Of course, those words--"the best I can have"--are loaded with ambiguity. And perhaps the biggest coup among the entrepreneurs we spoke with was their ability to deal with the ambiguities of success.
For instance, while entrepreneurs report feeling satisfied with their progress, they don't equate satisfaction with being "finished." Beth Cross, 41, co-founder with 38-year-old Pam Parker of Ariat International Inc., a San Carlos, California, maker of high-performance athletic footwear for equestrians, describes her seven-year entrepreneurial experience as "incredibly fulfilling." At the same time, Cross acknowledges the fun has only just begun. "As you grow a company, your goals become more ambitious and expansive," she says. "We're already the fastest-growing company in our industry--by far. In five years, we're going to be the biggest as well."
Even the happiest success stories didn't come without frustration, however. Entrepreneurship isn't just hard work; it's hard. "There are days when you have to put on your makeup three times because you've ruined it by crying," laughs Shaw.
But even the daily challenges and rapid-fire demands of running a business don't necessarily prove discouraging. "You definitely have your challenges every day," Cross says. "But it's the mindset of the typical entrepreneur to look around obstacles and move forward. You become such an intense problem-solver that problems don't have much significance. And you don't go home at night disappointed."
All this is consistent with Sinetar's view of the entrepreneurial personality. "These are people who like to test their talents," she says. "They like to ask: `What kind of mettle do I have? What can I accomplish?' Entrepreneurs are constantly seeking a kind of stimulating advancement. They're always thinking about what's next."