Entrepreneurship and startups are the buzzwords in town that everyone is talking about suddenly. It seems trendy to become an entrepreneur, to be part of a startup, and to be part of the revolution. While those things are true of some startups and we as consumers often benefit from it, the sayings also anchor a lot of expectations and stereotypes about who is an entrepreneur and who is not an entrepreneur.
Because of what everyone is saying, we often rule ourselves out of the game even before playing it. Just because you’re not a creative person, you can’t be an entrepreneur? That’s not necessarily true. If you remove all that noise around the entrepreneurship word, it is simply a protocol – a belief, a mindset, a way of doing things, and a lifestyle – just like going vegetarian, subscribing to a religion, running a marathon, binge-watching TV shows, or being part of a family.
Anyone can be an entrepreneur so long as they want to be. To start off, here are 4 natural entrepreneurial traits that you and I (and everyone we know) share as human beings:
1. We all recognise frictions and pain points in life
Humans come pre-fitted with a sense and the ability to react to things. Our five senses can almost immediately tell us to avoid certain things that cause discomfort: extreme heat, cold, electric spark, etc. and these turn into problems. Similarly, in a business sense, we recognise pain points of certain products or structures as part of our user experience and can almost immediately want improvements made to the product.
The first reaction to problems and pain points is innate in human beings, and an entrepreneur capitalises on his or her senses to act and solve the problem. But will everyone have the tenacity to act every time they encounter discomfort and misery? How exactly will they act? And how is this entrepreneurial?
2. We refuse to give up things that we truly enjoy
As human beings, we are aware that time is limited and it constantly passes. Yet, there are some things that we keep throwing our time doing. Whether it is computer games, sports, social media, etc. there is always something that we do in excess. This goes directly against the saying that moderation is key and describes how human instincts tend to drive us to keep chasing more of what pleasures us.
And that is an entrepreneurial trait – being determined and passionate. We all can be entrepreneurs because we have the drive to turn an idea into reality if we enjoy it. You don’t need to be part of an institution to be an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur has a lot more to do with being a good problem solver and having the will to innovate. Some people are just not entrepreneurs yet. If we are able to derive pleasure from arriving at solutions that make a difference in the world, then we can keep going down the entrepreneurial journey and wish it never stops.
3. We will never be perfect, but we are learning throughout the journey
Why is it important that we derive pleasure from entrepreneurship? That’s because it is a journey that takes you by surprise with its highs and lows, success and failures, belief and doubt. Having fun in the process makes it easier for us to keep driving on when the road is bumpy.
The third reason you and I can be entrepreneurs is that we are capable of learning as we go. You are never good enough for the next big challenge you’ll face. In this world, you simply cannot know everything about the future and the best strategy is that you pick up as much information needed to move on from one milestone to another. Take enough information, ask your team, ask your community, move fast, and learn through the journey.
Mistakes are part of the entrepreneurial journey, but we make mistakes all the time even as human beings as well. As a child, we did the wrong things out of innocence and naivety but once we get reprimanded, our sense of right and wrong gets tuned and we know better what to do and what not to do. This is truly the path of an entrepreneur, even the most successful ones like Elon Musk and Bill Gates. For as long as we don’t beat ourselves down completely and give up, we will find a way to succeed in the game.
4. We can rope others into helping us and learn together
We are social creatures that rely on one another to survive. In ancient societies, we had scholars, artisans, kings and soldiers who supported each other for a survival purpose. Today, we rely on doctors for health, governments for public infrastructure, banks for a smooth transaction. As living systems evolve, one thing remains true: we can rope others to do something that benefits the greater society.
Startups are about the survival of the fittest. The journey of entrepreneurship can surely be undertaken alone, but who is there to throw questions at your ideas? To challenge you and yet be there when you’re down? Going with a team (including your community) is fun because we can generate a social learning effect – piggyback off their knowledge and learn from them, and even learn from teaching them! And just like how we evolve as a species to preserve civilisations, we have the capacity to collaborate and create change in the deepest problems.
This article was originally written by Frank Looi and first published on FutureLab, a social learning community that aims to empower mentees to take charge of their careers by connecting them to global mentors who care.