I recently stumbled across a free e-Book written by Michael Simmons and Sheena Lindahl, of Extreme Entrepreneurship Education Corp fame. They’ve been acknowledged by ABC, NBC, CBS, and Business Week for their efforts to reach out and educate budding young entrepreneurs. While their e-Book is mostly written for a college audience, I thought there was quite a bit of value in their message for the rest of us. Here’s a piece of the introduction in their e-Book:
You know who you are. Ambitious, entrepreneurial, goal-oriented, values-driven, persistent, self-starter, etc. You can’t help it either. You can’t help but get excited by the opportunities around you. You can’t help but get excited by your own potential. You know your life will be about big things, although you may not know exactly what those will be yet.
Here’s the thing though. It’s not easy. It’s not easy being you, because sometimes you feel isolated from parents, teachers, and even peers. Sometimes you feel like something is wrong because you feel different than those around you. Furthermore, the people closest to you, the people with the best intentions, often end up being your main critics. They say, “What makes you different?”, “You’ll never make it”, “That’s impossible”, “You’re an idealist.”, “You sure you’re not overdoing it?” They cannot help it.
Many parents encourage a safe path because that’s what worked for their generation. Many teachers encourage the conventional path because that’s what they know. Many of your peers encourage you to relax and take it easy because that’s what they enjoy. But none of these ways of being feel right to you.
I immediately identified with this message. Most people that surround a young entrepreneur feel like it is their civic duty to let you know that you may not be capable of accomplishing what you’re trying to do. Is this more because they are uncomfortable with the idea, and less that you can’t do it? Is there any truth in what they are saying? Are they just trying to save you face and protect you from failure? If so, they’re limiting your potential. Also, their commentary can often be discouraging. Realize that the only people who are going to be supportive of you are other real entrepreneurs that are willing to acknowledge your ability. Most people are not wired like you are, and this is why they aren’t successful entrepreneurs themselves. They’re not interested in taking controlled chances like you are. They want to play it safe.
The fact that they play it safe isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. You and I need people like them. They’re the fabric of your future company. Rest assured, when you finally do launch that business, and get the funding you were looking for, you’re going to need reliable people to count on, who do like to play it safe — eventually. They’re going to be the ones that keep your business alive, but they’re certainly not going to be the risk takers. They’re not going to be the ones that you recognize for bright ideas and that out-of-the-box thinking that helps to separate you from your competition. Chances are, they’re not going to be your future partners, lenders, or executive team either.
Regardless of what people say, do not let down your enthusiasm. Stop and think for a minute if their advice is useful, or driven by an alternative purpose, even if it wasn’t advice you asked or was looking for. You might find that even in a negative exchange, that they are offering you an opportunity to find an area that you could use some improvement. Take it on as a personal challenge to see if what they’re suggesting might be truthful; but don’t let it stop you or hold your focus for too long. Remember, failing fast has a lot of value, and if you spend too much time trying to perfect what you’re working on, you might miss your targets. You might even lose sight of what your customers want because a colleague of yours said that your idea stunk. What made him authoritative over your ideas, anyway? Who told him he was your client’s representative? You did!
Kelle Sparta recently wrote an article for Startup Spark that seems to resonate with this line of thinking. She acknowledges that employees and entrepreneurs think very differently. You just need to realize that most people are employees (and might very well always be). Her description of the Entrepreneur Mindset seems right on target. It is relieving to find out that others breathe just like you every day, isn’t it?
Tell me your story of ‘staying on track’ even when others brought you down and you could win a copy of Guy Kawasaki’s upcoming book titled Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition. It is set to be released on October 30th, 2008 and will be the latest hardcover from Guy Kawasaki, a man who needs no introduction in the entrepreneur space. Enter the contest by Tuesday, July 1st, 2008 by simply writing your story as a comment to this post. Avoid too much brevity, but don’t make it too long either! I will be choosing the winning entry by July 4th by email, so don’t forget to include your email address when adding the comment (don’t worry, I won’t give this out!).
UPDATE: Jamie has won the contest. As an added bonus, I decided to give him a copy of any other Guy Kawasaki book of his choosing. Congratulations Jamie!