I used to think that there were natural-born entrepreneurs, those bold and unconventional types that could never be tied down to the monotony and predictability of the 9 to 5. These entrepreneurs are the mavericks, the rule-breakers, the kids who didn't do well in school, either because they were bored silly by what was being taught or they couldn't sit still long enough to actually learn the stuff, boring or not. These entrepreneurs walked fast, talked fast and made fast decisions. Their interests, friend circles, and hobbies changed frequently, as they were always looking for the next new thing.
Seemingly unaware of all the things that could go horribly wrong, they threw themselves into venture after venture, until something paid off. The job description of the serial entrepreneur is the fearless risk-taker who is captivated by the goal, but only until he or she reaches it. Then, it's time to find a new one, if they haven't already lined it up. Some of them are jugglers, who deftly manage to be in several places at once. Doing one thing at a time would be a prison sentence for one of them.
If you're an entrepreneur, you will experience failure more than the average corporate Joe or Jill, in fact, the prospect of failure is what keeps the majority of people from ever throwing their hat in the ring of self-employment. We've all heard plenty from the personal growth industry on the benefits of stepping outside our comfort zone, but when it comes to the entrepreneurial life, the comfort zone is pretty non-existent. As soon as you become comfortable, you've stopped taking risks, and risks, my friends, is what it's all about.
There are still plenty of these so-called natural-born entrepreneurs around. Gary Vaynerchuk is one that comes to mind. Gary is always on the move, delivering countless keynote speeches all over the globe, podcasting, writing books, investing in other business ventures and running his own. Gary preaches hustle and grind, urging his followers to be aware that they can rest when they're dead and if they slow down to smell the flowers, their competitors will pass them while they're doing it.
But what if you're not a natural-born entrepreneur? What if you did well in school, are super organized and have no problem seeing things through? Does this mean you aren't meant to have your own business or maybe even an empire? You might have noticed over the past couple of decades that a new breed of entrepreneurs has arisen. As a matter of fact, I can name several other types of entrepreneurs that don't fit the natural-born mold of a Gary V. While I have nothing against them, and based on my personality traits and early career experiences, I realize I could have joined them much sooner than I did, they are not the role models for most of us now. The world is now full of non-traditional entrepreneurs, those I call Modern Entrepreneurs, who found themselves either by choice or by necessity working for themselves, without expecting to do so.
There are those who got laid off during a promising career, after completing the required education and training, like Pat Flynn who lost his job as an architect and went on to become a highly successful entrepreneur, coach and media personality in the online marketing space. Then there are the countless women who left corporate and professional careers to have a family, knowing that the cost of childcare would make returning financially unfeasible. The opportunity to start a business with nothing more than a laptop, some free or low-cost software and a good idea has launched the career of countless coaches, consultants, and online educators.
The recession, housing crisis, rising costs of a college education and crushing student loan debt for those who braved it and the massive disruption of virtually every established industry due to technology has created a new entrepreneurial economy and a new breed of entrepreneurs. The days of choosing a career path, completing the necessary college degree(s) and climbing the ladder until retirement are gone for good.
There are more highly educated and underemployed young adults in the US alone than most people realize. I've personally known quite a few that weren't able to find or keep a job in their chosen field, even with a college degree and ended up going to trade school so they could find stable employment and move back out of their parent's extra bedroom.
These modern entrepreneurs also include people who have been forced to leave traditional employment for health reasons, mental and physical, those who have been pushed out due to ageist policies a few years before retirement, but many years before they could afford to stop earning a paycheck. One of the fastest-growing groups of modern entrepreneurs are women over 50. Some of them have aged out of fields that just stop giving you work when you can no longer pass for 40-something. Others have opted out of regular employment because of a disabled child, aging parents or other caregiving responsibilities. These modern entrepreneurs never saw it coming, never saw themselves as 'the type', but yet here they are, and I believe they're here to stay.
The number of people who are now working from their laptop, in a coffee shop, a spare bedroom or a co-working space is not exactly known. Some businesses require a license or registration, others don't and not everyone who is self-employed knows or cares about the rules. When we moved from LA to Portland earlier this year, my husband and I told our realtor we needed a place that was big enough to allow each of us to have our own home office. She not only wasn't surprised, she said this request is increasingly common, especially among buyers in our age group, older but not dead yet, thank you. Pivoting from an offline business to the online world meant giving up my pricey rented office, local magazine advertising, boring networking meetings and hours in traffic. I'm definitely on the steep end of the learning curve with all the tech my new business model requires, but at least I'm in good company.
I no longer believe that only those natural-born entrepreneurs can be successful, but I also don't believe that absolutely anyone can be a successful entrepreneur. The statistics that are often quoted on the failure rate of small businesses are that the majority will be out of business within 5 years. But the barrier of entry is now so low, literally, a laptop and a smartphone, more and more people will at least have the opportunity to try. The cost of failure was so much greater when going into business meant renting space, hiring staff, stocking inventory and a huge marketing budget. Now, you can start on online business from your kitchen table and pivot as often as you need to until you hit a winning combination of what you have to offer and what the market wants and is willing to pay for.
If you are a modern entrepreneur, whether by accident or by necessity, I salute you. You have left your comfort zone and the illusion of security that the 9-5 and benefits life seemed to offer. You have become the captain of your own ship, even if you haven't figured out where it's headed. There will be doubt, loneliness, confusion, shiny object syndrome and dark nights of the soul. But, if you are willing to give up the notion that there is only one way to be a successful entrepreneur, turn a blind eye to the legion of coaches and gurus that want to entice you to buy their 7 steps to 7 figures roadmaps and just keep trying, you will eventually find your way. It's not an easy life, but I honestly wouldn't trade it for anything. There is something incredibly satisfying about putting yourself to the test, going all-in on yours truly and proving to yourself that you have what it takes to create your own destiny. For all the years I found myself thinking 'I could do that' or more likely ' I could do that better', now I have the chance to make it so.