The entrepreneur illusion

I have a challenge for you: open your phone, tap on the LinkedIn app, and click on your top 5 suggested people. I would be incredibly amazed if one of them wasn’t promoting their “entrepreneurship.” Don’t get me wrong, I see incredible things coming from entrepreneurs (especially the young ones), however, the majority of people you’re going to find calling themselves “entrepreneurs” are a very interesting breed. 

An entrepreneur phase surged a few years ago with the introduction, and main line growth, of figures like Gary Vaynerchuk, who promote a mindset of doing what you love no matter the cost. A common mantra he often promotes is not staying in a job that you hate just because it pays well, but to instead do what you love while still managing fiscal responsibility.

This kind of mentality was incredibly appealing to me, because I’ve always wanted to be in control of what I made. I couldn’t see myself working a ‘nine-to-five’ doing menial jobs that can be done by a semi-sophisticated robot. And while many people find immense satisfaction from these types of positions, I personally can’t. So I decided to buy a heat press, make my own apparel, take it to conferences, and start building a business. I even took over a friend’s sportswear/fitness company. I was so enamored by the idea of cutting my own paycheck whenever I wanted that I lost sight of the core identity of what entrepreneurship is about. 

Let’s go back to those LinkedIn profiles that I started with. Many people claim they’re an entrepreneur, as sort of a badge of honor, except they’re running a company that hasn’t done anything. To them, the title claim of CEO is what matters. Entrepreneurship is becoming a status symbol as opposed to what it’s really meant to be. Entrepreneurship at its core is about taking something that you love and growing it into something that’s recognizable.

Now, I highly doubt the budding entrepreneur loves the idea of instability. It’s far more comfortable to have a job that you know will consistently cut you a paycheck, even if it’s doesn’t bring you great satisfaction. However, the key that makes entrepreneurs special is their desire to push past all doubts and insecurities in search of a higher pursuit. This doesn’t mean they’re ignoring those things— you shouldn’t quit your job if you’re thousands of dollars in debt just because you have a passion. Ultimately, the entrepreneur has an overwhelming urge to pursue that carries them forward.

The passion that people have for creating something from within to manifesting that into someone’s hands is what makes a true entrepreneur. That’s why you’ll notice a trend of people on social media touting themselves as Entrepreneurs/CEOs. To them, being an entrepreneur is important because it allows them to be called CEO; to see heads of major companies like Disney or Netflix under the “people with the same title as you” tab on LinkedIn. But to a real entrepreneur, those accolades don’t matter. Satisfaction comes from the process, not the title.

This is something I’ve had to reconcile with myself recently. My search to build something— anything— led me to a place where I was running things I didn’t enjoy. I could still be considered an entrepreneur because I was running something myself, but ‘self-employed’ seems to be a more fitting term. And while there’s nothing wrong with being self-employed, it doesn’t communicate the same drive and intensity that an entrepreneur has. 

When this realization hit me like bricks, it led me to an internal struggle, questioning everything that I had been doing and whether or not it was for the right purpose. If I wanted to call myself an entrepreneur, I couldn’t just build anything. I had to be building something I was passionate about. That is what defines entrepreneurship.

So if you want to start something, grow it and see it flourish under your own hands. You can, and will, be successful if you have the fire under you to pursue that dream with fortitude. The key ingredient to entrepreneurship: fiery passion. 

"Everyone’s calling themself an entrepreneur, but what does that mean when you go beyond the title?"

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