Think You Know What It Means to Be an Entrepreneur? Think Again. Being an entrepreneur means pursuing a purpose that delivers value -- with a little bit of risk, of course. That's it.
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While coming up with the next billion-dollar entrepreneurial blockbuster is at the top of everybody's to-do list in hopes of becoming filthy rich, the chances of actually doing so are slim. Really slim.
Not to burst anybody's bubble here -- I'm all for hopes and dreams -- but when those hopes and dreams aren't grounded in reality, then winning the entrepreneurial lottery becomes a long shot.
The good news is that being an entrepreneur doesn't have to necessarily mean starting a company with dollar signs as the target. Yes, it would be nice, but you can be rich without being wealthy. At its core, what being an entrepreneur really means is pursuing a purpose that delivers value -- with a little bit of risk, of course. That's it.
Now, most entrepreneurs display their entrepreneurial spirit through innovation, which puts them at the top of the organizational -- and financial -- hierarchy if their company comes to fruition. However, this isn't the only way to becoming personally rich.
Let's flip this concept on its head for a moment, and assume a different definition of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Instead of the traditional sense of entering the entrepreneurial world and providing value from the top-down as a founder, let's assume that being entrepreneurial means entering from the bottom up, choosing only to work for those companies that fulfill your purpose or satisfy your values.
Sound crazy? It isn't. When I transitioned out of the military and into the business world, I was offered a job at a tech startup with initial salary starting at $200,000 a year. Great pay, yes, but I refused.
Now, "crazy" is something I'm certainly familiar with (I may have been called that once or twice), but to me, there was no value in working somewhere that was less interesting than watching your neighbor's cousin's kid paint rocks. Money is great, don't get me wrong, but you can't eliminate grumpiness with cash.
If you think about it, the majority of time in our lives is spent at work, so that work should be meaningful and fulfilling. To help you chart your entrepreneurial course from the bottom up, consider these three things.
1. Chart your course.
Of the myriad industries in existence, there is one that resonates with you. Pursue it. Just go with it. If it turns out that tech isn't for you, for instance, move on to the next. The problem many people face is they try to boil the ocean -- they try to consider every industry out there at the same time and get frustrated because they don't know where to begin. Just pick one and go with it.
2. Build your curiosity.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but at least it didn't die dumb. At the most granular level, the root of an entrepreneur's success is her curiosity. The power of a curious mind is unfathomable -- it's potential reach is interminable.
Curious minds are the very reason we have nice things, such as Facebook, Twitter and self-parking cars (that's part joke, part truth). To build your curiosity, start by taking notice of the small things and then questioning what's practical, what isn't and what can be improved. Once you find the question that resonates with you, congratulations -- you're there. Now pursue it.
3. Adopt a mentor.
The beauty about mentorship is that it doesn't necessarily warrant a one-on-one relationship with someone. The value of mentorship comes from the learning we gain from direct or indirect experience. It may be a book we read, a bad experience never to be repeated (remember the first time you got drunk?), or somebody else's tough lesson learned.
The point is, being cognizant of the instances in which we learned the most can help us replicate similar circumstances and keep learning.
Remember, everything is all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. That's an eloquent way of saying, that, while the concept of "not doing it for the money" is great, there comes a time when the electric bill needs to be paid -- and they don't accept smiles.
This is when the rubber meets the road to challenge your beliefs. It takes hard work and a whole lot of trust in yourself to weather the storm of financial appeal. But, then again, as James Allen said, "Circumstance doesn't make the man -- it reveals him."