My old friend (and Techstars' former CTO) Jud Valeski and I were recently playing a game where we came up with a list of crazy things that
My old friend (and Techstars’ former CTO) Jud Valeski and I were recently playing a game where we came up with a list of crazy things that entrepreneurs do, just because of who we are. Because, let’s face it: entrepreneurs are a little different from other people.
We take more risks. We break more rules. We don’t accept the world as it is; we truly believe that we can change it. Sometimes this comes out in the shape of a new company. And sometimes it comes out in quirky behaviors that stem from these same impulses.
Granted, this is a pretty silly game. Someone who behaves in all of these ways but does so without direction, focus, or a conscience could easily just be a jerk — spoiled and irresponsible. But if you take these behaviors and add the desire to build something great, to solve problems, to make the world a better place, that’s when you get an entrepreneur.
Here are some of the things we thought of. I’d love to hear any that you’ve come up with, too.
1. There’s no case on their smartphone.
This is an easy-to-spot example. The person who chooses not to put a case on their expensive, slippery smartphone is a risk-taker at heart. Why ruin the sleek lines of your new phone with a case that doesn’t look or feel as good as the cool metallic edge of the object itself? That person who goes case-free is comfortable with taking chances, just as a good entrepreneur must be.
2. They’re eating messy food.
This is a good one to look for at an Italian restaurant. Everyone knows that spaghetti with red sauce is drawn to a white shirt, right? The person slurping down spaghetti without a care in the world, while getting none on their pristine white shirt — that’s an entrepreneur. How do I know? Because to that person, failure is not an option. To hell with mere mortals and their napkins or sensible dark shirts. Sauce drips are things that happen to other people. White pants are, of course, even better, though less common.
3. They’re breaking the rules.
I refuse to either confirm or deny doing this one myself: It’s late in the evening, you’re driving home, there’s no other traffic around, and you come to a roundabout (or traffic circle, road circle, or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods). And instead of automatically going clockwise, you go the other way around. Just because you can. Just because it’s there. Just because breaking the rules feels good.
That rule breaker may or may not actually be an entrepreneur — but if they are, they’re probably a good one. It’s not so much that you have to break the rules; it’s that you notice the rule is there, and think about what would happen if you broke it. You see possibilities where other people see only one way to go. And when you choose to take the counterclockwise path, you enjoy every minute of it.
4. Nothing gets in their way.
Jud told me this story about his father, and it epitomizes one key characteristic of a successful entrepreneur.
Jud’s father hates to fly, but shortly after 9/11 — a time when many people were feeling anxious about flying, and security was especially tight — he had to do some air travel. That day, Jud got a call from his dad — from the air traffic control tower. How did he get up there? He’d always wanted to see how everything worked, and he was chatting with a few security guys, which turned into a tour of the tower with their supervisor who was on his way up to the tower to start his shift.
I have never managed to talk my way into an air traffic control tower. (Then again, I haven’t tried. Yet.) But I love this story, because it shows me a person who doesn’t let anything get in the way of his vision — which is also a pretty great definition of an entrepreneur.
5. They’re driven by passion.
Entrepreneurs are the artists of business. Once we are gripped by a vision, we drive toward it. This is what people mean when they talk about how important passion is to entrepreneurship. This overwhelming drive to see your vision brought to life is what keeps entrepreneurs from quitting when the hours are long, money is tight, and failure is looming. It’s why we start again, even when a project or a company does fail.
We have to. It’s who we are.
You there in the white shirt, devouring spaghetti without a care in the world, I see you. And I salute you, fellow entrepreneur.
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