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June 18, 2008

Mind of the Entrepreneur

Eager to start my entrepreneurial career, back in the early days, I asked a seasoned entrepreneur what founding a company felt like. I think I expected him to use words like “Freedom!” “Excitement!”, “Satisfaction!”
Instead, the main word I recall from our lunch was “Ignorance.” Specifically, he related to me a cautionary tale: The best talk he’d heard at a conference on business start-ups he’d recently attended focused on ignorance as the key to entrepreneurship. What the conference speaker meant was that if the average entrepreneur truly knew how hard it would be to build a company, nobody would ever begin. It takes ignorance to want to start a company from scratch.
My friend’s weary look, four years after founding his company, told me he wasn’t kidding. In all my excitement to begin, I’m pretty sure I had no idea what he was talking about.
A few weeks later, I visited my bank manger.
Before I even sat down, she commented to me: “You’ve got the grin of someone who just started her own company.”
“Yup!” I said, smiling.
She said, wisely I now understand, “You’re going to lose that smile. But hopefully, some day, you’ll be able to get it back.”
The optimism of that meeting has not left me in the subsequent years, but I have certainly had the smugness challenged. I’ve come to appreciate their thoughts. Business is tough and not for the faint hearted.
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