To be an entrepreneur is exciting and rewarding, but at the same time it can be a lonely and uncertain existence. In creating new products and services, pushing boundaries and shaping their own lives, entrepreneurs spend much of their time treading the fine balance between safety and stability. Life is lived on the cutting edge where uncertainty and chaos prevail.
It’s unsurprising that so many entrepreneurs share similar experiences, challenges and feelings about life, regardless of what their business model is.
In this article I’ve identified ten of the less-obvious and least talked-about traits of entrepreneurs and the common experiences that we face in our lives. I hope to offer you encouragement and reassurance that you’re going down the right path and that you’re not alone in experiencing what you’re experiencing.
I don’t share much about my personal life and what goes on behind the scenes of the Disruptive Entrepreneur Podcast, but through this post you’ll learn a little more about me and understand that I frequently suffer the same challenges and feel the same feelings as you do.
Here are ten of the weird signs that you’re an entrepreneur; I’m willing to bet that most reading this will have felt these at some point. If you haven’t, maybe it’s a prompt to evaluate your goals and how you’re approaching them?
1. You regularly feel overwhelmed
There’s a fine line between overwhelm and burning-out or going into meltdown and it’s a line that most entrepreneurs tread on a daily basis. We feel compelled to blaze a trail, to grow as individuals and to create innovative products and services that help solve meaningful problems. We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
Entrepreneurs regularly suffer from overwhelm, but exist with this reality and accept the feeling as a sign that they are pushing in the right direction.
If you’re not overwhelmed, you’re not doing enough to challenge yourself and you’re probably sticking with what is safe and comfortable, favouring stability, predictability and structure. If you have all your ducks lined-up, your task-list is ordered and manageable and everything is calm and collected in your life then you’re not operating in the same space as most entrepreneurs.
Renowned entrepreneurs and the titans of business such as Donald Trump (love him or hate him) are famed for maximising their efficiency and the productive use of their time. Their daily regime and working methods would be uncomfortable for most. Entrepreneurs recognise the delicate balance between having enough to do versus having too much to do; their sweet-spot is towards too much.
2. You see business opportunities wherever you look
Entrepreneurs see opportunities to serve and to solve others’ problems wherever they look. Situations that seem routine to the average person, appear rich with opportunity and possibility to the entrepreneur. The pace of technological innovation and the speed with which new trends emerge mean that entrepreneurs are constantly considering new business opportunities. Virtual Reality, 3D printing and voice-activated technology are recent examples where many entrepreneurs are straining to enter into new markets and to serve new customers.
The downside to this is that their efforts and attentions may be spread too thinly as they spin too many plates and try to monetise everything. This instinct to spot opportunity is a blessing but one that must be tempered with pragmatism and patience.
3. You sometimes feel lonely
To invest ourselves fully in the pursuit of entrepreneurship can be all-consuming. It requires dedication, commitment and many hours of time invested in personal development and growth of our businesses. This can make it a lonely place to be, and it can place a strain on relationships and make new ones hard to form.
Those around us can be quick to share (with the best of intentions) that we’re crazy, deluded, stubborn or lacking perspective. They don’t understand our priorities and the commitment we have to achieving our goals. Our attitude to risk and desire for control of our own destiny can be challenging to understand for those who are happy with the 9-to-5 existence of an employee (probably 95% of other people).
The problem-solving imperative weighs heavily on us as entrepreneurs and when we’re the figurehead of the business, responsible for the livelihoods of our team and employees, the responsibility is a lot to bear.
When these feelings strike it’s important to spend time and compare notes with other entrepreneurs who are going through the same as you.
You’re not alone!
4. It can feel like a thankless existence
With success and growth comes expansion, and with that, responsibility for supporting and leading your team. They must be paid, motivated, praised and nurtured to bring about their best work. Entrepreneurs need similar feedback and support which is often lacking.
For all the praise and positive feedback that you give, people only tend to remember when you have to deliver constructive criticism. This prompts further dissatisfaction and despondency about the worth of your efforts.
When the buck stops with you it feels as though you’re taken for granted. The only time you hear from others is when they’re complaining or expecting you to solve the problems or clear-up the messes they’ve created.
With success, there will also be a greater instance of the trolls, critics and haters who delight in tearing you down and belittling your achievements.
An absence of abundant praise and positive feedback doesn’t mean you aren’t appreciated by your employees and your customers alike. Entrepreneurs have to become skilled at being self-sufficient when it comes to praise and motivation.
5. You beat yourself up, constantly
Entrepreneurs are their own harshest critics. Unhelpful comparisons with others lead us to question constantly whether we’re good enough, why things aren’t working out, why everyone else seems to be doing better than we are and finding it easier. Imposter syndrome sets in as a result.
In trying to fulfil every role to the best of our abilities (business owner, partner, parent, friend) entrepreneurs often end up feeling like failures or sub-standard in every area of life. Frustration, overwhelm and despondency prevail.
In my public speaking, I’ve delivered over 3,000 speeches and sold maybe £85m of products but before every speaking engagement I’m still fearful of failure. When I release a new book I’m fearful of a lukewarm response, negative reviews and of it not being considered ‘good enough’.
The fear of ‘not enough’ is positive, as it prompts entrepreneurs to prepare, study, learn, grow and to push out of their comfort zone. It drives us to create useful and meaningful products that solve problems for our customers.
When the feeling of ‘not good enough’ strikes, remember that you are different and unique, valued and appreciated, but overall remember that you are good enough. It’s admirable to strive for more and be better, but it’s essential to acknowledge who you are, and that you’re good enough now, today.
6. You KNOW that you’re destined for greatness
I can’t put into words what I think is unique about me, but I believe I’m destined for ever-greater success, contribution, giving and growth than I’m currently achieving. It’s not just ego, nor bravado driving me to make this claim. I have yet to encounter any entrepreneur who doesn’t truly feel they’re destined to achieve more.
It’s a blend of intrinsic ambition, and purposeful intent coupled with a heartfelt-expectation that it will come true. Entrepreneurs don’t know specifically how it will happen, but it’s their destiny to make it happen.
7. You are dedicated to serving others while meeting your goals
Entrepreneurs tread another fine line, between selflessness and selfishness. They’re driven to obtain the material goods equating to success, the big houses, luxury cars, watches, private education for their kids and education and mentoring for themselves. This doesn’t come at the expense of others though, and for genuine entrepreneurs it has to come alongside helping, giving and serving others in a fair-exchange environment that allows a sustainable profit margin.
When the service of self and the service of others are in balance, growth and success will follow organically.
8.You embrace sales and marketing as the lifeblood of business
A passion to create something is great, but until you can position it in a way that is enticing and appealing to those who need it and you can sell it, you don’t have a business.
If you are happy to sell to customers, appreciating that selling is part of the fair-exchange environment then you have a business that serves people and which makes money for you.
Without sales and marketing, great ideas and innovative products fail to reach those who need them, there is no exchange of money for value and your business isn’t a business.
9. You hate being told what to do
With an internal locus of control, entrepreneurs need to feel in control of their lives and their destiny. This innate need for autonomy and freedom of choice makes it hard for us to accept instructions or orders from others and explains how we’ve ended up as entrepreneurs to begin with.
It can complicate daily life and relationships with partners, family and co-workers and demands the ability to smile, nod and swallow down the resistance to taking orders in the name of harmony.
10. You embrace risk
You don’t wilt or crumble in the face of risk. Uncertainty and chaos that can prevail in daily life are taken in our stride. Entrepreneurs are comfortable taking calculated risks and are certainly not reckless.
Being outside of the comfort zone and extending horizons are part and parcel of the life of an entrepreneur. To remain stationary is to stagnate and to go backwards. Entrepreneurs crave growth and development as innate to their existence and this generally hand-in-hand with risk. As a wise man once said:
“If you don’t risk anything, you risk everything!”
You will undoubtedly recognise many of these signs of entrepreneurship as traits that you possess and feelings you’ve experienced. I’d expect that successful entrepreneurs identify with all of them.
Life as an entrepreneur is challenging and at times, uncomfortable. It’s also extremely fulfilling and rewarding, and for all the difficult things I feel at times, I wouldn’t have life any other way.