Having an entrepreneurial mind is a gift that can also feel like a curse.
The entrepreneurial mind comes in many different styles but at its root has some consistencies. If you recognise some or all of the following you likely have an entrepreneur mindset:
Having lots of ideas on how to solve problems.
Recognising problems other people don't see.
Visualising and getting excited for a better future (through some form of solution you envision).
Having a lack of interest in the 'normal' things 'ordinary people' talk about.
Finding it hard to concentrate on many things but concentrating intently on what you are interested in.
If you're reading that list going 'man that is me' chances are you have the entrepreneurial mindset. If you are already running your own business(s) then you know you are entrepreneurially minded but even if you're not currently running a business you might recognise these traits. As I already mentioned this is a gift but if you don't understand it and how to utilise it, it can feel like a curse.
I strongly believe that the meaning of our lives is to be happy and that the way we find happiness is by helping others through our unique talents. If you have the entrepreneurial mindset your unique talent is to see problems others don't see and solve them through unique or better solutions - which when done at profit is a successful business. It's been said before that good business is just solving problems whilst making profit.
So far everything sounds great. You have an entrepreneurial mindset, you're good at seeing and solving problems and if you can figure out how to do that at a profit you can live life on your own terms... what's not to love.
Unfortunately the reality is that many current or aspiring entrepreneurs are unhappy. I know this not just from working with other entrepreneurs but also from my own personal experiences in the game. The common challenges I see entrepreneurs struggling with are:
Poor physical health
Strained relationships/home issues
That took a quick turn from sounding like the best thing on earth to something you'd want to avoid like the plague. Again from experience I know that the majority of existing entrepreneurs reading that list (regardless of level of experience or success) will have nodded their head to multiple items on that list.
I've come to think of the entrepreneurial mindset as a wild Mustang. Mustangs are free roaming horses of the Western United States. They can be tamed and ridden but it takes significantly longer and harder to do so than a normal horse (bred in captivity). Your entrepreneurial mind is similar to the mustang. It doesn't think like the majority of people. It doesn't accept the normal way of life and doing things. It longs to be free, to be solving problems and doing things in it's own unique way and it will always fight being contained. It's strong, powerful and wild.
If you can learn to understand and work with your entrepreneurial mind it will bring you - and many others - great pleasure in life. But if you don't understand it life will feel more like a rodeo. You'll find yourself on a rollercoaster of extreme ups and downs constantly going from loving life to desperately wanting to get off the horse.
I'll let you in on a secret. You can't 'change your mind'. If you have the entrepreneurial mindset you can't just switch it off after going through a rough patch. You can't swap your mustang for a tamer horse. I've tried that and it doesn't work. In fact if you try to ignore your entrepreneurial mind to go for the easier route (not pursuing ideas, just settling for a normal job) you end up feeling unfulfilled and unhappy in life even though it's 'easier'.
So what are you to do?
You've got to learn how to 'tame' the horse. I put tame in quotations because one thing you have to understand about a mustang is it's always a mustang. Your mind is always going to be a bit feral combined to the normal person. You're always going to think differently and see the world differently to most people. By 'taming' your mind you're not trying to make it 'normal' but learn how to work with it so that you get more of the benefits and less of the negatives.
So let's look at five of the 'features' of the entrepreneurial mindset and how to tame them.
1) Constant Ideas
The entrepreneurial mindset loves to dream up ideas. Ideas on how things could be better or done differently. If there's a problem you'll likely have an idea that can solve it.
Whereas most people see problems as bad you see them as opportunities. Whereas most people are drained by problems you are energised by them.
You can spend so much time dreaming up new ideas nothing much ever gets done. Although the ideas energise you often the implementation can drain you. You get bored and distracted easily with implementation instead preferring to come up with new ideas.
If you have a team they can become despondent or resistant to your constant new ideas. This creates friction between them and you (they are frustrated at how much new stuff you throw at them, you are frustrated with their lack on enthusiasm).
If you don't have a team you might make little progress on projects. You might have lots of unfinished projects or find yourself struggling to make progress with a Frankenstein project (lots of different good ideas all rolled into one ugly monster)
Ultimately this can have a negative impact on your mental health as you either struggle to profit from your ideas (and put food on the table) or find it impossible to have a personal life because you underestimated how much time your projects would require of you.
What to do?
My two favourite solutions to preventing this part of your mind becoming negative are:
1) Find an implementor
2) Prioritise Profits
1 - An implementor is a person with a more down to earth mindset than you - there's lots of them. Whilst the entrepreneurially minded comes up with new ideas the implementor asks 'so how will that work?'.
Without self awareness the entrepreneurially minded can resent and avoid implementors because they perceive them as negative. This is a mistake. A good implementor is the Yin to your Yang. A good implementor will help you flesh our your ideas and stress test their viability. Typically in a business implementors head up operations but even if you don't have a team yet a good friend/partner/coach or mentor can step in as an effective implementor.
The role of a good implementor isn't to shoot down your ideas but to ask solid questions that confirm or deny the validity of your idea. When you have a good implementor you should feel like you need to a do great job of selling your ideas to them.
2 - Believe it or not I find that most entrepreneurially minded people are terrible at prioritising profits. The typical image that springs to mind when we hear the word 'entrepreneur' is highly successful and wealthy business person. The reality is most entrepreneurs struggle to make more money than people in average jobs.
The reason for this is the entrepreneurial mind is idealist. It's driven by a desire to make the world better and believes things will just work out if you create the best thing/service.
To make the difference you really want to make you have to ensure your ideas can create profit. So before you implement your next idea ask yourself can you profit from that idea and what framework are you going to follow to enable that profit.
Looking back on my journey I could have not only saved myself a lot of heartache by implementing these ideas but also considerably sped up my progress.
2) You're Obsessive
Those with the entrepreneurial mindset can struggle to concentrate. They often seem disinterested and commonly struggle to focus at school. Yet they can be completely obsessed with the ideas that are close to their heart.
You have the power to make things happen, to make something from nothing. You have the power to get people excited and make people listen. Contrary to the previous point, your obsession empowers you to keep going and build things where other people would quit 100 hurdles before you. It's the obsessions of the entrepreneurially minded that constantly evolves the way humans live.
You can't switch your obsession off. Although it acts as a source of energy others struggle to comprehend or match eventually it can come to your detriment. You can find yourself struggling to switch off, struggling to sleep and struggling to be present during non business situations.
Your obsession comes with the very high likelihood risk of you neglecting important areas of your life. Typically entrepreneurs neglect their health, their relationships and home life. I've made all of these mistakes.
Although health and relationships are important to you the reality is they come after your ideas/business in your mental list of priorities.
You don't neglect these areas of your life because you're a bad person, it's just how you're configured.
What to do?
I've learnt that logically understanding this isn't enough to fix the issue. After experiencing full burnout myself and never wanting to go back there I noticed myself making the same mistakes again. From working with hundreds of business owners and senior managers I noticed the same occurrence. We would discuss in depth the negative impacts of overworking on health, personal life and work output... then continue to do it.
You see this isn't a logical problem for the entrepreneurially minded, it's an emotional one.
You know working silly hours, neglecting your health and relationships is bad. But due to the way you're configured, it's what you want to do and what you do on auto pilot.
Therefore you need a simple system that's easy to follow even when you're tired to overcome this issue.
For this I developed the Cadence Calendar. The Cadence Calendar is simple enough, it's a template that guides you into setting 2x daily, weekly, monthly and yearly non negotiable habits.
The key lies in sharing your Cadence Calendar with others such as your peers, support group or family to hold yourself accountable. You also put the completed Cadence Calendar somewhere you can see it daily (I recommend on the fridge).
By doing this you normalise embedding new healthy habits into your life whilst still achieving your business goals - usually performing better. Over time this teaches the irrational part of your mind that is telling you to work all the time that you are more effective when you take care of the other areas of your life.
You can download the Cadence Calendar and guide completely free here.
3) Perfectionist and Bi-Polar
The common belief is that the Entrepreneurial mind is an overwhelmingly positive visionary tool. I call BS on that. I believe the entrepreneurial mind is at both ends of the extreme on positivity and negativity. As already discussed it comes up with endless ideas and exciting vision of a better future... positive. But how do we come up with ideas and how do we vision a better future? By constantly spotting problems and issues with the present.
The entrepreneurial mindset is at it's base perfectionist. It strives to solve the problems it sees by creating the very best solutions. This brings with it innovation, ideas and energy. But for that positivity and energy to exist it also has negativity and apathy. I believe this is why Bi-Polar is disorder is so commonly associated to entrepreneurs. I don't necessarily believe that entrepreneurs commonly have the disorder - although I'm not a psychologist - but can see clearly how the mind of the entrepreneur can lead to extreme ups and downs in mood and thinking.
Benefits The entrepreneur sees problems others don't and creates meaningful solutions that help people. The standards of the entrepreneur are often high meaning the quality of services/products created are high (or intended to be). The entrepreneur is excited about solving problems others either don't recognise or avoid thus improving the quality of peoples lives in areas that would otherwise be neglected. Issues The entrepreneurially minded will have 'extremes' in their moods, energy and focus. Their greatest strength is also their greatest liability when not understood. The high levels of energy, motivation and focus that get their ideas of the ground and inspire others aren't sustainable 24/7/365. Due to their obsessive nature covered in the last point they are unlikely to manage their time and year in a way that allows for the natural regulation of the inevitable down periods that follow the ups. The entrepreneur is also striving for something that is unachievable - perfection. Although the pursuit of perfection is motivational at the beginning of a project, it quickly becomes de-motivational as the entrepreneur inevitably realises it is unattainable. Risks Lack of awareness of the natural downs that follow the ups creates challenges for the mental health of the entrepreneur and the people around them. The entrepreneur is obsessive and typically very tough on themselves. They feel they should be making progress every day and can judge themselves very harshly when they are not in the 'up' mood. As the entrepreneur realises their pursuit of perfection is not possible they can find their extreme mindset spending more time in the negative that in the motivational positive. Just like the entrepreneur can be extremely motivational when they are on the up, they can be extremely de motivational when they are in a down mood creating a rough ride for themselves, their teams and their families. What to do?
Allot and enforce both down time and reflection time. Wild Mustangs run with the wind but they also take plenty of time to rest. The entrepreneurial mind is wild. If you don't give it downtime and taming it will behave like the horse in rodeo, bucking up and down unpredictably.
Allow at least 90 minutes every week to check in on the big picture and review progress. Where possible allocate numbers to judge performance removing the reliance on emotion. Emotions can lie, number don't. You can apply numbers to most of everything with a little intuition.
Follow your Cadence Calendar, spend time on your health.
Allot time weekly, monthly and quarterly to completely switch off from the business. If you struggle to switch off put something into that time that keeps you focussed such as physical activity, fun, entertainment, adventure, dates etc etc.
Finally commit to the 80% good enough mindset. It's good to pursue high standards but your tendency to pursue perfection is bad for you and the people you are destined to help through your ideas. I guarantee that 80% of the standard you want to create is more than good enough. By settling for 80% you take your projects from being impossible to achievable. By settling for 80% it becomes possible for you to train others to do what you do instead of everything being reliant on you. If Apple didn't do this they would have never released any products.... the world doesn't need perfect, it needs good, and you are the one that can make that happen.
Your entrepreneurial mind is a gift to you and the people/beings/things you are destined to help.
Your entrepreneurial mind is like a Mustang. It's wild, it doesn't conform to the norm and it's destined to explore.
Your entrepreneurial mind can feel like a hindrance because bringing anything new into reality is by it's very nature a difficult task. You will inevitably make many mistakes and face many challenges in the pursuit of your ideas. Just like the wild mustang faces many more dangers and challenges than the horses in captivity. But the wild mustang wouldn't be happy in captivity. It's born to adventure, to roam, to travel, to experience the wild. Although your journey will be tough, you can't ignore the entrepreneurial component of your mind.
Therefore your only option is to learn how to 'tame' it.
By recognising your entrepreneurial mind for what it is you can learn to make it work for you not against you. Like the Mustang it's wild, adventurous and sorry to say it but a bit feral.
You know now that you are hardwired to be constantly thinking of new ideas, to be obsessive, to be a perfectionist and to go through highs and lows that are more extreme that the normal person.
I hope that by reading this you now see these things as normal factors of being born with the entrepreneurial mindset that many others have. I hope that alone gives you a feeling of peace and that the tips I have provided here help you 'tame' your Mustang so that you and your mind can go on to enjoy life and make the difference you were created to make.
Mike Jones Better Happy Founder
Mike founded Better Happy in 2018.
He now works with a variety of businesses ranging from small accountancies up to large organisations such as Travelodge on creating great cultures. Mike's vision and the vision of Better Happy is 'Every employee happy, every business thriving'