Be a Real Entrepreneur, Not a Digital Clone

Entrepreneurs don't do what everyone else is doing. Like it or not, that's exactly what most of you are doing.

learn more about Steve Tobak

By Steve Tobak


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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.

Related: The Simple Secret to a Happy Life

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.

Related: 10 Myths About Successful CEOs

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.

Related: Want to Be Successful? Quit Being Entitled.

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

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, where you can contact him and learn more.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This 61-Year-Old Grandma Who Made $35,000 in the Medical Field Now Earns 7 Figures in Retirement
A 'Quiet Promotion' Will Cost You a Lot — Use This Expert's 4-Step Strategy to Avoid It
3 Red Flags on Your LinkedIn Profile That Scare Clients Away
'Everyone Is Freaking Out.' What's Going On With Silicon Valley Bank? Federal Government Takes Control.

How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.

Business News

A Retired Teacher and Her Daughter Were Scammed Out of $200,000 Over Email: 'I'm 69 Years Old and Now I'm Broke and Homeless'

The mother-daughter duo was in the process of buying a townhouse when their email chain with the title company was hacked.

Starting a Business

Free Event | March 30: Solopreneur Office Hours with Terry Rice

Running a one person business is challenging, but we're here to help you. Tune in as our expert, Terry Rice, answers your most pressing questions.

Business News

Amazon Is Laying Off 9,000 More Employees — But Who's Out Won't Be Settled Until April

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company had decided to "be more streamlined in our costs and headcount" because of the "uncertain economy."

Business News

Carnival Cruise Wants Passengers to Have Fun in the Sun — But Do This, and You'll Get Burned With a New $500 Fee

The cruise line's updated contract follows a spate of unruly guest behavior across the tourism industry.