I met Ezra Butler at the @Amplify #bratfest the other day and he talked to me about an article he had written about the commoditization of entrepreneurs. In it he describes how there is so much noise around being an entrepreneur that we’re not actually doing any national good and the true meaning of the word is getting lost. He somewhat suggests that aspiring to be an entrepreneur is akin to wanting to be a celebrity and that entrepreneurship undervalues education, process and intelligence.
I think this is true, more young people than ever want to start their own company. More schools are exposing kids to entrepreneurship earlier and parents are even encouraging the route. It’s not so off-the-beaten-path anymore; very few people aspire to work for GM, Boeing, Hewlett Packard and even Microsoft these days. Partly that path doesn’t have the same financial prospects; but also it’s just not as cool as starting your own thing. Jack Kerouac would be proud. All that said, I actually don’t fully agree with his position; and in speaking directly I got the sense that Ezra didn’t appreciate what I appreciate about true entrepreneurs and that in the end a gold rush transforms more than it diminishes those that are involved.
Here’s the thing, I don’t think most people appreciate that being an entrepreneur is about doing things a bit different. There is no one specific definition. I consider myself an entrepreneur, and one of my best entrepreneurial attributes is my ability to just get shit done… figure it out… I’m a bit like a rat really and it doesn’t bother me. I can fit through super tight spaces, I can get beat down by the elements and still persevere. I can gnaw my way through blockades and find workarounds. It’s just the way I am and it serves me. There are many types though. Some are respected some aren’t (until they do something noticeable – which btw annoys the fuck out of me that people think that way).
And btw, I don’t think being an entrepreneur means you start a company; if anything, that’s the failure that Ezra should be talking about. I like to think people are “entrepreneurial” meaning they have qualities like I described above, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work for big companies or at Starbucks for that reason. They just find a different path to get the result they seek.
So when I see everyone and their mother calling themselves entrepreneurs, I don’t mind. I like that everyone wants to shine in their own special way. Sure, for most the path will be rocky; something like: fail, fail, succeed, fail and so on. Some will give up. Some will not. But I’m convinced that we’re better off with more people trying to figure out where they fit in. There’s too much “supposed to bes” in this world.
Frankly I wish schools taught this better. It’s been up to parents, and most just don’t know how to teach, so generations keep getting lost. I’d love to see more entrepreneurial oriented education starting early… say at age 10. I think being an entrepreneur is more about following dreams, passions and interests more than anything else; if kids were taught entrepreneurship early maybe we’d have generally happier people in this country.