The Entrepreneurial Spirit cover image

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Posted on June 29, 2019


Recently, on Twitter, I shared a tweet about impostor syndrome, and about how much it destroys dreams before they have a chance to become reality. I can say something like that because of my long history with impostor syndrome. I hope, through this post, I’ll defuse the notion that entrepreneurship is a badge that you earn.

Let me explain:

Failed products

I’ve suffered more failures and dead-ends in my career than I care to admit. To be honest, I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur until within the last 6 months when my wife and I decided to really put all of our efforts into building a 6-figure/year business from scratch.

But my inability to see myself as an entrepreneur did not stop me from being a routine side-project fanatic.

Over the course of my 10 years in software development, I’ve consistently had a side-project that I worked on in my spare time. Most of these were some variation of a software tool for developers or a type of newsletter. And while they differed each iteration in focus, they all had the same process:

The main reason for this: impostor syndrome.

Making money is the goal, not the qualification

First, let’s ask why I felt like an impostor. If I was doing what an entrepreneur does — which is: think of things from a macro perspective, organize and run a business, and take on more risk than average for a greater financial reward—then why did I feel like an impostor?

After all, I was doing all of these things with each side-project. I would have an idea, do some research, come up with a brand, build both the product and the marketing pages, offer support, and much more.

The simple answer is that all my side-projects made very little to no money at all. They were mainly experiments (or, at least, that’s what I told myself) where I would analyze and learn from their performance. Most of them I released for free in exchange for emails or some other form of value.

But here-in lies the trap of impostor syndrome among entrepreneurs: we somehow feel as though we can’t possibly wear the title until we successfully run or sell a business for X amount of dollars.

Making money is simply a measure of success, not a qualification of one’s authenticity.

But I would argue that entrepreneurship is an attitude, not a status. Sure, making money is the goal of every entrepreneur, and it should be. But to make money is simply a measure of the business’ success, not a qualification of one’s own authenticity or right to an identification.

And to be honest, I think a big reason I never made money on those side-projects is because my impostor syndrome sold me short from the start. I disqualified their business potential before they even began because, well, I had never started a successful business in the first place.

This brings up the obvious question, though: how does one become a successful entrepreneur without first starting with nothing and no experience?

The obvious answer is: they don’t.

Taking the first step

It was only after seriously analyzing my passions that I began to accept the idea that I might contain within me a very real entrepreneurial spirit.

Have I made money from a company? Not yet. I may never start a successful company, either—but that doesn’t change the fact that I am an entrepreneur through-and-through. I have a burning within me to imagine the future, to find a need and fill it, and to strategically deliver that need in a way that can be sold for profit as well as offer real benefit to the consumer.

Do I know how to do all these things from start to finish? Partially, but not completely and certainly not to the level of “expert”. But that doesn’t matter, because I’ll learn like I always do.

And you will too, if you take the first step.

You see, I don’t know much about entrepreneurship. I have a lot that I still need to experience, failures that I need to feel, and successes that I need reflect on. But all of these will come with time.

I’m not worried about missing out on these lessons even in the least. I know they will come because I’ve learned one absolute fact about entrepreneurship that I will take to my grave, and that is simply this:

You’ll never learn until you try.

Believe in yourself

If you aspire to be an entrepreneur, take some encouragement from someone who is directly in your shoes. We’re in this together, and there are thousands of us who have yet to “make our mark”.

If you’re just getting started, your most valuable asset is going to be your own belief in yourself. Everyone will tell you how unqualified you are, but the main voice that will silence you at the end of the day is your own.

So what, if you’re not experienced. Experience comes to those who seek it.

Now get to work — you’ve got a lot to do.

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