Entrepreneurship can be a confusing concept to some. I know it was to me. Although I never knew it, I shared many misconceptions about what an entrepreneur is. And then last year I was contacted to help a an entrepreneur who is fairly well-known throughout the South in writing his autobiography. I had already admired this gentlemen not so much for his entrepreneurship as for his political activism (which is what initially brought me to his attention), but as I helped him form and shape his upcoming book, I got an education in what being an entrepreneur really means. An education that I possessed half as much a head for business as I possess for writing about business would probably make me a millionaire in another two years.
Like I once did, many people naturally assume that any small business owner is an entrepreneur and vice versa. The reality is that a lot of small business owners are really just middle managers who prefer ownership and actual work to being a CEO. Others started their own business with a cash infusion courtesy of dear old dad; real entrepreneurs start a business from scratch, not from the scratch of primogeniture.
Various other myths about the “American Entrepreneur” have clouded reality to the point that the character traits most commonly attributed to entrepreneurs will likely lead down the path of an astonishing run of failure for those who fancy themselves to be filled with entrepreneurial spirit but are in reality just privileged rich kids either in fact or temperament.
But, hey, cheer up. If you are one of those, you can always put an end to your run of entrepreneurial failures by getting yourself elected Governor of Texas or President of the United States. .
Myth: Entrepreneurs are Reckless Risk-Taking Gamblers
The misapprehension that a successful entrepreneur is some kind of modern-day two-fisted gambler with a penchant for betting it all on a roll of dice knowing full astounding odds in favor of his losing it all is certainly understandable. After all, a great many of those wannabe entrepreneurs who are really just CEOs more cautious than your granny on wash day have spent a lot of money on public relations constructing this mythic portrait of themselves. But just as Donald Trump makes your granny look like someone willing to bet the farm on a pair of deuces, so is Donald Trump not an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs only seem like crazily obsessed risk takers in comparison to how the middle-management laden corporate philosophy of a guy like Trump operates. The guy who jumps out of airplanes, goes swimming with sharks and rides a Harley at full speed along the swerving road perched on a cliff is not likely to be a successful entrepreneur and no real entrepreneur would ever think of creating such a mythic lie about himself. The entrepreneur views a certain amount and a certain type of risk as a natural part of achieving success. The CEO and small business owner, on the other hand, view risk as an unnatural obstruction to the very possibility of success that face the ultimate test of the wrecking ball before he dares move forward.
Myth: Entrepreneurship can Only be Nourished Outside the Mainstream
There is some element of truth to this myth of entrepreneurship. Many of the most wildly successful entrepreneurs have formed their vision far away from the conforming nature of the number-crunching world of corporations that pay fealty only to their biggest shareholders. On the other hand, there have been cases where the world of shareholder influence succeeded only in breathing life into a latent entrepreneur. Some entrepreneurs have to be trapped inside the machine before they realize that they see things differently. The environment surrounding the entrepreneur is not where the rebellious component of entrepreneurship is vital. The insurrection must develop from within the character of the entrepreneur.
Myth: All Daydreamers are Entrepreneurs
It’s not the daydreaming that characterizes an entrepreneur. It’s the content of the daydream. If your daydreaming is about escaping from the soul-sucking deadness of mainstream corporate routine, then you really are nothing but a daydreamer and the life of an entrepreneur is probably not for you. If your daydreams are about coming up with more logical means of accomplishing a task or are filled with creative leaps of imagination about how you could easily improve working conditions, then you are not just a daydreamer, but a visionary. Don’t diss the daydreamer; they’ve done more for this world than all the CEOs combined.
Myth: Entrepreneurship is About Proving Yourself to Others…and Getting Rich
Here’s a myth of entrepreneurship that some will always believe, no matter what. Because so many entrepreneurs have succeeded in making people beat a path to their new mousetrap, it’s easy to assume that this personality is all about showing others up. Money is always an enticement, but for the true entrepreneur, by the time the money starts rolling in, he’s already bored with the past and is moving full steam ahead to his newest idea. That idea may take five years of his time and never result in earning a single penny. But it’s not about the money and it’s not about self-aggrandizement. Entrepreneurship is really about, at its core, proving something to only one person: yourself.