failures mean you had courage. Make a list of your failures and see how impressive they are compared to your successes.
2. Your mind is the most powerful weapon you have.
There is a wealth of knowledge around success and achievement in sports psychology that I draw from because it allows you to test results quickly. Most athletes will tell you they spend a great amount of time visualizing success -- from how they hit the ball, to how they train, to healing injuries and so on. Why would your brain work any differently? Don’t you think athletes also get nervous and anxious? They train their minds to be courageous and push through fear.
3. Learn to set boundaries.
The ability to set boundaries helps you work your courage muscle. Learning to say no, especially around people who are used to hearing yes, requires courage. Think of all the situations and conversations you’ve been a part of where you felt obligated to say yes, even though you really wanted to say no. Here is your chance to be brave. Draw the line in the sand and don’t feel guilty about it. You are being courageous by saying no.
4. Be your authentic self.
Understand why you do things and why they make you feel a certain way. This will require being introspective and working on your self-awareness. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur? One of the most common answers is: I want the freedom to set my own schedule. Great. You do realize you are also signing up to struggle, to stress and quite simply, to be scared out of your mind? If all you want is freedom, then find a job that gives you flexibility without the stress and hardship of entrepreneurship.
If you truly want to be an entrepreneur, you have to ask yourself one question: do you have courage? If the answer is yes, then prepare for the scariest and most rewarding ride of your life. If the answer is no, you still need courage to live a full life -- to have the hard conversations -- to be yourself.