3 Innate Traits You Need to Survive the Rollercoaster of Entrepreneurship

If you are uncomfortable with the up-and-down nature of entrepreneurship, you might not be cut out to be an entrepreneur.

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By Jason Zickerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I recently came across an interesting graphic depicting a day in the life of an entrepreneur. As you might imagine, the line chart of thoughts and emotions was erratic, with data points representing a battery of highs and lows related to business ownership.

At first glance, I laughed, as I assumed the diagram was a lighthearted interpretation of the struggles entrepreneurs commonly face — which I imagine was its intention. Then I realized it was not so amusing but rather a spot-on depiction of the harrowing rollercoaster business owners often experience daily or even hourly while running and growing their companies.

The chart was essentially a zigzag interpretation of the wins like, "Yes, we hit this one out of the park!" And the losses, "Darn, we messed that up!" For every positive affirmation, "Wow, it's working!" there was an inevitable negative reaction. This included common head trash business owners tell themselves when they or their company fall short of expectations. Things like "I am going to go bankrupt!" and "Whelp, this is the beginning of the end of my business!" And perhaps the most deflating, "What am I even doing? I am horrible at this."

The truth of the matter is that entrepreneurship is hard. Even the best business leaders commonly wrestle with self-doubt and frustration. They juggle hope with expertise. They make big important decisions based on sometimes limited information. They stick their necks out, maybe fail, then pull their necks back in again. Yes, entrepreneurship can be extremely stressful, yet so incredibly rewarding.

Related: Why Self-Doubt Can Be Your Secret Weapon

If you are not comfortable with or at least open to the up-and-down nature of business ownership, you might not be cut out to be an entrepreneur. My experience is that most successful entrepreneurs are okay with the rollercoaster ride. Or, at the very least, they are accustomed to it.

Here's why.

1. Entrepreneurs are optimists

Regardless of those moments of self-doubt, entrepreneurs are an optimistic bunch. They are not naïve but rather embody the Stockdale Paradox, a concept coined by Jim Collins that states, "You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

While optimism is often an inborn personality trait, it can also be nurtured and developed by those who lack it innately. Even natural pessimists can train themselves to be more positive thinkers and doers by recognizing negative thought patterns, then actively seeking to replace them with healthier words and beliefs.

If you struggle with mindset, many great books exist on developing optimism as an entrepreneur. I suggest you find one that makes sense to you.

Related: Business Owners, Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

2. Entrepreneurs believe in what they are doing

Entrepreneurs possess a strong sense of purpose beyond profits. While others might become overwhelmed with all those daily ups and downs of running and growing a successful business, entrepreneurs have massive belief in the importance of their mission. They also readily accept that they will need to overcome very substantial future obstacles for their vision to come to life.

Vision and mission are vital concepts for most successful entrepreneurs. Mission is the definition of the business goals an entrepreneur wants to achieve and the values that will get them there. Vision pertains to how the entrepreneur plans for the organization to impact society at large. Both are key elements in how business owners intend to make a positive and lasting mark on the world. Some entrepreneurs call it legacy; others just think it feels like the right thing to do.

3. Entrepreneurs learn to manage their emotions

Unlike the crazy chart I referenced earlier, most entrepreneurs do not go overboard in celebrating the big victories or bemoaning inevitable setbacks. They understand that both wins and losses are part of the journey they signed up for.

Entrepreneurs also value failure to some degree. While nobody likes to lose, most entrepreneurs understand that every failure brings them one step closer to success. This goes back to that optimism but also reflects on entrepreneurs' maturity in keeping disappointments from consuming them.

Nobody ever said that the life of an entrepreneur is an easy one. In fact, it is almost inherently rife with ups and downs. But by embracing positivity, purpose and poise, entrepreneurs are far more likely to enjoy their rollercoaster ride to success.

Related: How Emotions Persuade Entrepreneurial Decision Making

Jason Zickerman

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of The Alternative Board | Business Development and Growth Advisor

Jason Zickerman is the President and CEO of The Alternative Board, an international organization providing business leaders with facilitated advisory boards and coaching services.

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