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.)