Are you an entrepreneur or an employee?
The 'entrepreneur' and 'employee' mindsets are very different, but one is not necessarily better than the other.
I was digging through some old bookmarks recently when I came across this post from Afford Anything on the entrepreneur mindset. I’m going to quote a bit from the middle of the post where she’s discussing a guy who wants a job laid out for him on a silver platter, but the whole thing is worth a read.
There’s nothing wrong with having a job. The problem is conceptualizing yourself as “stuck delivering pizzas” when no one else creates a job for you.
Having an “employee mindset” is different than being an employee. Loads of employees have entrepreneurial mentalities — and that’s precisely what makes them such great workers. They understand their bosses’ perspective.
They’re also happier at work. Their job satisfaction comes from their confidence that if they got laid off tomorrow, they could fend for themselves.
But this guy isn’t confident. He’s insecure — that’s why he wants job security so badly. He doesn’t believe in himself. He wants other people — smarter, richer, and probably better-looking people — to create a job and bestow it upon him.
You disempower yourself when you believe that someone else must create your job.
The author of this post makes the solution to career problems seem obvious. Just make your own career and you’ll be fine.
I’ll be honest. I do understand where she’s coming from. What she’s describing is almost exactly what I did in creating The Simple Dollar. I more or less created a job for myself.
I could write a lot about the skills I utilized building The Simple Dollar – the ability to manage time, the ability to draft posts quickly, and so on – but there was one simple factor that trumped all the rest of them. I wanted to do this for myself. I had an innate desire to want to build things. I also had help from a lot of people to make it happen, particularly my wife.
It’s something that almost every entrepreneurial person I’ve ever met has as a basic trait. They want to build things for themselves.
The problem is that this is not an innate human trait, and it’s not a bad thing not to have the trait.
I can use my parents as a perfect example of this.
My father has that inherent “builder” trait. He can’t sit still. He’s constantly wanting to build things. His idea of retirement is to run a bunch of small side businesses and build up his incredibly broad social network. He does these things on his own because he’s driven to build things. When he was employed by others, he took such control of the task at hand (and other related tasks) that his managers just left him alone to do his thing in his own way.
My mother doesn’t have this trait. She’s happiest when someone wants her to help them do something. Whenever I call her up and ask her for help with something, she’s ecstatic. She’s constantly offering assistance to the people in her life with whatever they need. It was through her efforts that pretty much all of my grandparents were able to live independently for as long as they did, and she’s pretty much the “go-to” person for help on almost anything you might need. She doesn’t have the inherent desire to build like my father does, but she’s incredibly valuable because of her willingness and passion for finding ways to help others.
They make a wonderful match for each other. My mother often makes my father’s wild tangents work because she’s there to help, and they both feel fulfilled and happy.
The thing is, without my mother, many of my father’s plans would fall apart (I’ve seen this at times). Without my father’s plans and energy, my mother would be rather directionless (I’ve seen this at times, too).
The author above who wrote about “the entrepreneur mindset” makes the assumption that everyone is like my father. Clearly, she is, and in many ways I am, but there are a lot of people out there whose skills revolve around being detail-oriented and handling specific tasks with competence and skill.
As I was writing this post, I showed the section above about my parents to several people and asked them who they identified with. I got back a mix of responses, which is exactly what I expected. Some people are wired to build and lead, and others are wired to help and execute.
Still, the author of the post about the entrepreneur mindset makes a great point. If you’re wired to build, you’re going to find it easier to find employment because you can make a job for yourself.
So, what do you do if you don’t have that mindset? What career advice would I give to my mother, in other words, if she were ready to start a new career?
I’d simply tell her to build a skill set that people will pay money for, preferably one that seems enjoyable to you. I immediately thought of a friend of mine who has a burgeoning career as a lab technician. This friend might not have the attributes necessary to lead a laboratory, but give him a task – particularly a technically demanding one – and he will shine. He has the skills and the focus necessary to succeed. Contrary to the quoted section above, his pleasure in his job does not come from a sense that he could just make his own job tomorrrow. It comes from knowing how to do something that others can’t (or won’t) do and knowing how to do it well.
I’d argue that the key to success for those without the entrepreneur traits is education. Why? People with the entrepreneurial mindset will always pair well with the people who have the specific skills and focus to make those plans succeed.
In the end, I keep coming back to my parents. For every crazy idea or plan that my father had, my mother was so often the perfect complement. He would never succeed without her, nor she without him.
Builders can only go so far. Eventually they need the detail-oriented person to take care of things. There’s money to be made on both sides of the equation. The first step is to know which side of the coin you’re on and making sure you’re preparing for that path.
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