Whenever I write a post about careers, I usually receive a few comments or emails from readers who are heavily involved in entrepreneurship, chiding me for writing an article that wastes people’s time. “I’m an entrepreneur, and such articles are a waste of time,” they’ll say. “The only real way to get ahead is to start your own business. Working for ‘the man’ will never get you ahead.”
I think those comments are true – for them. At the same time, I don’t think it’s true for all people – or even for most people.
We’ve all heard the talk about how 75% of small businesses fail without ever turning a profit. What sets aside the other 25%? I argue that the big difference is the drive to succeed as an individual.
In order to stand out from the crowd and be individually successful at any endeavor, you have to stand out. When you’re an entrepreneur, that means you’ve invested a ton of your own energy in creating a product and promoting it to the point where you can sustain yourself (and hopefully others) with the profit from that effort while at the same time competing with large, efficient enterprises likely doing a similar thing.
No matter what else you bring to the table, success in that arena takes a certain kind of drive. You have to be passionate about creating your product and you have to be passionate about promoting it, too. Or, you have to be deeply passionate about one side of the coin and have a partner that feels similarly passionate about the other side. You have to be driven to make it work, devoting much of your life to transforming an idea into success.
To put it simply, some people don’t have that same drive. That’s not to say they’re somehow inferior – it just simply means that they are passionate and driven by different things. Perhaps their passion is their family, and work is just something they do to support that passion. Their passion might be social work and they’re driven towards helping others.
The entrepreneurial drive is a wonderful personal asset to have and I encourage everyone to see if they have it within themselves. Applied correctly, it can be the source of incredible financial and personal security.
But not everyone has that drive. Some like to believe that they have it – and those are among the 75% that fail.
Do you have a strong desire to run your own business? For some people, the question is such an automatic “yes” that they can scarcely believe that anyone would say anything else. But it’s not an automatic answer for most of us, and many people know that the answer for themselves is “no.”
People who answer “no” to that question find success in different contexts. Perhaps their skills are best met in a technical field. Or, perhaps they’re better suited for a socially oriented career. It’s far more important to know what you’re passionate about and what your skills are than to try to chase something you know you don’t truly want.
There’s another part of that pro-entrepreneur argument that’s off base: the idea that the only way you can really get ahead is through entrepreneurship, not working as an employee. That’s simply false.
It doesn’t matter whether you work for yourself or work for an employer, you can always get ahead by spending less than you earn. Save that difference and, when you begin to build up a fair amount, start investing it. That money will provide security through all the bumps in your life. Even better, if you do it strongly enough, you’ll eventually be free of the day-to-day demands of your job or your business – you’ll be independent and able to do whatever you want.
Entrepreneurship works for some people, and it teaches so many valuable lessons that everyone should consider whether they have the entrepreneurial drive. However, if you find your passion and drive leads you in another direction, you have a huge opportunity for success in that direction on your own terms. Use your own definition of success – raising great kids, helping a lot of people, building a following for your blog – and don’t let others define them for you, no matter what you do.