Entrepreneurs are a curious bunch.
They come in all shapes, sizes, genders and backgrounds. They get up at dawn. They're the first ones to the office and the last ones to leave. They use productivity apps, network their tooshes off and leave no stone unturned when it comes to pretty much everything.
At best, they make the rest of us humans wonder if it's worth getting up in the morning. At worst, well, ditto. As superwoman/entrepreneur Ingrid Vanderveldt (Dell's entrepreneur-in-residence, media personality and investor) puts it: "Entrepreneurs are barrier breakers whose optimistic view of the world combined with their creative thinking has the ability to address even the toughest of challenges, including the government's approach to innovation."
Sound crazy? Well, that's the point. Beyond what entrepreneurs actually do, exists a mindset that has them believing even something as morose and archaic as the government is redeemable vis-à-vis entrepreneurship.
Beyond the "to do" lists of the most successful ‘treps I know, lies a way of thinking that acts as the engine to their seemingly invincible take on the world. If you think like this, chances are you may be well on your way to doing something insane…like attempting to innovate in the public sector.
Ready? Here's how entrepreneurs (and maybe you?) think:
1. You like feeling like a kid.
Entrepreneurs tend to act like kids in a candy store. Nothing is off limits, everything is for the taking, and their inquisitiveness is as infuriating as it is contagious. When I asked Guide's COO, Leslie Bradshaw, to describe how she thinks, and why she prefers the entrepreneurial approach to life, she responded without skipping a beat:
"I keep my childlike wonderment alive. I approach the world with curiosity, passion, risk tolerance, and faith -- just like I did when I was growing up. The more traditional companies I worked for out of college not only didn't foster these traits, they flat out discouraged them."
2. You think (or perhaps know?) you can do it better.
Innovation presupposes that whatever came before it is ripe for improvement. For entrepreneurs, this assumption is the driving force behind their efforts. Jeremy Johnson, lifelong entrepreneur and co-founder of 2U, puts it aptly:
"An entrepreneur's train of thought goes like this: ‘everything around me was invented by someone and that person probably isn't any smarter than I am.' We believe almost everything can be improved upon in some way. We start to imagine what could be instead of what is…the world is malleable and many of the rules that exist are more like guidelines."
3. You are typically optimistic.
This may seem like an extremely obvious thing to point out, but its importance simply cannot be overemphasized. Plenty of entrepreneurs exist who have a somewhat negative disposition. But I would argue that those who think this way generally don't get very far.
Two things tend to happen: 1) they earn reputations as terrible bosses and 2) their businesses eventually erode because of their own self-fulfilling, pessimistic prophecy.
Special note: being optimistic is just typically a better way to approach the world, so do it for your own sanity if nothing else.
4. You're a rule breaker.
Entrepreneurs are by nature rule breakers and dissenters. This is an attitude as much as it is a mentality. Meredith Fineman, CEO of FinePoint Digital PR gives an all-too-familiar look at what goes through the mind of an entrepreneur on a regular basis:
"It's hard for me to relate when people can't wait for the week to be over or can't wait to rush out of the office for Happy Hour. My job is never done, nor do I want it to be. That's not to say that I never do things for pleasure, but I am constructing my own life and not constricting it based on someone else's ideas or standards."
5. You're probably a gear head.
This last point is a direct result of our modern-day reliance on technology as a vehicle for innovation. As Vanderveldt observes:
"Technology has been the common denominator for all the companies I have started -- from data mining to green energy. I believe it is the global equalizer and enabler. Young entrepreneurs and startups need to be focused on (and thinking about) enabling their organization to scale, delivering faster and more efficient results, and maximizing workforce productivity - all of which can be supported through technology."
So whether you're considering getting your feet wet as a first-time entrepreneur, or you are well on your way to entrepreneurial success, keep in mind that how you think is just as important as what you actually do. Thinking like an entrepreneur requires a unique approach to the world and a mindset to help view the world as limitless in its possibilities for improvement, change and, ultimately, innovation.
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