The term "entrepreneur" almost always conjures up images of sleepless nights, thrilling highs, challenging lows, and rewards that almost romanticise the idea of taking risks
Is it possible to train your mind to think like an entrepreneur, and if so, what are the fundamentals of doing so?
Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is a difficult but rewarding process
The term “entrepreneur” almost always conjures up images of sleepless nights, thrilling highs, challenging lows, and rewards that almost romanticise the idea of taking risks. And why not? Starting our own business isn’t always the most obvious choice for the vast majority of us. It is sometimes labelled as a ‘pipe dream’, surrounded by the illusive ‘one day.’
To those in the know, however, being an entrepreneur entails far more than simply quitting your day job to pursue a passion. Having an idea is the easy part, however, the execution of it all is where true gumption and persistence play a leading role.
Having been an entrepreneur myself for the last twenty years and going from a newspaper vendor at a brokerage firm (back in 1988), to founding and leading two of my own ventures, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being able to witness the entrepreneurial dream firsthand. Whether it’s realising a vision and seeing it come full circle, or being in the trenches, working tirelessly to get a concept off the ground.
The essence of an entrepreneur is pegged on the ability to balance the precarious act of being assertive yet empathetic or frugal yet generous. You have to be a leader, crisis manager, mentor, motivator, and friend, in addition to having a basic understanding of multiple fields of knowledge. It’s this combination of versatility, resilience, and persistence that makes up the entrepreneurial mindset, and contrary to popular belief, it isn’t genetic. It’s similar to any other skill in that it must be honed, practised, and learned over time.
In fact, the skills that make up this mindset are transferable and applicable to any other career or role as well. Whether it’s a project manager or a marketing and sales executive, lessons from the entrepreneurial playbook can be applied to a number of leadership positions.
This World Entrepreneurship Day, I bring you the answer to the ultimate question: Is it possible to train your mind to think like an entrepreneur, and if so, what are the fundamentals of doing so?
Learn To Believe In Yourself
This is probably the number one rule in the entrepreneurship playbook because the business world is cut-throat and replete with naysayers, with failure being a very real possibility. Hence, any successful entrepreneur has to develop self-belief.
With my middle-class upbringing and being a first-generation learner, all I grew up hearing (and many of us still do) was that some people are just born to be entrepreneurs. However, as I got deeper and deeper into learning and understanding the domains that fascinated me, which in my case were technology and finance, I realised that learning is all about believing that you can and vice versa. I wrote down ten commandments for myself—a practice I still maintain—that listed all of the reasons why I wanted to start my own business and why I was deserving of it. It is what psychologists call self-affirmations, and it is a powerful tool for reinforcing one’s belief in oneself.
Cultivate Good Habits
While a broad term, good habits in the entrepreneurial context could be defined as conscious actions and decisions that can transform how you lead and how you are perceived as a leader. For instance, in his book Atomic Habits, author James Clear talks about the upside to the simple habit of remembering people’s names. Sceptical of something so inconsequential, I decided to try it and make a conscious effort.
Every time I met someone, I made a mental note of their name, and over time, I noticed how it changed my interactions with others. I realised that as humans, we have an innate desire to be noticed, seen, and heard, and remembering someone’s name is the first step toward accomplishing this. A simple habit like this can go a long way in cementing a business leader’s reputation and likeability for those who need to interact and network with multiple stakeholders, employees, and peers.
The ability to be decisive as a personality trait stems from self-belief, but it entails much more than that. Decisiveness is the ability to make timely and confident decisions. For entrepreneurs, it is a crucial skill that must be honed and developed because they are constantly required to make small and large decisions across the board.
Often in stressful environments where the stakes are high and indecisiveness could mean the difference between a good outcome or a disastrous fallout. As an entrepreneur at the helm of my second company, I have always followed the guide to visualisation. I consider all possible outcomes of a decision, whether positive or negative. This assists me in two ways: first, it guides me in compiling a list of pros and cons for each of my decisions, and second, it allows me to mentally prepare for all of the good, bad, and ugly outcomes that may result from my decision.
Take Risks And Don’t Settle
In her Ted Talk, author and Stanford lecturer Amy Wilkinson talks about how comfort and a place of change are diametrically opposite. In essence, what Wilkinson is implying is that entrepreneurs have to be able to take smart risks and move out of their comfort zone to grow their businesses.
When I decided to invest my own money into starting my second company last year, I made an assessment based on the hard numbers, by factoring in different possible global financial events, as well as variables like people and partners that could potentially impact the financial viability of my business. In a gist, I calculated my risk appetite.
Risk-taking may not be an instinct for most, but it is an important part of being an entrepreneur. It’s less about being reckless and more about being intentional with your decisions. The most important thing to remember when taking risks is to calculate your risk appetite. I have always sought comfort in calculating outcomes based on facts and figures.
Furthermore, I believe that while goals can be powerful motivators, they can also be restrictive. Truly successful business leaders never really settle after having achieved a goal, instead, they are always aiming to move on to the next big idea that can create an impact. This was something I experienced while I was still running my first startup.
I had realised my entrepreneurial dream of starting something from scratch, growing it into a well-oiled machine of success, and selling it to a NASDAQ-listed company. I could see the finish line, but it wasn’t enough. My experience with that company opened my eyes to a larger problem that I could potentially help solve, which ultimately led me to the concept that my current startup is built on.
Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is a difficult but rewarding process. And for those who have always imagined themselves at the helm of their own business, the important thing to remember is that it is a set of skills and a state of mind that can be learned through hard work, dedication, and vision. Drown out all those who say otherwise.