Be a Real Entrepreneur, Not a Digital Clone
Ever watch a toddler take a shaky step, stumble, fall, and burst into tears? If you’re human, it probably evoked conflicting emotions. While it’s fun to watch them learn to walk, it also sort of pulls on your heartstrings. You wish you could help but you know this is something they simply have to learn on their own.
I feel much the same way watching today’s up-and-comers at work. It’s painful to watch them make mistakes, but learning through experience and figuring out how to survive the inevitable trials and tribulations of the business world are rights of passage they all need to get through on their own.
Sadly, I’m not nearly as confident about the vast majority of today’s entrepreneurial crowd. No, I’m not talking about real entrepreneurs who’ve founded startups with real investors, products, employees, and customers. I’m talking about the hordes of wantrepreneurs and posers who use titles and labels they haven’t yet earned.
The problem is that far too many of you are not learning through real world experience. Instead, you’re being indoctrinated through online propaganda. That’s not how humans learn to think for themselves and lead; that’s how mindless drones are programmed to fall in line and march in lockstep.
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Don’t look around as if to say, “Who me?” You know what I’m talking about. Instead of getting out, working hard, and finding their own way in the real world, millions have joined the cult of clones marching to the drumbeat of the online social collective.
All the time you waste building your social network, courting followers, promoting your personal brand, personal blogging, taking online classes, going to “leadership” seminars, screwing around with apps, playing games, following causes, and buying stuff you don’t need, you’re really just slacking off when you know you should be working.
And all the time you spend consuming and sharing self-help-style nonsense about personal productivity, positive thinking, emotional intelligence, life hacks, coaching, time management, inspirational quotes, and the personal habits of the rich and famous, you’re throwing away your only chance to build a real career.
Look, I know the pressure to conform is enormous and the level of groupthink in today’s so-called entrepreneurial cultural is pretty much off the charts. But the great irony is, not only is that not entrepreneurial behavior, it’s exactly the opposite. Cultural conformity and groupthink actually stifle diversity and suppress innovation.
If all the great entrepreneurs you seek to emulate – the Richard Bransons, Mark Zuckerbergs, and Elon Musks of the world – wasted even a fraction of their precious time on all that fluff instead of working their tails off developing products customers love and building their companies, you never would have heard of them in the first place.
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Real entrepreneurs are unique individuals who think and act differently, shatter the status quo, develop breakthrough products, and lead customers in new directions. They don’t follow the crowd. They don’t do what everyone else is doing. And like it or not, that’s exactly what most of you are doing. You’re simply following the crowd.
I know you probably see yourself as an entrepreneur, a leader, a risk-taker taking control of your own destiny. If that’s ever going to be true then it’s long past time you quit drinking the Kool-Aid and got to work. Quit hiding behind a display and get out in the real business world. Launch a product, build a company, and grow your business. Be a real entrepreneur, not a digital clone.
Either that or get a job in a field that interests you and start building your career. You’ll meet lots of great people and gain exposure to all sorts of ideas and opportunities. And if you work hard and make smart decisions, you’ve got a very good chance of discovering what you love to do and having a fulfilling career. And you may even end up running your own show after all. That’s how it happens for most real entrepreneurs.
Look, you only get to do this once and the outcome depends entirely on the choices you make. If there’s something you’re passionate about, something you’re driven to do, then do it and see what happens. But if you’re following the crowd because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do, the only choice you’re making is giving up your free will. And that never ends well.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at stevetobak.com, where you can contact him and learn more.