I’ve had the good fortune of starting several companies, both in the United States and England, building them from product concept to market expansion to successful exit. In my experience, business acumen, gut feeling and luck only get you so far on the entrepreneurial journey. The rest requires a steely ability to weather the ups and downs of building a company, whilst continuing to keep all of your colleagues happy and focused.
The secret to pulling this off? Release your inner child!
Within the scientific community, a valuable approach to problem solving is to “play” with the problem, as opposed to going straight for the answer. Child-like curiosity is positively encouraged. Always question the rationale of conventional wisdom. Embrace and learn from child-like frustration. Be willing to take those “first steps” down new avenues. By adopting these seemingly youthful approaches and traits, I have gained critical insight and solved a number of technical and business challenges.
Like a child with a new toy.
Just like a child with a new toy, you need to capture this obsessive enthusiasm and put it into your own start up or idea. Particularly when starting your business, the more controlled and adult approach where everything is measured in time, and you must find a balance between work and life, will lower the chances of success.
Be prepared to never stop playing with your idea. Do not stop thinking about it just because the clock dictates it’s time to head home.
In the start up world, “fail fast” and “iterate quickly” are viewed as positive attributes of successful entrepreneurs. This goes against what is expected of adults. We are encouraged to stick with a problem and keep going, and maintain that “stiff upper lip,” because failure is not an option. Children are not so hung up on failure. The fact something does not work means they are open to finding a different solution. Their curiosity may actually be piqued by failure to get the thing working straight away.
Embrace child-like frustration.
Remember, when you were a child, how frustrating and upsetting it was when you didn’t get your way? Embrace this approach, and mourn your failures and setbacks. Pick it to pieces, be willing to stomp your foot, and complain about how unfair it is, because this gives you the energy and analysis to repair the mistake. As adults, we are too quick to move on, hiding our failures as embarrassments to be swept under the floorboards.
If you need any further encouragement, Steve Jobs, unquestionably one of the most astute business minds of the technology revolution, was famously susceptible to emotional outbursts and tantrums.
It would be naive not to point out that you also need business acumen. Consequently, in every book shop, library and throughout the Internet there is some expert willing to give you tried-and-tested approaches.
Fellow entrepreneurs and I also endorse a degree of tenacity, perseverance and luck. I am also not alone in the recommending the principles stated above. As Pablo Picasso once said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Harnessing a degree of your inner child will go some way to illuminating the route toward becoming a successful entrepreneur.
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