There’s a fire in all of us to do things differently. It’s human to want to stake your claim in the world, and even though the romanticized image of today’s hard-driving yet visionary 20-something entrepreneur is all around us, true entrepreneurial spirit is hidden in the day-to-day life that many of us take for granted.
Our mission celebrates the independent spirit that moves things forward, but make no mistake, a real leader takes the small, seemingly boring steps that lead to great things, no matter their age or place in the world.
I’ve seen it again and again in my life – an entrepreneurial spirit will always serve those who embrace it, whether they be a startup founder or employee at a typical corporation.
Even better than that, we now live in an age where nonconformity is celebrated. A “startup mentality” has invaded workplaces of all shapes and sizes, and the Shark Tank-ification of media is all but inevitable.
That’s why it’s critical to feed your natural, entrepreneurial mentality every day. I’ve found that while starting companies and inventing new products are the magic that stoke the internal fire, it’s the attitude and daily habits that spark the initial flame.
Use small actions to take big steps
I’m obsessed with to do lists, but it took me a long time to realize why I had such a preoccupation with the concept.
Then it dawned on me one day that our task lists are kind of like a glimpse into our own futures.
Inviting the boss out to lunch, going to a networking event, sketching out that product idea in your head, asking that girl/ guy out on a date… they’re all hinting at the bigger and better things that we have in store for ourselves.
But they don’t really seem that big on paper, do they?
That’s why we take the day-to-day so seriously. Big turning points can happen in the smallest of actions and it’s important to remember that. You can use small actions like side projects and hobbies to effect big change, so long as you believe in the power of your task list.
Having an entrepreneurial spirit means holding small things sacred. Bottled water, disappearing messages, snuggies – these were all small, silly ideas that the vast majority dismissed, but a small minority didn’t.
Get excited by the fact that every minor step can balloon into something much bigger than what you anticipated.
Take yourself seriously
Even in our darkest, most discouraged moments, we still believe we have something to give to this world. I’ll raise my hand right now and say that the ups and downs of entrepreneurial life are unflinchingly real, but I always return to the belief that I have something to contribute.
And the best way to reinforce my value and stay mentally afloat is twofold: 1) respecting my own time, and 2) staying inspired.
I cannot stress this enough – your time is the most valuable asset you have. When you waste it, you tell yourself and the world that you are not worth respecting. Harsh, but essentially true.
Time and energy are closely intertwined, and we’ve talked about managing your willpower recently. It’s a must-read if you haven’t checked it out yet.
The second half of that equation, staying inspired, is just as important. I’m always inspired by the true stories of others, and today’s entrepreneurs have gifted us with candid accounts of their own personal journeys.
The first half of Ben Horowitz’s recent book The Hard Thing About Hard Things documents the agony, nausea and ultimate thrill of bringing a doomed startup back from the brink of failure. The second half is filled with invaluable advice for leading a dynamic company.
Be inspired by the fact that whatever challenge you’re facing, someone has braved the storm before you and made it out alive.
And the moment you find yourself not believing that, go find a story that proves you wrong.
See the world like your inner entrepreneur does
Sometimes I can lose touch with my inner entrepreneur. It’s easy to fall into old patterns of accepting the standard, not questioning how things can be done better, or simply lacking in the imagination that keeps me going.
It happens to everyone and it will happen to you too. Don’t fight it, just accept it and trust that it will pass. Sometimes you need to see the world as it was before you can see it anew.
But when you are ready to find the possibility in a challenge (perhaps the truest way to define an entrepreneur), then try shifting your perspective just a little bit.
In his already modern classic Zero To One, Peter Theil writes “Every culture has a myth of decline from some golden age, and almost all peoples throughout history have been pessimists.”
That quote really got me because it spoke directly to my entrepreneurial spirit. It made me question much of what I believed to be true about the past as well as the future… beliefs that I passively absorbed instead of actively examining.
Frankly, that whole book is quotable, and I’ll limit myself to just one more here:
“The single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places.” When you look at the world that way, things around you take on a new dimension.
There’s an infinite supply of thought leaders, from age old philosophers to modern day strategists, that can help you shape your entrepreneurial perspective.
You need to find the ones that speak to you. Read until you come across a line that rings in your ears and sears itself into your brain. Then file it away in your memory and go looking for the next one.
You won’t be able to see your own potential until you uncover your hidden limitations.
Don’t go looking for your passion, develop it
Speaking of unquestioned beliefs, do you subscribe to the notion that people must follow their passions?
After all, we hear it all the time, don’t we? “Follow your passion” is today’s cure-all for an anxious generation of Millennial workers trying to pave their own paths. Myself included.
That belief puts a tremendous amount of pressure on those of us who may not know what our true passions are yet, and yet it goes unquestioned in today’s culture.
Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You carefully dissects that concept and comes to a very different conclusion.
In his interviews and research with people from all walks of life, Newport asserts that skills come first. Passion comes later. In other words, focus on something and become so good at it that it will ultimately turn into your passion.
Passion, in effect, is the result of hard work. Not the other way around.
Now if you already are following your passion, then, by all means, go for it. But I know for a fact that many people feel lost, and this cultural stereotype of a driving life force powered by ‘passion’ exacerbates the whole situation.
Don’t fall into that trap. As long as you keep developing your skills, honor your entrepreneurial spirit, and keep an open/ optimistic mind about the future, then you will get there.
There’s a tremendous amount of power in following your intuition and inner guidance. You don’t have to wait for your big break in life to unlock that power right now.
Find ways to think, act and create with an entrepreneurial spirit no matter where you are. Even following just one idea on this list for a week will cause a change.
Because that’s what it’s really about – the small actions that lead to big results. Remember that in everything you do, there is an opportunity, and potential, to do it differently.