Looking back on my childhood, I recall specific things that I did that may cause some people to assume that I was born with entrepreneurial DNA. When I was 5, I convinced my best friend at the time to stand outside of my house, put big signs everywhere that said “Pet Sale, 50 Cents” and sell pets to passersby. Many people did in fact stop out of curiosity to see exactly what kind of pets these two 5 year old kids had to sell for so cheap. No doubt, some probably assumed we were trying to sell our own pets for 50 cents and were prepared to tell our parents about it. Much to their amazement, the pets we were selling were Rolly Pollies, the kind you can find in unlimited supply within most of Southern California’s fertile soil. I had just discovered a product that I could sell that had virtually no cost to me, all I needed was a little bit of marketing and salesmanship. Believe it or not, we actually sold a lot of units that day and continued doing this every weekend over the course of a few months (20 dollars every weekend for a 5 year old is Wall Street bond trader type money to an adult). I was introduced to the world of business and entrepreneurship at that age and have continued working at it every day since, but I don’t think I was born with any special “entrepreneur gene, I just thought it would be nice to have some of my own money to buy baseball cards with rather than depend on my parents to supply me with my discretionary income.
Another childhood recollection of mine that would appear to prove that entrepreneurs are born rather than made revolves around my Dog Walking Business I launched when I was 11. While this business was certainly more complex than my Rolly Polly business, it still required some hustle, creativity, and marketing, but this time it introduced a new concept to me: compensation for my time, and actual labor. We will get into these concepts later in the post, but the fundamental difference between my Rolly Polly business and my Dog Walking business is one focuses on selling a product, while the latter is selling a service (by the way, it’s a service that I have to provide).
By the time I was 11, I needed a bigger budget for discretionary spending, and I figured I needed to do something that would bring a bigger income than simply selling Rolly Polly’s. While it’s true that charging $10 per hour per dog that I walked could bring in much more money than selling bugs did, I soon realized that I had to work harder for this income. More importantly, my time was tied up while I was walking the dogs, so if I wanted to pull in $50 for a weekend, I had to walk 5 dogs at an hour each! (We will also get into the concept of time in business later in the post).
Was there a gene in my DNA that expressed itself and gave me the not-so creative idea of launching this Dog Walking business, or was I motivated by my desire to earn more money for myself than I did selling Rolly Polly’s? While I believe that some people may be predisposed from birth to lean on either the more creative or the more objective side of their brains, also known as Right or Left brain thinking, a successful entrepreneur, in my opinion must think with both sides of his/her brain. More importantly, an entrepreneur must be able to react to the marketplace and make snap decisions regarding what the market needs and what he can provide it, or more specifically, what problems he can solve. I think that this type of knowledge and skill can ONLY be learned, and any notion of entrepreneurs being born and not made is generally an excuse people give to themselves or others. Being an entrepreneur is a choice, just like being an employee is a choice. Entrepreneurs and employees are both made, not born, the choice is yours to make.
Employees make up the vast majority of the general population. Many employees consider themselves lucky for having found a well paying job, or what they perceive to be a “safe job”. This concept of going to school and studying hard in order to have the opportunity of finding a steady job has been the type of advice most of us received all of our lives, and certainly drilled into our heads by parents and society alike. I believe that this idea starts from the top and trickles down to the masses. The powers that be, the same ones who are in charge of ensuring that our society doesnt completely collapse are also the ones who run our country’s educational system. In my opinion, the curriculum in our schools is designed to create great employees, not great entrepreneurs. Children are not taught to think for themselves, make mistakes and then discover the proper problem solving techniques to make the proper choices next time around. You know, actual learning? Instead we are taught from Kindergarten and possibly earlier that mistakes are bad and should be avoided at all costs. We are taught to follow instructions and not question authority. We are not encouraged to learn concepts, but simply to follow formulas and regurgitate facts. These are all subservient skills required for good employees to have. Students are never taught what assets or liabilities are, but they are taught how to follow instructions just as they would be expected to when working for someone else.
I’m not saying that we should have a nation of undisciplined children running amok. In fact learning discipline and abiding by the rules is critical in becoming a successful entrepreneur. But the curriculum should not solely focus on following instructions, and making mistakes is a natural part of learning, so why are we taught that mistakes should be avoided? My belief is that our society depends on having only a certain number of its citizens being financially free and not in need of a regular paycheck. If everyone wer financially independent, we wouldn’t have any workers. That includes low paid workers such as janitors and teachers, as well as high paying jobs such as doctors and attorneys. Our society depends on streets being cleaned, sick people taken care of, homes to be built, and loans to sell. In other words, we can only have so many entrepreneurs creating business systems and collecting the profits, but we actually need people to work in those systems. This setup works because the people who work in the system are taught to believe that they can one day be financially free by buying into this system and following instructions. Hopefully you know that this belief is a lie, a necessary lie sold to you by our society, but a lie nonetheless. It’s fine for other people to fall for this trap, but why should you?
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