Entrepreneur vs Employee Mindset – Why Startup Businesses Fail
We’ve Been Taught to Live a Lie
We’ve been taught a big lie! When we arrived on this planet; when we emerged from our mother’s womb as mere babes, we came hard-wired with a sense of joy, individuality, creativity and wonder. Just observe the average baby. We see that they possess an innate sense of joy and discovery. Babies tend to laugh more, to play more and are generally happier than adults. We all came forth to be happy. A baby’s entire life and the lives of those surrounding him are focused on one thing and one thing only – making that baby happy. Everyone focuses their energies on pleasing that baby. You see, finding joy is our natural state of being. However, as we get older we are taught to live our lives to please others (not ourselves), which is contradictory to our first experiences of life. Nothing is wrong with pleasing others, but it must never be at the detriment of our own happiness.
Our Education System Creates Employees not Entrepreneurs
Our education system has compounded the lie. Our entire education system is built on the notion of pleasing others. The education system today is built on creating followers not leaders; on creating consumers and not creators. Schools are set up to churn out graduates who work their butts off to please – to please the teacher and their parents with good grades and ultimately to please their boss with good performance in their jobs. In addition, the school system is designed to train students to pass examinations. Consequently, we have been programmed in a particular way. We’ve all been told to, “Go to school. Get good grades. Graduate from college. Get a good job. Work hard. Get a promotion. Get a raise. Retire happy”. That’s the process that we have been programmed to follow from day one. We’ve been taught to place our lives in the hands of someone else (boss, government, church, parents, etc). Entrepreneurship, individuality and creative thinking are not taught as a result. We learn a formula, which we are then required to regurgitate at an exam and ultimately in life. Real-life lessons are seldom taught in the classroom.
We’ve Lost our “Why’s”
Do you remember how the small child used to ask why for almost everything? Remember how you used to get annoyed after a while? Remember how you used to end the series of why’s with a “just because” or “because I said so”? As babies, we all grew up asking why, why, why for almost everything. We wanted to understand how things work and whether they served our best interest or not. Understanding why is the first step of learning and of creating. This is our nature. But our why’s have been stifled and we were taught to then ask who, who, who; who we should please; God; parents; our boss? We take orders and follow blindly. We give up our individuality and our sense of wonder and creativity. We place our lives in the hands of others. In fact, the way our society runs today is no different from the way mammals behave in a herd. You are taught to follow. Just look at the fashion industry and you’d see how easily we are swayed to do what everyone else is doing. We’ve stopped thinking for ourselves.
And when it comes to earning income to make a living, we give up our joy for a few dollars. We are tricked into accepting pittance in the form of a salary. And belittle ourselves to believe that we can’t do better. Usually, we are afraid of losing our jobs. Are you then surprised that the majority of people are unhappy in their jobs? Whenever we are placed in a situation that is contrary to our true nature of freedom and joy, the result is uneasiness, stress and unhappiness. And this is true of the corporate world in many instances. There are some who are trying to break the cycle, such as Vishen Lakhiani at MindValley.
Why Some Startup Businesses Fail and Others Succeed?
You are probably wondering where all of this babble is leading to. I’m getting to the point. Don’t worry.
If you’re just getting started with a blog or you are now getting the feet wet as an affiliate marketer, then you can be categorized as a startup business. You are investing the time, talent and money into a business opportunity that you hope will generate enough income in the future to allow you to either quit you job or to supplement your existing income. But why do some startup businesses succeed and others fail?
I’ve been a member of Wealthy Affiliate for some time now. If you don’t know, Wealthy Affiliate is an online community of over 900,000 Internet marketers, online entrepreneurs, and startup businesses. I’ve interacted, communicated and dealt with a number of different individuals from all walks of life (different ages, stages, genders, nationalities, religious backgrounds, etc.). And I’ve seen many succeed and I’ve observed many others failing. And I’ve asked myself, “What causes some to fail and others to succeed?”
Wealthy Affiliate offers each person the same training, the same tools, the same techniques and the same opportunities. Barring the fact that people chose different niches, there is no other real explanation for why some fail and some succeed. When I speak about failure I’m not talking about trying and things not going the way you planned. I’m talking about trying and then quitting when things don’t go the way you planned. They are two different scenarios entirely.
I’m no scientist or psychologist but through mere observation I’ve come to one main conclusion. The problem is not the training or the platform or the tools or the strategies that are recommended by Wealthy Affiliate or any training program for that matter. There is a fundamental trait that differentiates the successful entrepreneurs from the unsuccessful ones. And I believe that I’ve been able to unlock the secret trait that separates the two groups. That secret has to do with their mindset. You see, you cannot play at an entrepreneur’s game with an employee’s mentality. Starting and running your own business (in other words, being an entrepreneur) is different from being an employee and working for someone else. It’s a different game, with different rules and therefore, requires a different mindset altogether.
We have NOT been taught to be entrepreneurs. We have been taught to be employees. Entrepreneurs take their destiny into their own hands. They are creative and possess a sense of curiosity. They don’t wait for luck; they make their own luck. Employees on the other hand, wait to be told what to create and how to create. They place their future into the hands of a company or a boss and hope that at the time of retirement they will receive some form of compensation for their years of hard work. They are paid a monthly wage which is just enough to keep them dependent but not enough to make them truly happy.
What is an Entrepreneur Mindset and Why You Will Never Succeed Without It?
Not everyone who owns and runs a business is an entrepreneur in the true sense of the word. Someone could own a business and run it with an employee’s mentality. The converse is also true. Someone could be an employee and have an entrepreneur’s mindset. I bet you’re one of those – an employee who has an entrepreneur mindset. No wonder you’re so darn unhappy with the job situation. An individual with an entrepreneur mindset will never feel comfortable or flourish in an employee environment. It’s just not in their nature. So if you are feeling unhappy about the job, it’s not necessarily because you are ungrateful. It could simply be that you are in the wrong place and need a change in the life.
I have to be honest with you, when considering the entrepreneur mindset, I have failed at many of the key elements. I’m a procrastinator, usually because of fear. I hesitate before taking action, because I second-guess myself at every turn. I know I’m talented, because everyone tells me so, but I often don’t see what people are talking about. And I could go on an on if you give me a chance. However, by recognizing my failures and shortcomings I am able to take corrective action.
One of the success stories that I’m following is Vishen Lakhiani. Vishen is one of the most successful entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. He originally worked at Microsoft as an employee. But because he had an entrepreneur’s mindset he didn’t quite fit in and ended up not doing very well at Microsoft. He was fired within a short period, because he couldn’t do it the ‘Microsoft way’. He ventured into starting his own online business, almost as a game and today, Vishen has one of the fastest growing companies in the world and has revolutionized the corporate world by creating new rules and ways of running a business. Read Vishen’s story here.
Vishen developed the concept known as a ‘Brule’ – bullshit rule. He claims, and I totally agree with him, that we all have a set of brules or bullshit rules that we are taught from young. These brules become repeated patterns of thought over time or what you call a mindset. Our respective mindset rules our lives. Have you ever been in a situation you wanted to get out of but just couldn’t find the strength or the way to overcome that situation? Often times, you are tied down by the ‘brules’. I’ll explain using a story I learnt as a child.
The Elephant and the Rope
There was once a very carefree and joyous elephant that lived on the plains of the Serengeti. He had everything going for him. His mother was always around, nurturing and caring for him. He loved running wild and free in the plains. And at only 3 years his special love was swimming and playing joyfully at the nearby watering hole.
However, one ominous day, hunters came along, killed his mother and captured him. They sold him to a circus where he would be taught to perform tricks. From the very first day they tied a rope around his left front leg and fastened it securely. For days and days the young elephant would try to break free. He tugged and pulled at the rope with all his might, but no matter how hard he tried he just could not break the rope. This went on for days and weeks and months. Eventually, after trying what seemed like thousands of times without success, the young elephant submitted to his fate and gave up the struggle. He just stopped trying to break free because he believed that it was impossible to do so.
After some time, his captors started simply tying the rope around his leg but not around the tree. In other words, not being actually tied to anything meant that the young elephant could escape at any time. However, his mind was convinced that as long as the rope was tied to his leg he could never escape. Now, it was not the rope that was holding him back. It was his belief that he could never escape that was keeping him tied down. He had developed a mindset that was not serving him. And that is the same thing that happens to us. We are taught beliefs as children and youngsters, which control the way we think, feel and behave for the rest of our lives. Some of those beliefs serve us well, while others can hold us back or even be harmful to us. And at the core of our beings we know what some of these brules are:
- Money don’t grow on trees
- Eat all you food, children are starving in Africa
- Don’t do this or that. You’d go to hell
- You’re a bad boy
- You’re a bad girl
- Boys don’t cry
- Girls don’t play baseball
- You’d never amount to anything
- You’re not good enough
- You’re not pretty enough
- You’re not smart enough
- Maybe you’d be better off at….
- If you don’t do this or that for me then you are selfish
- And the list goes on and on and on
Can you think of any bullshit rules or brules you’ve been taught as a child? Leave a comment below and let me know.
Entrepreneur vs Employee Mindset
What does all of this have to do with being an entrepreneur? You see, unfortunately, most of us were taught the same ‘brule’ – the employee mindset – a mindset that is not inherently bad, because we do need employees for the world of commerce and business to be a success, but if you want to be an entrepreneur, an employee mindset will actually set you up for failure. The herd we call society, decided that ‘divergents’ were risky and unpredictable. And this is not suitable for the stability of society and so, rather than allowing us all to flourish in our own creativity, the general consensus is that they squeeze us into little groups to make sure we conform for ‘the greater good’. Some are fortunate to be able to break free, like Vishen; while some of us continue to suffer and don’t know why we are unable to succeed in life or in business.
In order to fully understand the entrepreneur’s mindset, it will be useful to compare the mindset of an employee to that of an entrepreneur.
1. Employees Follow the Rules. Entrepreneurs Make the Rules.
Employees typically follow the rules. Entrepreneurs often make and sometimes break the rules (and live with the consequences). I remember when I was in high school I got into a lot of trouble for not attending the allotted class time for Accounts. You see, the Accounts lecturer was not a very good teacher. I felt that sitting in his class for 90 minutes every day for five days a week was a complete waste of my time. Instead, I decided to ‘skip’ his class and go to the library instead and do my own research and learn in my own way, which I felt was more productive. What was the outcome? I had to go to detention for each class missed. That means I got detention for an entire academic year, because you know that I was not budging. I didn’t care. The model student had become a rebel. I made my decision and was sticking to it. In the end I got an A and the highest grade in the entire class that year. The same teacher shook my hand after results were released and complimented me on a job well done. How ironic.
Sometimes following the rules is not the best approach. If you look at many entrepreneurs today, you’d see that at some point in their lives they had to either create their own rules or break the norms of the day. For employees, breaking the rules is risky. They are afraid to make a move. This reminds me of a friend of mine. At one time, we were going to the pharmacy. However, there was no parking available directly in front of the pharmacy. Next door, however, was a clothing store. There were loads of parking space available. For me, it was a no-brainer – park in front of the clothing store. Do you know he refused to do it! He said that we were not customers of the clothing store and it was impolite to park there. We eventually had to wait until a parking space became available in front of the pharmacy. If you’re siding with my friend and believe that he was right and I was wrong, guess which mindset you fall into?
2. Employees are Afraid of Risk. Entrepreneurs Understand and Take Risk all the time.
Employees perceive a level of security and comfort in their jobs. It is a steady and sure source of income as long as you follow the rules and do what the boss wants. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly exposed to risk. But not everyone can tolerate risk all the time. You need a particular constitution to be able to live in uncertainty for a prolonged period.
What employees do not realize is that the perceived job security is actually a lie. The global recession of 2008 is a perfect example. During the heart of the recession, there were millions of job losses in the United States alone. Where was the job security then?
Also, what many employees really risk is their happiness and peace of mind. Are the few dollars earned at the end of the month worth the happiness? Many employees do not see what they are truly risking. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, understand that risk. They understand that what they are really losing is their happiness, time with their family, peace of mind, health, the ability to have creative freedom, etc. Because of this understanding of the real risk involved in having a job, they are willing to risk other things such as hard work, the possibility of making losses, not having a steady salary at the end of the month and much more. They rather give up their job for joy. Robert Kioysaki once said that he and his wife had lst everything and were living in their car. They prefered to live in their car than go look for a job. They believed in their long-term vision of a successful business.
3. Employees See Spending as a Cost and Not an Investment.
Spending money is one of the challenges that people with an employee mindset face every day. People with an employee mindset see spending in their business as a cost. Those with an entrepreneur mindset see spending as an investment. Whether it is spending on new technology, new software, on employees, whatever, entrepreneurs see it as necessary to make their businesses a bigger success. Employees dread spending and often cut back cost and lose opportunities to become more competitive as a result.
These first three outcomes or characteristics are classical examples of the risk tolerance trait. Some of us are tolerant to risk and some of us run from risk – whether it’s about breaking or bending rules or taking a leap of faith or our outlook on money. It’s all about our constitution to tolerate risk. The next three characteristics that I’m going to discuss has to do with expectation. You’ll see that even if you are a risk taker and are willing to give up something in order to get something else unless you have a solid mindset around the expectations you won’t get very far. I’ll explain why having a poor mindset when it comes to expectation set’s you up to fail early on.
4. Employees Expect a Fixed Outcome. Entrepreneurs Adapt to Any Outcome.
Employees work a set number of hours per week or per month. They carry out specific tasks during their work hours. And at the end of the month, they expect a set salary for their hours and efforts put in. However, an entrepreneur is totally different. As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to work the hours and carry out tasks over a period of time and not get the required outcome. You can work forty hours a week and get nothing in return. No money at all. If you cannot stomach that, then you are not cut out to be an entrepreneur. Often people with an employee mindset see the successful entrepreneur with the fast car and fancy house and the long vacations and think that those rewards happened overnight. What they do not see are the long hours, missed holidays, sleepless nights and all the hard work it took to get the business to the point where it runs itself. They want to get to the destination without taking the journey.
5. Employees have Short Term Expectations. Entrepreneurs Have Long Term Vision.
From my observation, this is one of the biggest reasons people fail at their online business. I remember a recent post at one of the Wealthy Affiliate community forums. A guy (we’ll call him Fred for anonymity) had started building out his website about two weeks in, had about two posts and had only completed the second level of the five level Certification Course at Wealthy Affiliate. Fred’s beef was that after two weeks he was not seeing any results and was considering quitting. I see this sort of thing happen all the time. People put in two weeks of half-way done work and expect to be raking in the millions. It just doesn’t work that way. Fred exhibited classic employee mindset. Fortunately for Fred, he was surrounded by lots of people with an entrepreneur mindset who were able to guide him accordingly. Fred is still working on his business up the time this article was being written. Fred’s example also shows that even if you have an employee mindset, you could learn how to develop an entrepreneur’s mindset over time.
6. People with an Employee Mindset Give up Easily. Entrepreneurs are Persistent and Determined.
If you are following me, you may already be familiar with what I’m about to say. The name of the game is to stay in the game until you win the game. This is one of my mantras. And as a matter of fact, that is how most entrepreneurs think. Going back to the example of the baby given at the start of this article, we see that toddlers learning to walk have precisely that mentality. Babies focus on their vision of being able to walk. They fall down, cry, shake it off, laugh and get back up again. And before they know it, they are attempting to walk the second time around. They keep at it, fall a few dozen times and keep at it with a positive and open mind. In all of the history humankind, never has a baby attempting to walk given up entirely after falling down the first time. That has never happened in the millions of years that babies have been learning to walk. If that were the case, many of us would still be crawling around on all fours. We are all born with an entrepreneur mindset but someway, somehow we forget and are reprogrammed to think, feel and behave like an employee.
Similarly, we cannot afford to give up on our businesses when we fail a few times. Ask any successful entrepreneur how many times they failed before they got it right and they’d all probably say “many times”. I’m currently doing a case study on many of the successful online entrepreneurs and I see this repeat throughout. Failure and struggles are constant. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Vishen Lakhiani and many others have all experienced hardships both in business and in life before they became a resounding success today. Do you want to know what else was a constant? Getting up and trying again. Those with an employee mindset, give up at the first sight of failure. Entrepreneurs understand that failure is part of the journey towards success. It is estimated that Thomas Edison made over 10,000 attempts at creating the light bulb and when asked why he wouldn’t give up, he declared that he found 10,000 ways not to do it, meaning he was no closer to success than before. That is the mentality we have to adopt. Failure is just feedback of ways NOT to do it.
7. Entrepreneurs Find Strength and Inspiration Inwardly. Employees look to others.
Another marked difference between employees and entrepreneurs is that entrepreneurs find their strength and inspiration inwardly. Employees look to others for their strength. This is why it is so easy for people with an employee mindset to blame others when things go wrong. An entrepreneur will take responsibility and move on. Drawing on another real life example. Recently, one of the top community contributors at Wealthy Affiliate (we’ll call him Jim for anonymity) had to close down his WA account because another member (we’ll call him Tom) was threatening to sue because of some advice that Jim had given him that did not work and cost him a few dollars well. You see, Tom blamed Jim for his failure. But in reality Tom is responsible for his business, not Jim; whether Jim told him to go jump off of a bridge to make his business a success does not matter. Tom is ultimately responsible and should have taken due diligence and done some additional research. I’m sure if Jim’s advice was a hit, Tom would not have offered to share the profits with him. But only when things did not work out, Tom blamed Jim. This is a classic employee mentality. Mind your business. Do your own work. And neither rely on others for success nor blame them for failure. Being an entrepreneur means the buck stops with you. No one else.
8. Employees are Always Waiting for the Right Time. The Right Time is Now.
People with an employee mindset are always waiting for opportunity to knock. Entrepreneurs create their own opportunities. Employees are endless waiting for the right time – They have an “I’ll do it when…” mentality. I’ll do it when I finish my degree. I’ll do it when the kids get older. I’ll do it when I’m 40. I’ll do it when I get married. I’ll do it when I retire. And before you know it when has gone and there are no more opportunities. You always hear people say that when you are on the death bed you never regret the things that you did, but rather, the things you did not do. There could not be a better time than now to become an online entrepreneur.
What Kind of Mindset Do You Have – an Employee or an Entrepreneur Mindset?
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