1: There’s a rather unhealthy narrative around entrepreneurship that doesn’t correspond to reality.
As something either reserved for the rare few bestowed with divine purpose, or a hideously risky proposition, for people with a taste for crawling through fire and brimstone. That’s the yin-yang of it.
I think both sides are exaggerated.
- Successful entrepreneurs exaggerate it because it makes them look good. Myth-building. See: Steve Jobs at Harvard.
- The media encourages it because it makes for more compelling reading. People want to read about larger-than-life figures. Demigods, not mere mortals.
- “Non-entrepreneurs” encourage it because it allows them to say “nah, not for me, I don’t have the stomach for that sort of risk”.
2: Risk is misunderstood, and attitudes towards risk are misrepresented.
Entrepreneurs don’t seek out risk, they seek to minimize it. (I think it’s very risky to assume that investing in paper qualifications automatically makes you valuable to other human beings enough that they’ll pay you for it, but that’s another story.)
It’s very possible to take small, calculated risks while minimizing your potential downside.
My idea of taking a small calculated risk was to post pictures of t-shirt ideas drawn on MS paint on Facebook. Potential downside = my friends laugh at me, life goes on. Nothing lost. Nowhere does it involve me quitting school to start a pushcart at Bugis Street or something.
3: The bold dramatic gesture is overrated.
We all like to romanticize the bold dramatic gesture, but how often does that ACTUALLY happen? Zuck, Gates and Musk all built their ideas while still in school, and they all left with the option of returning if things went sour. (So calling them dropouts can be a bit of a misnomer.) Jobs and Wozniak were working at HP when they built Apple, and only quit when they got a nice fat order. Richard Branson started Student when he was a… student.
4: Just make lots of little things in your spare time.
I think entrepreneurship is simply taking little steps towards solving real problems that bother you, and that’s something people can TOTALLY do in their spare time. Start a blog and write about things that matter. (You can reach HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of people. Why would you even need a resume anymore?)
Create stuff. Publish them and share them with the world. It might not work out, but it doesn’t have to cost you anything. You’ll learn a lot of cool, interesting stuff. Statement was completely built (and is still entirely run) on spare time. Both of us hold full-time jobs. If we wanted to focus on building and expanding the business, we totally could. (But I guess we kinda enjoy being bochup founders.)
I think the main issue is that people are used to thinking that we CAN’T do very much about problems, or that we have to do something dramatic like blow your savings renting a storefront. We ran Statement for a long time from this Facebook page, taking orders via PM.
Okay I got to get back to work now, just had to get that off my chest.
Don’t take stupid risks like an idiot.
- Work on fun little side projects that take baby steps towards solving the problems that actually bother you. I wanted t-shirts that I actually wanted to wear, and a blog that I actually wanted to read. What do YOU wish existed?
- And how can you do a tiny fraction of it without taking a senseless risk? (Fantasizing about being a pastry chef? Don’t make wedding cakes before you try your hand at selling cupcakes.)
Do it. I promise it’ll be fun.