Entrepreneurship, between skill and mindset

I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I remember being a kid and dreaming of having my own company. At that time, it meant being my own boss, having control over my schedule, it meant independence and freedom. I know, I was a naive kid as I later learned, but a kid with aspirations.

I put off starting a company year after year.

At first I stopped as I had read I should start with a business plan. And I started drafting a business plan … several times, but I lacked the skill. So I learned more.

The second stop was due to the ever changing legislation, which never felt supportive of an entrepreneur. Basically, it simply stated that no matter if you earn an income or not, you have to pay taxes for having a company. This also happened a few times. I see now my error here as well.

Third time, something had changed. I realized that it is not about feeling prepared, about the right moment, about the perfect business plan, about an investor giving you free money, it was about taking the first step, jumping and building your wings on the way down.

It was not about skill, cause no matter how much you develop your skills, how much you learn, how early you get an MBA, if you don’t have or grow an entrepreneurial mindset, you’ll never start.

So what do I mean by entrepreneurial mindset:

  1. just do it – there are no secret recipes and the best school is the fail first and use that advantage school.
  2. problems are solutions yet to be unfolded – too often when faced with a problem, we start thinking in terms of guilt or blame and this keeps us from seeing the solutions.
  3. take a step back – sometimes we are too much in the middle of the problem to be able to see a solution. Take a step back and look at the problem from all sides, like a 6 thinking hats exercise.
  4. put yourself in challenging situations – I’ve always done stuff like that to see if I can take it, to see my weaknesses, to find my strengths, to prove myself that I can move past any obstacle. It was always a deliberate choice to expose myself vulnerable when I was afraid, vulnerable in front of crowds, I broke the ice and volunteered first before I knew what had to be done, I went to events outside my comfort zone and shared rooms with strangers during my residential weekends in the MBA training.
  5. vision first – don’t get caught up in competition and selling. Try to build and learn from others and offer support. Try to focus on the HARD objectives instead of immediate sales, cause immediate sales will only make you do (almost) anything to sell on the spot and this will determine an involuntary shift in your course, until one day you will wake up and not recognize what you built.

After 20 years of being an employee, an entrepreneur, a manager working with entrepreneurs, developing entrepreneurial programs, after winning millions of euros for entrepreneurs and monitoring how entrepreneurs develop their business, I believe that the thing that kills most businesses is not failure, a bad idea, the crisis or the economy. It’s doubt – in ourselves, our surroundings, our abilities.

And the thing that makes the difference between a succesfull entrepreneur and a business fail is your mindset, knowing that you always have a choice. Even when you are stuck and feel that you cannot make a decision, you actually choose to stay.

The second you start choosing differently and working on your mindset, there will be no going back!

If you’re not gonna work for your dreams, you’re gonna work in somebody else’s dreams!

Without dismissing entrepreneurship programs, I do believe that they are not enough. They give you the tools and mechanics of a business but you need to be the fuel.

About freedom

We now live challenging times. It’s the 8th of April 2020 and a third of the world’s population is under lock-down, due to the outbreak of Coronavirus.

In a time when freedom seems to be a luxury, what would you say if I told you I feel free?

I strongly believe that freedom is a matter of mindset. We keep talking about freedom of speech, freedom to choose a belief system, a political party, freedom to do what you like when you wish … we keep talking about freedom in connection to the outside world.

How about our inner freedom? Did you ever wonder how free we are in our thoughts? Did you ever find yourself hiding things which nobody would ever see? So thus hiding from …yourself?

We now easily blame coronavirus for locking us in our homes, when in fact we are prisoners in our train of thoughts, of our own conditioning, just like the story of the elephant rope:

As a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.

He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

The Elephant Rope

I believe that no matter how much outside freedom you have, you will never truly feel free in a box made of fears, limiting beliefs, shame, blame and projections.

Think outside the box is an expression that was used so much, until it lost its meaning. In fact, it encourages us to think freely, to get out from our patterns and see the world with curiosity, instead of judgement.

All the freedoms mentioned are given by someone/something – be it the government, the boss, your salary etc. But the most important freedom of all is the freedom you give yourself first of all in front of the mirror.

True freedom, inner freedom, cannot be given and taken away. It is a state of being, it is within ourselves, it is a mindset.

This being said, under lockdown, I do feel free. Do you?

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. – Viktor Frankl