A client of mine recently made a confession that startled me: “I don’t think I’m an entrepreneur.”
Just months earlier I had helped her successfully acquire a business that she had led for over a year. Back then she was enthusiastic, energetic and alive with ideas for her newly acquired enterprise. Now, she sat before me, bewildered, fearful and discouraged.
“Why do you say that?” I asked, surprised by her conclusion. Of all the things she could have told me about her business and the challenges she faced, she chose to tell me about her identity. Or rather what she believed she was not.
Isn’t that strange? We often draw conclusions about ourselves, and even reframe our identities, based solely on our circumstances. And often our misperceptions of the labels we aspire to unsettle us.
“Because I’m not very good at selling,” she replied.
“And that’s what it means to be an entrepreneur?,” I asked. My question provoked a quick response.
“Yes, of course. What good is it to have a business if you can’t grow it?”
“So every sales guy is an entrepreneur then?” I asked. She got my point.
Being an entrepreneur, in my experience, is about an attitude, not a role. By so narrowly defining entrepreneur as one with the charismatic energy to sell ice to eskimos, my client needlessly redirected her primary business challenge (lack of sales) to a personal challenge (her identity). Once she did that, she was in a box—with the inescapable conclusion that she doesn’t have what it takes.
Fortunately, I was able to redirect her focus beyond her immediate circumstances and her own personal entrapment. “Would you feel more like an entrepreneur if business was just flowing through the door?” I asked.
As soon as she nodded, she realized she had let the circumstances of her business dictate her identity. It was only then that we were able to talk creatively, not about what’s wrong with her, but about the ways she could tackle the challenges in her entrepreneurial endeavor.
In what ways are the conclusions have you formed about yourself limiting your thinking about the future?