We hear them mentioned every day in the media. We read their stories in the press and in-flight magazines. We even make movies about them. But what are entrepreneurs and why are they so important to the regrowth of our economy? According to Bill Schley and collaborating author Graham Weston in their inspirational book The UnStoppables, the answer is simple.
Entrepreneurs will make the jobs, invent the industries, create the new markets, and populate the new companies that will rebuild our economic future.
Join us for the next ten minutes as we share the authors’ insights to find out exactly what an entrepreneur has that sets them apart and what you need to have to tap into your entrepreneurial power.
I’m an Entrepreneur. No, I’m an Entrepreneur.
Just like the scene in the movie, Kirk Douglas is not the only Spartacus, and many others claim to be him. There is similar confusion about entrepreneurs. Many claim to know what entrepreneurs are and who can be one—but few actually recognize the simple truth.
The authors explain that professors and business experts have already carried out copious research and written much on the subject of entrepreneurship. The problem is that their theories seldom agree. Entrepreneurs are a hard bunch to put in categories. They differ widely in skill, tolerance for risk, perseverance, education or just about anything else.
When all’s said and done the authors say: ‘The difference between entrepreneurs and everybody else comes down to this: the entrepreneurs are simply the ones that step up to the plate. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones that just keep swinging.” Asking entrepreneurs themselves, they would not consider themselves any different from the ordinary person like you or I. The key difference is action. The entrepreneurs simply do it; the rest think about it and talk about it, then don’t.
But that’s the good news for a world that needs millions more entrepreneurs, including you. Why? Because if we can teach ourselves to understand the cause of our inaction and face up to our fear of change, we too can be entrepreneurs. We may or may not fit into somebody else’s neat definition of an entrepreneur, but no one can exclude us from participating or succeeding in the adventure.
Despite what many of us would think, entrepreneurs are not risk – hungry daredevils. Yes, at face value they put their heads above the parapet and operate out of the traditional comfort zone. But that’s only because they accept they will need to risk something to satisfy their yearning to turn a dream into reality.
No entrepreneur risks their own money or others’ without calculating the chance of success. Entrepreneurs (and you if your want to join the club), face up to the fact that every step forward to achieve anything new and uncertain, comes with a degree of risk—and that risk brings a degree of fear and anxiety along with it. Experienced entrepreneurs never try to eliminate this fear. They know that fear is normal. They know that by working through it, fear is turned around into energy, power and competitive advantage.
Another misconception about entrepreneurs revealed in The UnStoppables is the belief that they are a rare breed of divergent, out-of-the-box thinkers. The authors align with Sir Ken Robinson in suggesting that nearly all of us, as young children score superbly when tested for divergent, creative thinking in our pre-school years.
But schools and colleges then manage to teach this creativity out us as we are moved through the system. Entrepreneurs have managed to hold on to more of this natural-born, child-like imagination we all start with. But it’s not gone from the rest of us—just gone to sleep and it can be re-tapped like a dormant oil well.
Entrepreneurs make the intangible into the tangible. They literally turn mind into matter. They see a problem and don’t accept it. They seek out the answers to questions we often hear children ask: Why not? What if? And they then come up with answers—often, answers that no-one else has thought of. But most importantly, entrepreneurs ask the questions, seek solutions and then actually do things to bring those solutions to life— as a product or a business that creates economic value that wasn’t there before. Everybody else just talks.
That’s all well and good for business people you may say, but I’m on my own. The Authors again challenge that negative thinking: “People think entrepreneurship and they immediately think business. But entrepreneurship is the idea that people can have powerful ideas, own those ideas and do meaningful things with them. Not just to create a job, but to create a life.” So what do we need to join this illustrious band? What are the skills for success? The UnStoppables tells us we can do this by developing ‘Accelerated Proficiency’.
As the authors’ searched for their own answers about entrepreneurship, the found themselves on a journey that went far beyond the usual sources in the academia and consulting. The journey took them to meet experts at handling fear, risk and failure in the U.S. Navy SEALs— and to meet innovative thinkers in Israel. They even spent time at the movies. Yes. Believe it or not the Karate Kid illustrates one of the keys to rapid entrepreneurial learning.
You may recall the scene: Left hand…right hand…“Wax on , wax off, Daniel-san”. Despite being initially frustrated by the activity, what Daniel achieved in an amazingly short time was muscle memory of the core karate moves—the ones from which all the other moves naturally follow. He didn’t have the years it would have taken to learn the full black-belt portfolio of kicks and punches. But in the few weeks he did have, he could internalize a small number of the most important moves—enough to get into the fight and eventually beat his rival.
The same principles apply to learning entrepreneurship. It’s 100 times better to spend two weeks to get Minimally Functionally Qualified so you can start doing it for real, learning as you go, than it is to spend two years studying without any action. This is the principle called ‘Accelerated Proficiency’: the art and science of getting people to be up and functioning in an accelerated time frame so they can get in motion, start doing, and effectively teach themselves, rather than talking and observing.
To succeed with Accelerated Efficiency, The UnStoppables suggests that we follow a four-step sequence:
- Get Exposed: Uncover the fallacies that create Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD)—and then remove them.
- Get a Snapshot: Visualize the essence and how it progresses from beginning to end—quickly and basically.
- Get Wet: Try it out, now.
- Get in Motion: Getting into motion is where we identify the markets, the needs, the prototypes and where the doors will open, which we will never see from the confines of our comfort zone.
Accelerated Proficiency principles always point to the centre of any problem, because the centre is the place to go all in. Entrepreneurs wake up every day on a quest to keep the centre of their brand, their performance, their culture, or their status as the customers’ #1 choice locked in the crosshairs. That’s our focus.
Accelerated Proficiency relies on our ability to step out of our comfort zone and focus on what is needed. This in turn requires a emotional ability to take the first step and not to give up in the face of challenges and failure. It’s what the Authors call Emotional Mechanics.
To an entrepreneur, doing is everything: a point of principle. It means starting, not quitting, and ultimately achieving some value that wasn’t there before. Doing is the most valuable quantity there is. So why don’t we? One word: Fear.
Yet if we tame our fear we can turn it to our advantage. We need to manage our emotions and beat the beast of belittlement. Emotional mechanics enables us to start, do, and succeed regardless of odds or resources when the stakes really matter. Learning to handle our own emotional mechanics is the difference between winning and losing—especially when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Fear generally falls into one of three major categories: fear of the unknown, fear of failure and loss, and fear of humiliation and social exclusion. Can you see yourself in some or all of these? But to progress beyond the fear barrier we need to take a calculated risk and that’s at the core of emotional mechanics. As the Authors tell us: if we plan to build, create, innovate, experience, achieve, or win at anything, risk is ever present. So how do we minimize risk? Here are four UnStoppable pointers:
- Get proficient on the basics fast, practice until they’re automatic, then use them to your advantage.
- Reduce risk by eliminating the known disadvantages: the weaknesses we already know about and can fix ahead of time.
- Get support for what we can’t do alone. Team synergy is the ultimate success multiplier.
- Steer our fear—transferring it into energy to prevent it from stopping us, distorting our thinking, and jeopardizing the outcomes.
Embrace the idea that a certain amount of failure is essential. Failure means learning. Failure means adjusting and fixing. Failure means measuring our limits. Failing helps eliminate the obstacles that block our progress. Failure means getting better and stronger. For all these reasons, failure is always temporary — unless you quit.
Failure is an integral part of the doing process. It’s not supposed to be fun or painless — but if we keep at it, it will train us for success.
In the book, The UnStoppable people accept that they must walk a path lined with problems needing to be solved. Problems are obstacles; obstacles are temporary failures; failure poses risk; and risk inspires fear, which, when we handle it intelligently, empowers us to find solutions.
UnStoppables accept this as normal. More than that, they know that they’re refining their expert intuition with every hurdle they face. They see patterns and solutions that others don’t see, often because their unconscious recognizes something familiar.
That’s why obstacle is really just another word for opportunity. The outcome of mastering emotional mechanics is belief. Ultimately, in an organization of any size, only a culture of belief can sustain and unleash entrepreneurship, initiative, innovation and joy. Making emotional mechanics work involves just a little bit of mental magic, a few rules of thumb, and repetition in real conditions so that as soon as possible, we can function, improve, and enable ourselves, or our team, to believe.
And that’s how you too can become an UnStoppable force for success by tapping your own entrepreneurial power. So, when are you starting?