Sometimes when I interview one or read about the background of an entrepreneur who has created an innovative product and service, I can’t help but noting the similarities with other entrepreneurial life stories I’ve read before.
One day I decided to extract the precise similar points in all these stories and, once I’d finished doing this, I realised that these are the traits which often define an entrepreneur.
These traits, these personality quirks, even their choices in life, define people who want more, much more, than a safe 9-to-5 job. They want to influence and change others. They may want to change the world, or just their little bit of it. They are problem solvers and cannot walk away when they see something that doesn’t work well, or which could be improved.
So, if you recognise yourself in the description below, you might be one of the next top entrepreneurs waiting to emerge from your shell.
1. There is no such thing as good enough (unless it is, for now!)
There is no way you will ever walk away from a project and tick it off as completed to perfection. OK, you want to get it out the door and start selling, as I really believe in the Lean Startup principles and there is no way to tell if your new company will work unless you expose it to potential customers. You need to get the Minimum Viable Product ready as quickly as possible.
But if you are a true entrepreneur, you’ll keep tinkering with it. You try to add something more; you test it and try to improve its usability and other features. In your mind, the project has much more potential and can be made to be more accessible than it is in reality. And you keep working to make it better.
As many of you may have read, great inventors turned entrepreneurs lost days and nights, missed college classes, and neglected formal educational training in favour of working and developing their own vision.
2. Failure is a strong motivator to pick yourself back up again
Failure does not deter you. On the contrary, you find yourself always motivated to move forward, try something else and find a way to solve the problem which created the setback.
Successful entrepreneurs are not people who struck gold on the first try, but advanced from failure to failure until they reached their goal. Often their successful company started as something entirely different to what they originally intended! Think Twitter, Groupon, PayPal and Starbucks, even Nokia, all companies who pivoted (as it’s known in the startup world) successfully. Here’s an article on Forbes that shares the story of a few more.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve failed; I’ve failed fast, failed miserably slowly, failed catastrophically. But it was never in my heart to give up because you only truly fail when you give up. I’ll still be trying the day they put me in the ground!
3. You seek the advice of experts & specialists
You believe in surrounding yourself with experts, specialists, people you can learn from, not with people who will sing your praises from dawn to dusk. Entrepreneurs are not afraid to hire or to seek the company of people who are more knowledgeable in various core fields than they are for the good of their business. Remember the story of Henry Ford? The best entrepreneurs want to make sure that they have the best talents working for them, not build a toxic culture of “the boss knows best”.
4. You doubt yourself, feel the fear and do it anyway
You are insecure and often wonder if you are doing things right or if you could do them better. You believe there may always be a better solution than the one you found. You are afraid of failing, so you focus all your energy into making sure you move forwards and ideally, foolproofing your work.
Top entrepreneurs are always rather driven and anxious, but use this negative feeling in a positive way, by investing more time and effort into their work.
5. You embrace change & are ever learning.
You know that unless you are learning, your brain is atrophying!
You are keen to learn new things, to implement new technologies and to expand your knowledge. The status quo never satisfies you because it feels like a dead end. Your mind is ever inquisitive and flexible to adapt on the go to sudden changes in the rules of the game.
You read books about topics like psychology, neuro-plasticity, and you avoid the news, preferring to listen instead to the cutting edge podcasts. You go to conferences like MicroConf, Tropical MBA, Infusioncon and Traffic & Conversions.
You follow thought leaders and watch Ted Talks, you probably get asked to speak yourself, and any opportunity to hang out with clever people is a good day for you!
You may journal, a practice highly recommended by many successful entrepreneurs.
And finally, here’s a bonus tip, you probably meditate. Or you have been thinking about it.
Many of the successful entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed have a “morning ritual” which may include either journaling or meditation. Often both.
If you’ve been thinking about meditating, and whether it might help quiet and focus your entrepreneurial brain, just read “10% Happier” by Dan Harris and find out how a Good Morning America anchorman turned from a meditation sceptic to a happier, more successful convert to meditation.
A very compelling, funny read – highly recommended.