The entrepreneur’s DNA: 8 questions to ask yourself if you have it

You think you’re a wannapreneur and want to see whether you have what it takes to take it to the next level and be a real entrepreneur. You keep hearing that entrepreneurs are risk takers. But so are gamblers. In fact this is largely untrue – most entrepreneurs are risk averse as Malcolm Gladwell’s survey shows.

Then what are the indicators to gauge whether you have entrepreneurship in your DNA? Run yourself through this checklist and see if your natural tendencies are aligned with each point. If any of these contradicts your personality or your value system then likely entrepreneurship isn’t your cup of tea.

I didn’t come up with these items myself. Instead they were distilled from Episode 105 of the Lifestyle Business Podcast, hosted by Dan & Ian. They said it’s the entrepreneur’s DNA – which implies that it’s either you’re born with it or you simply won’t have it.

However I disagree on that last point. If you look closer, you’ll see that these traits can be learned. In other words, you can train yourself to have these characteristics ingrained into yourself. Just make sure that you’re not against these ideas or otherwise it’s going to be an uphill battle to fight against yourself as you deny your inner voice and make a 180° turn in the other direction.

Without further ado, these are the 8 questions you need to ask yourself to check whether entrepreneurism is your cup of tea.

  1. Do you have skills?
    As in real tangible skills that produces value on the ground. These are the skills that corporate people call as individual contributor skills (and tries to devalue its prestige at the same time). Making movies, writing code, and even fixing bikes are some examples of this skill. A counter-example is going to meetings and writing business reports typical to a business consultant’s job at Booz Allen Hamilton. That is, being a pluggable part of a bureaucracy doesn’t contribute to the entrepreneur’s skillset. You’ll also need to sharpen these skills to stand head and shoulders above the rest.
  2. Do you crave for status of being part of an organization?
    Let’s say that you’re a business consultant making more than $80k at Booz Allen Hamilton. Should you quit your job to start your own consultancy, it’ll be a big shift from being a “Big Booz Allen Guy” who works with Fortune 500 companies to calling up mom-and-pop restaurants and help them run their business. Just remember this is not too far off from how Booz Allen got started. If being a “big guy from a big firm” resonates with you, then probably you should pursue that path instead of the lonely entrepreneurial long walk.
  3. Are you keen of building high-friction relationships? You’ll need to have entrepreneurial friends that you know and have mutual trust with. Building landing pages and doing SEO on those pages won’t help in developing these relationships. You’ll need to contact them regularly and discuss on how you’ve been helping them so far and what else can you do to help them.
  4. Do you have the producer’s mindset?
    You’ll need to produce more than you consume. Like for example if you’re joining a community it’s not about what you can take from that community but what you can contribute. When you do good things, good things will come to you. Sure you’ll run into a few parasites along the way, but you usually can distance yourself from these bloodsuckers — just don’t be that parasite!
  5. Can you listen?
    Not just about hearing, but passionately serve the interests of others. If you’re ego-focused, you’ll have a more difficult time listening to other people’s needs and discovering a warm niche – you unfair advantage of a market niche which members you can reach personally.
  6. Do you think in long-term?
    Entrepreneurs can “see the ferrari” long before they can afford to buy one. They have a process mindset instead of an event mindset. Real entrepreneurs are in it “for the long haul” and not for “making a quick buck” and are able to delay short-term gratifications for the sake of long-term benefits.
  7. Can you find ways to be engaged in your job?
    Do you have the guts to change your job before you ran out of steam and became disengaged? If you don’t have this capability, it’ll just get worse when you run your own business since you’ll have your customers and employees depend on in addition to your family. Don’t be a sell-out and get trapped in a golden handcuffs career.
  8. Are you unsure of yourself and can you handle it?
    Mark Zuckerberg still had other side projects going on as Facebook as launching. Because he wasn’t sure that Facebook could work out as a viable business. Entrepreneurs tend to have some degree of paranoia and sense of insecurity. You’ll need to embrace this and actively work to mitigate your risks. What if you don’t have this self-doubt at all? What if you are very self-confident and firmly believe that you’ll succeed each time? Then you’re just being arrogant and likely to fail early for not seeing the risks that are inherent in any entrepreneurial venture.

Ask these questions yourself and see if you got what it takes to be an entrepreneur and be happy doing it. Just remember being an entrepreneur isn’t the only way to make a lot of money and get rich – being a big business consultant in in a mega consulting firm can also bring you big bucks. Conversely you can even make less money being an entrepreneur rather than being an employee in an OK company. The choice is yours and you owe it to yourself to think before jumping ship.


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