After a quick glimpse at the images of a young Mick Jagger with his golden bowl haircut and lanky limbs lining the narrow white corridors of The Betsy, I made my way to my quarters for the night. I had the Writer’s Room all to myself. It’s a special space in the hotel for visiting writers that allows them alone time, and pleasant silence. A state of le petite mort for a storyteller.
The topic at hand: What makes an entrepreneur? I’ve been curious and doing research on the wanderlust gene. Identified as the DRD4-7 (Lichter et al, 1993), it’s carried by 20% of the human population, and it’s linked to increased levels of curiosity and restlessness. Those with the DRD4-7 gene appear to be plagued with an unquenchable hunger for exploration and adventure that can’t be satiated no matter the amount of quests and journeys the individual embarks on. Ha! I thought aloud, if there’s a gene for the wanderluster, there must be one for the entrepreneur. Both are considered impetuous souls — one thriving on possessing an insatiable pursuit of constant adventure, and the other, for the compulsion to execute complex enterprising undertakings. It seems more probable for an individual to have an inclination toward travel and discovery, but to be consumed with a passion so great you’d go against all naysayers in pursuit of something (in most cases) never attempted before, and even considered at times preposterous by others, is amazing. Those individuals have got to be in some slim bracket of…say, 8%. It’s human nature to want to fit in, to belong. To be accepted. For an entrepreneur, it’s the opposite. Once success is acquired by the entrepreneur, the collective psyche changes their tune, but that space in between, when he or she is struggling to convince the world of their dream — it’s a wretched and lonely place to be in.
“A study conducted by Tim Spector, Lynn Cherkas and Scott Shane of Case Western Reserve University determined that as much as 48% of entrepreneur tendencies come from a person’s genetic breakdown.”
Just imagine what it must have been like for Walt Disney to pitch an amusement park around the concept of a mouse, or the Wright Brothers describing the aeronautical engineering behind their first plane, or when Russian teacher Konstantin Tsiolkovsky documented the idea of rockets being used for space travel in 1898.
Andrew Carnegie protégée, entrepreneur and the early initiator of the personal success genre of literature, Napoleon Hill, believed that “when your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.” This is the level of conviction, boldness, resolve and resilience one needs to have to be an entrepreneur. It’s accompanied, of course, by implacable passion, stealth discipline and decisive persistence — of the superhuman kind.
“Knowing what our virtues are, becoming more introspective as to how to address our drawbacks, preparing our mind for what we want to achieve and being proactive can offset just about any challenge we may encounter.”
A study conducted by Tim Spector, Lynn Cherkas and Scott Shane of Case Western Reserve University determined that as much as 48% of entrepreneurial tendencies come from a person’s genetic breakdown. The type of self-esteem possessed by these individuals doesn’t come from assuming they will be successful, it’s not a result of faux cockiness and it doesn’t come from a certain level of education. Instead, it’s the result of the sheer will of knowing that skills and knowledge can be acquired, that he or she will stop at nothing to learn and achieve their goals. It’s in knowing that they’re capable of working tenaciously to see something through to the end.
A similar study spanning more than 6 years published by Harvard Business Review uncovered that the origins of the creative and often disruptive process for innovators is in 5 discovery skills: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting and networking. What’s more, innovators engage both sides of the brain as they leverage these skills to not just create, but to execute new ideas. And here’s the good news: If you weren’t lucky enough to be born with those qualities, the skills required can be cultivated.
So you might have to go the extra mile, but it’s never crowded there. For if entrepreneurial DNA is inside a small percentage of people, the ability to see, acknowledge and become proactive in regards to your shortcomings is possibly even more rare. Remember Albert Einstein? He was considered an oddball daydreamer. He had difficulty with speech when he was a child and flunked out of his university entrance exams. He was also an introspective person, who spent a lot of his time analyzing himself and feeding his curiosity about the world. That natural inclination yielded genius.
In the end, you can train your mind to do whatever you want it to do. This idea resonates beautifully with one of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quotes: “A man is but the product of his thoughts…what he thinks, he becomes.” That energy he describes — that intense fire in the belly — is in all of us. It’s the universal intelligence we all exude as a unified collective. Knowing what our virtues are, becoming more introspective as to how to address our drawbacks, preparing our mind for what we want to achieve and being proactive can offset just about any challenge we may encounter. As Audrey Hepburn once said: “Nothing is impossible; the word itself says ‘I’m possible’…” — how’s that for inspiration?