The lives of many are largely set in stone from the very start. Study hard, get a job, work towards retirement, and enjoy your twilight years in comfort. In some ways the entire school system is built to drive people down this path.
Then there are those who think a little differently; who want to trade the well-worn path for the road less travelled. Those people are entrepreneurs.
While becoming an entrepreneur can be hugely rewarding, it isn’t an easy path to take. It demands a level of confidence, ambition and drive that many people find unreachable, let alone maintaining it for years on end.
What exactly does it take to be an entrepreneur? Let’s find out exactly that, by taking a closer look at the entrepreneurial mindset.
What is an entrepreneurial mindset?
An entrepreneurial mindset is the set of beliefs, world views and thought processes that drive entrepreneurial behaviours. This mindset is one driven by self-belief – that you can make your life and the lives of others better by chasing your goal, and that you have the ability to learn, adapt, grow and succeed along the way.
This way of thinking is one defined by decisiveness, the ability to overcome challenges, and accepting ultimate responsibility for the results, whether good or bad. There’s a restlessness to entrepreneurs – a thought that things could always be better, that you could always do better, and that you need to take continuous action on your ideas.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right,” said Henry Ford. To be an entrepreneur, you need to believe you’re an entrepreneur.
A key difference between entrepreneurs and workers is in how they see money. If you put most people in a situation where they need to make more money, they’ll look for a higher paying job. If you put an entrepreneur in a situation where they need to make more money, they’ll begin thinking of ideas to generate it themselves.
Entrepreneurs succeed – and push the world forward – by approaching problems from a different angle. Sure, they feel fear, doubt and anxiety from time to time, but their drive is such that the need to pursue their ideas overcomes those reservations.
That’s what the entrepreneurial mindset looks like. But how do you develop it?
How to think like an entrepreneur
The question of how to think like an entrepreneur can be a controversial one. There’s an ongoing argument of ‘nature versus nurture’ when it comes to entrepreneurs. But while some people are naturally ambitious, driven and self-confident, these are traits that can also be developed over time.
To be an entrepreneur you need to understand that the biggest dangers to your new venture aren’t potential competitors, market forces, a bad economy or even the fact that it’s a bad idea. The biggest threat to your new venture arrives long before any external forces come into play. It’s doubt.
Most people are afraid to pursue their dreams. It’s why everyone seems to say they have a million dollar idea, but you’re not surrounded by millionaires. Some people might even go so far as to dip their toe in the water, only to retract it at the first sign of struggle.
Thinking like an entrepreneur is as much about using your gut as it is about using your head. You need to develop a deep desire for success within, something that you are compelled to nourish, no matter the obstacles that might stand in front of you.
But enough of the abstract – it’s time for some entrepreneurial mindset examples. To get a better sense of exactly which skills and characteristics you should focus on building and honing, let’s next look at the defining features of the entrepreneur mindset.
The 10 defining traits of entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs are comfortable being the black sheep. They don’t need to be told what to do – they’re instead answerable to themselves. Independence is built on a foundation of confidence, so begin by upskilling in areas that will be helpful to you in your new venture, from leadership to specialist skills.
It’s easy to take responsibility when things go well, but it’s far more difficult to take responsibility when things go bad. Successful entrepreneurs never blame others for the situations they find themselves in. They instead know that by taking responsibility for a situation – even if it isn’t entirely their own doing – will grant them the power to improve it.
3. A systematic approach
Entrepreneurs don’t have dreams, they have plans. You can begin to develop a more systematic approach to entrepreneurship by setting SMART goals for your new venture: the sort that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive.
Entrepreneurs know that you learn more from failing than you do from smooth sailing. They don’t take failure personally; they know it’s a part of the process. Rather than fearing these setbacks, they see them as opportunities to learn. The most effective way to build up your resilience is to experience failure, as you’ll realise that these aren’t roadblocks that sit between you and your goal, but mere speed bumps.
5. Personal development
According to Dr Carol Dweck, there are two types of mindset: fixed and growth. People with a fixed mindset feel that who they are doesn’t change too much with time. People with a growth mindset on the other hand believe that they can and will change over time. Unsurprisingly, both of these mindsets become self-fulfilling prophecies. Avoid getting stuck in the mud by putting a focus on personal and professional development.
6. Long-term thinking
Entrepreneurs never lose sight of their ‘North Star’, the long-term goal that they always work towards. Sure, they operate their venture in the here and now, but they tend to frame their day-to-day actions in the context of the journey as a whole. Writing out these long-term goals, and the steps you need to take to achieve them, can be helpful in keeping you moving in the right direction.
Empires aren’t built alone. If you want your company to develop into anything meaningful, you need to be collaborative – to trade the ‘I’ for ‘we’. The most successful entrepreneurs don’t shout orders – they lead by example.
Did you know that the collaboration tool Slack was born during the development of an online game? Canadian entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield saw the potential, then pivoted. The most successful entrepreneurs are those adaptable enough to grab opportunities as they come up, even if they lead in an entirely new direction.
Often an entrepreneur will be forced to make a decision without having all the information they might want, or indeed need. You’ll need to make decisions based on educated guesses, and you’ll need to fully commit to those calls in order to move forward. Remember that bad pages can be edited, but blank pages can’t. Develop your decisiveness by practicing in less stressful situations: next time you’re at a restaurant, scan the menu once, decide what you want, and confidently order the dish.
10. Focus and drive
The most successful entrepreneurs are deeply focused and driven. They don’t procrastinate. They only take on tasks that will help them work towards their long-term goal. They know that hard work now will pay off in the future.
While the nature vs nurture argument drags on, the fact is that no one is born an entrepreneur. This is a title you can only earn through years of hard work.
The very fact that you’re reading this article is as good a sign as any that you’ve got the foundation of an entrepreneurial mindset. It’s up to you to build it from there.