From the Introduction
My life has been about entrepreneurship from start to finish – or at least to present. I was raised by an entrepreneur who was raised by entrepreneurs. I married entrepreneurs and, although I started out working a regular job, I quickly became an entrepreneur. After building and running several companies, I switched my focus to helping other entrepreneurs learn how to impose a degree of balance between their passions and the rest of their lives.
So what, exactly, is an entrepreneur?
Someone who wants to work independently, not corporately or for someone else. Someone who has an idea – or a whole series of ideas – that becomes their dream, and drives what they want to do with their life. Someone who wants to build a business and control how it functions, how it grows -- even how it dies.
Entrepreneurs will find any way to fulfill their dreams, even when people consider their ideas silly or a lost cause. In fact, they persevere in the face of tremendous odds specifically because entrepreneurship is the belief that I can do what I want to do.
Somehow, entrepreneurs find the solutions they need to do exactly that.
And it doesn’t matter if they suffer through a whole series of failures before finding the one business that does work. Entrepreneurship is an approach to life that says I’m going to keep doing it, keep doing it, keep doing it until I get it right.
Corporate people have a different attitude. They want the security of knowing their paycheck will be there every two weeks. They’re not interested in having an entire company’s success or failure ride on their shoulders. Corporate people have a driving need to be financially responsible and secure, not for pursuing an all-encompassing dream and its inherent all-encompassing liability.
As far as I can tell, I was probably hatched as an entrepreneur. My parents brought me up to think the phrase “you can’t do that” only meant that I, as their child, could not do something right then – not that I, as a woman, could not do it at all. In my house, if you wanted to do something, you were encouraged to do it. I had no idea women were treated differently from, or had more obstacles in business than men. When I discovered that truth later, I wished someone had told me earlier! But aware or not, being a woman never deterred me, because my parents’ language and attitudes during my formative years were such that I was bred to be an entrepreneur.
Which is how entrepreneurs are produced.
The conviction that you can be an entrepreneur comes from an internal belief system created by your environment and by the way you are raised. It’s all a question of language and attitudes. The Director of Entrepreneurial Studies at USC once explained it by describing a father playing catch with his son. Where some dads might say, “Oh, too bad, you missed the ball, ” when their son misses a catch, the entrepreneur-breeding parent would say something more like, “Oh, you almost got it – if you just stretch one more inch, you’ll have it.”
It’s never: “Too bad, those are the breaks.” It’s always the more motivational: “You can do it, you can do it, you can do it.”
Of course, sometimes the desire to be an entrepreneur is so great the obvious gets ignored. People get so enthused about their big ideas they want to jump in with two feet without pacing themselves – which is certainly part of the entrepreneurial “I can do it!” attitude. As an affiliate of Startup Nation, I get calls all the time from young people saying, “I want to quit my day job and start this company.”