If you drop ship pyjamas via Amazon FBA, run a beauty haul Youtube channel, flip websites, develop mobile productivity apps, or sell generic infoproducts, then sorry, you’re not an entrepreneur.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but last time I checked entrepreneurship wasn’t wholly about leaving the rat race and gaining individual financial freedom.
It was about things like creativity, innovation, and social change.
It was about questioning commonly accepted beliefs, upending outdated dogma, bringing impossible ideas into reality, and driving real progress and evolution in the world.
Not starting a blog about your gluten-free lifestyle or running a Youtube account that promotes your flat Earth theories.
Sure, it’s new and different and independent, but you don’t automatically become an entrepreneur when you opt out of the status quo and try to make it on your own terms.
To become an entrepreneur, you need to do and be a lot of things. First are foremost, you need to be able to know how to not just pick up and leave convention but dismantle it and challenge it with something much, much better.
An entrepreneur is someone who approaches everything as a problem to be solved. This attitude is the basis of the Socratic Method — an ancient method of critical thinking and questioning named after the classical Greek philosopher Socrates.
The Socratic Method is all about finding more questions, not more answers. By continually inquiring into commonly held assumptions, the method unearths holes in theories and leads you to arrive at previously unseen conclusions and solutions.
The successful entrepreneur uses this method to question closely held beliefs that normals wouldn’t even see, never mind doubt. And then, crucially, they then go against society and what everyone around them is saying by relentlessly pursuing the truth they found.
Some say that true entrepreneurs are born entrepreneurs. In a way, it’s true. However, not because they possess some secret genetic variant, but rather because from a young age they nurtured and followed through on the inclination to take action.
Many people are in love with the Silicon Valley idea of being an entrepreneur — moving fast and breaking things, as Zuckerberg ironically said. But ever since they were young, they’ve been trained to avert even the slightest inkling of disruption and always find the path of least resistance.
In general, the difference between these two scenarios is someone who’s learned to act out of fear and someone who’s learned to use fear to act. For example, say a 15-year-old is getting bullied for wearing the same set of outgrown school clothes and doesn’t want to grow up poor like his dad. He has two choices: accept the situation and allow the fear to consume him, shutting himself off from his family and cowering away from his peers. Or, he could use the fear to change his situation by, for instance, going around and cutting his neighbours lawns or making money live-streaming on Twitch.
Although many so-called entrepreneurs never make it past the point of fear, it is not a destination or a blockade but a necessary step in the process of growth.
Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs are Richard Branson are famous for never stopping and their work spilling over into every area of their lives. But this would be looking at it the wrong way; entrepreneurship isn’t a job you fit into your life; it’s a lifestyle, and more accurately, a mindset, that your life is shaped around.
This isn’t just some wishy-washy way of thinking — like our fear response, it’s grounded in how our brain is wired. Real entrepreneurs have what’s called a growth mindset: they see themselves not as a fixed personality with a certain character and level of intelligence, but as an everchanging and evolving process with an unlimited and unknowable potential. They thrive on challenge and see failure not as evidence of their shortcomings, but as an opportunity to advance their skills and knowledge.
The phoney entrepreneur has the opposite: a fixed mindset. The fixed mindset assumes things like character and intelligence are static givens that can never be changed in a meaningful way. Rather than seeking challenge and learning from failure, they have a deeply ingrained belief, likely from childhood, that failure is bad, and that it only ever leads to shame and blame.
The key difference here, among entrepreneurs, is that someone with a fixed mindset is stuck in the loop of doing everything they can to maintain and prove themselves as the person they think they are. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, are more interested in stretching their boundaries and finding out who they could be.
Question everything, take action, and see failure as an opportunity to grow. Do these three things on a daily basis, and no one will ever be able to doubt your self-proclaimed entrepreneurial status.
Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer and long-term traveller from the North of England. Find him on Medium exploring remote working, technology, meditation, and everything in between.