What is entrepreneurial?

A good friend asked me this the other day: What makes you entrepeneurial?

First the easy answers came to mind:

My Dad started his own business and I worked in it. A tire store. That was invaluable.

I grew up in America where going out on your own is a national directive.

But I wanted to tell him something real — something that felt truer — he was sincerely asking for his own reasons — I wanted to reply with equal sincerity.

Then I hit upon something that felt foundational:

“It’s a willingness to do something different.”

While it’s true that my Dad’s biz was influential — and it’s true that culturally I’m surrounded by the prompt to start something, anything — the fundamental ethos driving entrepreneurs is in that keenness to try something new.

There were millions of far more entrepreneurial sorts than I growing up in the former Soviet Union during it’s most state-run days … Because these Soviet millions were far more willing than I to try something different.

There are heaps of people with entrepreneurial parents in the U.S. who don’t start an indie biz. And for any of us who’ve been ensconced in corporations, you also know there are scads of corporate citizens who thrive trying something different all the time.

Trying something different starts on a whim before it becomes a mindset.

You try something different to get that potential romantic partner to notice you.

(My apologies to Pam Covey for mailing England Dan & John Ford Coley’s single I’d Really Love To See You Tonight to her. I was 16, meaning that line “I’m not talkin’ about movin’ in” super duper applied.)

(What?! What am I saying?? It worked — I take that apology back!)

You try something different to make money when you’re pre-pubescent. In my case, it was biking to a 7-11 and buying up candies and sodas and selling them for 1 to 5 cents more apiece at the entrance of the dirt walking path to the beach next to our home.

You try something different with the hope you can become ambidextrous once you discover there’s such a thing. As a teenager I threw a tennis ball left-handed for hours against our sloping roof, ate with my left hand, even started playing ping pong as a lefty.

Some things didn’t work so elegantly left-handed. We won’t discuss those here…

You think you might like the freelance lifestyle, so you try it. Twice. First as a proofreader — oh glamorous profession! Later, as a graphic designer.

You try something different for physical fun. You go on an overnight bike trip, a three-day canoe and kayak trip — not long after you’re quitting jobs for such extended adventure. In fact, this becomes your MO into your mid-thirties . . .

. . . Till you start up an art gallery, which becomes an all-consuming adventure of trying different things. All. The. Time.

What happens when you try something different?

Implied in that phrase are several key points:

1: You are taking action!

2: You doing so in a slightly to radically different way than accustomed.

And . . . so important . . .

3: You can’t help but note whether in some small way it worked or not.

It turned out my friend was trying to figure out if he could become entrepreneurial — if it was innate or could be learned.

As long as you’re willing to try something different, yes, you can become entrepreneurial.

The key is to start with non-monetary aspects in your life. Small things. Health, diet, relationships. How you shop, how you shower, how you make a friend.


And there’s this final thought I passed along to my friend:

Whatever you’re curious about trying, it’s got to be today. Not Thursday. The future doesn’t exist, but today does — you’re in it.

You’ve got to jump into it today in some small fashion.

There’s always some tiny step that can be taken today when the urge to try something different comes up.

(Now . . . you know this . . . yet I feel I must say this in the interest of full reportage. Feel free to pronounce that in a French accent. Reportage.)

(The second principle of being entrepreneurial is keeping at it. You simply keep trying and doing and reflecting and trying and doing until you’re moving in the direction you want to go.)

(Like an unstoppable train.)

(Is there such a thing? Don’t all trains eventually stop?)

(Like a future electric car running on solar all day long.)

(Like our dog goes after a lizard.)

(You’ve never witnessed such intensity — and glee!)

(Yeah, like that.)


Note: Clarity 1.20.2020

Today is one of those days that looks jaunty when you write it out:


If you haven’t already, it’s a good day to get clear for your year.

Mine has been a hodge podge, the on ramp to Vision 2020 has been chaotic. It’s not that I’m not trying things, it’s that I haven’t been able to winnow the hours in my days down to…

The. Most. Important. Things.

So — are you with me? In the remaining hours of Day 20 of 2020, let’s try one more time.

There’s no shame in missing the mark.

A forever friend frequently uses the whole freaking month of January to try things out — to deliberate — to hone what he thinks is really essential for the coming year.

And then he recommits in February to his now-refined program.

So we’re getting a jump on him : -)

(Really, every day is a brand new reality beckoning for clarity — this one just has a cool sequence of numbers attached to it — why not use it as a new starting point?)

If your year has gotten off to a maddening start — if the holidays whirled you around and dumped you into the new year with vertigo-inducing suddenness — if you feel like sneakers in the dryer — today’s your chance.

Rather, tonight’s your chance — there are only a few hours left.

I’m going to finish everything up early and go to my favorite spot — which is anywhere I can sit and be silent.

I’ll have a pen and pad with me.

I’ll ask Clarity in — Clarity likes that, a playful request — then I’ll let Clarity crackle — I’ll let Clarity channel herself through my fingertips.

One thing might get written down.

Maybe two.

But — heaven forfend! — never more than three.

Because this:

If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.

~ Jim Collins

Have fun with it.

That what life mostly asks of us anyway.

. . . . .

Be clear in your vision —
Be clear in your purpose


(That’s the first principle in Burn Baby Burn.)

(You won’t be surprised to hear there are only three principles in Burn Baby Burn.)


For insights and stories on the connected creative life, check out these bookitos:

The Creative Morning Challenge

Burn Baby Burn: Spark The Creative Spirit Within