Having built four startups from scratch and now investing full-time, you could say I’m in the business of entrepreneurship. But I don’t think that’s the right term anymore. At all.
The word entrepreneur is borrowed from French and implies an aristocratic polish. It conjures up images of backroom deals with white men in three-piece suits, perhaps even wearing top hats, neatly manicured and coddled, issuing orders from afar to sweaty and tattered workers.
But that just ain’t the way you win today.
Successful company-builders today don’t ring a silver bell to have afternoon tea delivered by white-gloved attendants. Instead, they wake at 5am and eat nails for breakfast.
Both the term and the notion of entrepreneurship are outdated. If you believe that your idea to conquer Facebook is so good that eager investors will whisk you away in a limo to riches and stardom, you may want to consider playing the lottery or buying a bridge instead.
Building a company is hard work. To me, a more fitting metaphor is that of a street fighter. It suggests what it actually takes to win. Here are eight lessons company-makers can learn from street fighters:
1. Rely on grit and determination. Be willing to get your hands dirty and do whatever it takes to succeed.
2. Get scrappy. Adapt in real-time and figure out how to do more with less.
3. Ignore tradition. Find fresh new approaches and disregard dogma.
4. Use what you’ve got. Lacking formal training or fancy tools, street fighters use whatever is at their disposal. Often, these are internal and personal tools (heart, passion, courage) instead of formal ones (fancy tech, academic degrees, social connections).
5. Prepare to engage on a moment’s notice. Make sure you’re ready for battle and prepared for competitive attacks from any direction.
6. Have a chip on your shoulder. Have a healthy disregard for the status quo and be willing to stick your finger in the eye of leaders.
7. Learn and grow from adversity. Your most important areas of growth are just outside your comfort zone.
8. Fight from behind. Have an underdog’s sense of urgency. Outwork your competition ten-to-one.
Let’s return the word entrepreneur to the French and apply new language to the adventurous journey of creating something out of nothing. Ditch the polish and get scrappy. It’s time to let your inner street fighter out of the cage.
Josh Linkner is The New York Times bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity. He is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partner, focused rebuilding urban areas through technology and entrepreneurship. More at www.JoshLinkner.com.
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