25 January 2016
Spending a few seconds searching the Internet for “what it takes to be an entrepreneur,” will net you thousands of responses and opinions. Likewise, there is a growing field of academic research analyzing how entrepreneurial principles have sparked growth in many industries and markets. But what has been less talked about is taking these entrepreneurial skills and applying them to the challenges of everyday life.
In the age of wildly successful startups founded by intrepid entrepreneurs, doesn’t it make sense to use this proven expertise and start applying it to your life?
Without delving into the murky world of self-help, let me give three quick lessons on how you can unlock your inner entrepreneur.
Call it the tyranny of the immediacy: that endless flow of tasks and issues that arise on a daily basis. Whether you’re trying to grow a business or improve your life, however, you should step back and think critically about your surroundings and take stock. What parts of your life would you like to transform or change? It can be small immediate tweaks-“I’d like to floss more” to more substantive visions—“I’d like to leave my job and start my own company within the next five years.”
I urge you to take the time and objectively survey the big picture. A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a great first step towards making substantive change.
Learning from failure. Numerous articles chronicle the early failures of now famous entrepreneurs (think Oprah and Steve Jobs) or list why failing is the only way to succeed.
Setbacks are part of every journey, and learning from those mistakes helps us grow. But if you want to apply entrepreneurial principles to your own life, the key is not to become complacent with failure but rather to structure your approach in a way that manages risk. Beta testing—a concept borrowed from tech startups—is a helpful concept to apply to personal development.
When you have a potential solution to something, it doesn’t make sense to invest all of your time and money into a polished final product. Rather, create a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that is cheaper and simpler to produce but nonetheless captures the essence of your solution. You can then use it to test the market and adapt accordingly, a concept that transfers well to personal development: If your goal is to get healthier, don’t turn a room in your house into a home gym and purchase a treadmill. Rather, create some attainable goals— “I’ll try and eat two salads a week” or “I’ll go on a run every Saturday”— and see if you can stick to them. If you don’t, then maybe that isn’t the right approach. Or maybe getting healthy isn’t actually a goal you prioritize as much as you thought. Luckily, failing at this point doesn’t have too many repercussions aside from the sacrificial lettuce in your fridge. However, if you do accomplish these MVP goals then you have a platform to build off of towards a more complete solution.
Take a (calculated) risk
Entrepreneurship isn’t just about taking risks. It’s about taking the right risks. But when it comes to your own life, how do you know what the right risks are? Taking stock to understand your current situation and then beta testing your potential solution are instructive first steps. If you do both, you should have a pretty good idea of what things in life are worth taking a chance on.
Taking risks requires trust—not only of those around you, but also of yourself. Trust that you are correctly interpreting information; trust that you can handle the pressure, and trust that it’s worth it. Making large changes in your life is intimidating. So remember, if you want to make permanent life changes, it means challenging how you normally do things and fundamentally rethinking your approach.
Thinking like an entrepreneur does not guarantee success at every turn. But if applied correctly, it will empower you to uncover new approaches to tackle life’s everyday challenges, and that is the promise of entrepreneurial thinking.