At work, when we talk about hiring (which we talk about A LOT nowadays), I usually tell my co-managers that I am very interested in hiring “entrepreneurial-minded” people.
Then I’d get often asked:
What does that mean?
That’s a question I’ve been mulling about for ages. What exactly is it? How do you evaluate if someone has it? How do you know if someone has the potential to have it?
There are so many theories on what entrepreneurship is.
Here’s one of mine.
I think, when you distill it, when you boil entrepreneurship down to its basest levels, entrepreneurship is all about fearlessness.
Entrepreneurs just conquer fear.
Innovation, a word long synonymous with entrepreneurship, is all about not being happy with the status quo and doing something better.
How many times have we let the status quo remain because no one had the guts to call it out? Just to even identify that you want to merely explore changing the status quo can be scary, much more actually trying to change it. Imagine the threats and pressure Elon Musk is facing now from the gigantic industries (petroleum, automobile) Tesla is trying to disrupt. Guts.
Persistence, another word we associate with entrepreneurship, also involves fearlessness. When we fail, it takes a lot of guts to DO THE SAME THING again, knowing the results will likely end in yet another failure. Entrepreneurship involves repeated failure. Legendary Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos recently declared that his failures are worth billions already. Ballsy.
Entrepreneurs also are known as builders. In STORM, we find this important enough to include in one of our value statements, which says that “we like to build versus maintaining.” To build something also takes guts – because you are putting something out into the world and opening yourself up to criticism.
In his recent, wondrous book which every entrepreneur needs to read, Peter Thiel says that a great entrepreneur is essentially a contrarian at heart. The entrepreneur believes and works on something the rest of the world doesn’t think is true. (For example, Larry and Sergey thought web linkages produce much better search results) It takes A LOT OF GUTS to run counter to what the rest of the world thinks.
So I’ve now included a set of questions on fearlessness which I ask would-be employees.
What’s the ballsiest thing you’ve done?
Tell me about a time when you stuck your neck out for an idea.
Tell me about a time you were criticized for something you created or suggested.
When was the last time you tried something out for the first time?
As you read this, try to answer them. It’s a good exercise that can give us clues as to what our fearlessness quotient is.
It’s a good indicator on your readiness to make that entrepreneurial leap.
The good news?
Even if you found yourself frustratingly giving crappy answers to these questions, I think fearlessness CAN BE LEARNED.
You need to exercise your fearlessness muscles. How do you build muscle? Reps.
Start with low weights.
When your boss asks your group for questions or suggestions, be sure you do a Hermione and give an answer,
even if ESPECIALLY when you think your answer feels a bit stupid.
Suggest ideas. In STORM, one of our best employees, Ethel, suggests things to me very very often (she just emailed another one as I write this). Big ideas or small ones, in her scope of work or beyond it, she would just go for it and suggest. She knows that sometimes, her idea won’t go well with me. Sometimes, it does. But she just puts it out there and learns either way. That’s awesome.
Practice makes perfect.
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