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Three Lies of Entrepreneurship

Posted on November 15, 2017 by Ben Cooper

It’s hard to be an entrepreneur—the term literally means “bearer of risk.” We can often find ourselves navigating a mix of emotions as we build our businesses, and it can be hard to tell what is true and what is not. Let’s take a closer look at three common lies we buy into as entrepreneurs.

  “I am supposed to be a self-made hero.”

It doesn’t take long scrolling through the news feed or walk through a bookstore and be reminded of the type of entrepreneur we like to celebrate as a culture: the individual hero who went all in and came out on top of the world. Think Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.

What’s often left out of the spotlight is the collateral damage that can be left in the wake of such a determined pursuit. To be self made is to be without the support of others—to go it alone instead of share in our successes (and failures). When I think about the future, I don’t want to cross the finish line alone or at the cost of my closest work and family relationships. In sharing our highs and lows with those around us, we invite others to do the same. The result is a beautiful one: authentic community.

“Epic hyper-growth is the only way to go.”

I heard a venture capitalist once say that you’d better know what you’re getting into if you accept his money. “I’m going to poke you in the eye,” he said, “and keep asking you how my money is doing.” In the startup world, there’s such a term as a “unicorn” business. It’s the one in a million that scales quickly and is on the cover of every entrepreneurial magazine around (think Inc 5000 list).

There is great danger in hitching our definitions of success to this dream. For starters, for every unicorn there are countless other aspirational businesses that fade into the background. For those entrepreneurs, have they failed? Most certainly not. I would argue that there is a phenomenal opportunity in the entrepreneurial world to focus for once on what it means to be content. To be content, you either have to keep getting more, or you have to be ok with having less. Contentment leads to gratitude and an inner peace that is not connected to external factors out of our control. Because if we’re all honest, who of us aside from God is actually in control?

“Everyone else has it more figured out than I do.”

Spend 10 minutes on Facebook and you might walk away feeling a little less confident in the way you’ve chosen to live your own life. Social media, for all its benefits, doesn’t give us a full picture of other people’s lives. What we do get is an edited and curated snapshot of how each person views themselves, and we are left with a cumulative mosaic of a human life that is beyond what any of us could live on our own. One person is scaling a mountain, another is at home with the kids, and yet another is going into a big business pitch. How does my life measure up to everything I’m exposed to in this scenario?

If we build our businesses without ever stepping back and examining the assumptions (whether true or false) we have about the world, ourselves and God, we may find ourselves being carried away by the currents of someone else’s definition of success. Is that a risk you are willing to bear?

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