Entrepreneurship is a hot topic right now, influencing everything from politics (i.e. Global Entrepreneurship Summits) to popular culture (i.e. ABC’s long-running reality show Shark Tank and HBO’s hit series Silicon Valley). Entrepreneurship can be incredibly lucrative, but success can also be elusive. What makes some individuals seek out the uncertainty, mental stress, and financial toll of entrepreneurship? Understanding the psychology behind the competitive drive of entrepreneurs can help us extract lessons in how to be more successful.
Personality traits of entrepreneurs
A wealth of research has been done on the character traits of entrepreneurs. Although entrepreneurs don’t come from one universal mold, there are several common character traits that the most successful innovators tend to possess:
- Entrepreneurs are jacks-of-all-trades1. Rather than specializing in one or two areas, entrepreneurs tend to have diverse skill sets and a knowledge of many facets of the modern enterprise environment. The ability to play multiple roles allows entrepreneurs to adapt to and survive in a wide range of business stages and situations—and handle the myriad of tasks associated with building a business from scratch.
- Entrepreneurs are resilient and flexible2. If you’re an individual that thrives in a structured environment, or somebody who doesn’t do well with change, then entrepreneurship probably isn’t for you. In entrepreneurship, as in life, ups and downs are inevitable. When entrepreneurs get knocked down, like that popular 90s song suggests, they are wired in a way that enables them to learn from their mistakes and get back up again. In order to ride the rollercoaster that is entrepreneurship, successful entrepreneurs remain persistent and determined in their efforts to achieve their goals.
- Entrepreneurs are a bit masochistic3? Many startups will fail, that’s a simple fact. There is a wealth of statistics available on startup success rates that covers a wide range of results, with some sources suggesting that roughly 90% of these enterprises will fail4. In light of these statistics, pursuing entrepreneurship seems to require a hint of masochism. A closer look, however, reveals that entrepreneurs are often driven by a strong sense of self-belief and opportunity—even when facing seemingly insurmountable odds5. It is this belief in themselves and desire to improve, rather than masochism, that keeps some entrepreneurs motivated despite the pain and the risk.
- Entrepreneurs challenge the status quo. Although entrepreneurship is becoming more common around the globe, it is still by no means considered the norm. By nature, entrepreneurs are a collective of rebels, rule breakers, and progressive thinkers that choose to forge their own career paths despite conventional wisdom
6. Several interesting psychological studies have been done on the relationship between rebellion and success, including a Swedish study that kept tabs on 1,000 children in one town over a 40-year period and found that the individuals that got into trouble as kids were often the ones who became entrepreneurs as adults7.
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but the lessons we can learn from studying what drives these individuals are universal. No matter what career path we’ve chosen for ourselves, making an effort to expand our skill sets, believe in our unique abilities, and be more proactive, flexible, persistent, and even a little bit rebellious at times can help us succeed in business and life.
If you’re debating whether or not you’re cut out for entrepreneurship, consider taking the Entrepreneurial Personality Profile test before making the leap.