You know them. By name. By reputation. They are the living legends, the household names, the superstars. They are the entrepreneurs who have succeeded against all odds and beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. How did they make it? What catapulted them to the pinnacle of success?
Was it some genetic mutation, raw brilliance or freakish bit of luck? It was none of these. Yet it was all of these. And it was something more. Beyond their sizzling hot businesses and flashy personal brands, many entrepreneurs have a depth of character.
They think in ways that few others do. The sayings quoted below encapsulate such thinking. These sayings aren’t inscribed, framed in some museum or attributed to any entrepreneur specifically. Rather, these quotations comprise the mental attitude of an entrepreneur who knows what he or she wants, knows how to get it, and knows that success is going to happen.
If the entrepreneurial ethos could speak, here is what it would say.
1. ‘I don’t care what they think.’
Lao Tzu said,
Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
Successful entrepreneurs know this to be true. It sounds callous to not care what people think, but a healthy disregard for public opinion is essential to doing work that matters.
When entrepreneurs get hung up on how people perceive him, think of them, say about them, write about them and talk about them, they’re not on the path toward building an exemplary business. Instead, they are on a path to try to please the crowds.
2. ‘I will dream bigger than you ever dared.’
Before a business can be built, a dream must be dreamed.
Howard Tullman wrote,
Dear entrepreneurs: Have a dream and make it a big one.
Good advice. When I myself read the mission of SpaceX, I’m tempted to snicker:
SpaceX . . . was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.
Live on other planets. Seriously? But that’s the kind of convention-defying dreams an entrepreneur must possess. My own dreams are smaller, but they are still dreams. They seemed unlikely when I first dreamed them, but, looking back, I’m glad I dreamed, and dared and did it.
Go ahead. Thumb your nose at convention, and unleash your biggest and most insane dream.
3. ‘That’s stupid.’
You’ve got to know when something simply won’t work.
Building a business entails a maelstrom of massive change and rapid movement. If you decide to labor over every decision and analyze every move, you’re going to be stuck. Sometimes, you need to label an idea, a plan, a strategy or a decision as “stupid,” and move on.
Steve Jobs once told competitor George Bodenheimer,
Your phone is the dumbest f**king idea I have ever heard.
Jobs wasn’t afraid of ticking people off, and calling a spade a spade. You can be more nuanced in your speech, but you have to be clear in your mind about what’s going to work and what’s not.
4. ‘We’ll learn how.’
An entrepreneur is an inventor. He or she devises new ways of doing new things. Business-building is an adventure in learning how to do new things, with new customers, new models, new approaches, new solutions, new needs, new niches, new markets. The entrepreneur’s experience is awash in new.
The only way to do new things is to learn new things. Elon Musk taught himself rocket science and then founded SpaceX. Thomas Edison taught himself 10,000 lessons about what wouldn’t work as a light bulb filament.
If you want to build a business, you’re going to learn a few things. You don’t need school. You just need to do. You can learn as you go.
5. ‘Try again.’
After every failure comes a “try again.” One of the most well-known quotes in the English language goes like this:
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again
A schoolteacher named William Hickson popularized the quote in the 1800s. His advice is at the heart and soul of the business-building, failure-defying, success-pursuing attitude of millions of entrepreneurs the world over. Failure is part of the warp and woof of entrepreneurial culture. An entrepreneur, after all is defined as someone who takes on risk. When the risk ends in anything other than success, it’s called a failure.
The failure culture is impossible to miss. Just take a gander at the reporting literature on the subject:
- “Fail fast, fail often.” (A mantra)
- “Silicon valley loves failures.” (Inc.)
- “The psychic toll of unrelenting failure simmers just beneath the exuberance.” (The Guardian)
- “Now failure is emerging as a badge of honor.” (The New York Times)
- “Failing is succeeding.” (Newsweek)
- “Failure is the New Economy’s new religion.” (Marketplace)
- “When a startup fails, that’s a success, since epidemic failure is a hallmark of disruptive innovation.” (The New Yorker)
Nearly every successful entrepreneur has built his or her business on the foundation of failure. Once failure has run its course — as it must — it is time to try again.
The business failure rate is staggering. But it’s the “try again” anecdotes that showcase the entrepreneurial drive.
- Richard Branson started around 500 companies. Only a handful have been successful.
- Colonel Sanders tried 1,009 times before a restaurant purchased his secret fried chicken recipe.
- Tim Westergren, who founded Pandora, tried more than 300 times to pitch his business to venture capitalists.
- James Dyson got his vaccum design right only after he tried 5,126 times.
So, you see? It pays to try again.
6. ‘It’s not too late.’
The prototypical “entrepreneur” is a twentysomething, with a dream, some drive and a Silicon Valley zip code (that, and the dietary resilience to eat ramen noodles for three to five years).
But, who says that an entrepreneur has to be a Stanford-grad developer who’s wet behind the ears? Many entrepreneurs know that it’s not too late in life to pull up the tent pegs and head for the entrepreneurial hills.
Plenty of business builders have launched their entrepreneurial careers well past their prime. The so-called sunset years are nothing short of a new beginning.
For success-sniffing entrepreneurs, the game is never over. Instead, it’s a new inning.
Whether your entrepreneurial journey is winding up, cruising right along or at a dead standstill, take inspiration from these attitudes, and see where it will take you.
What is the most inspiring aspect of entrepreneurship to you?