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The vast majority of people find risk abhorrent. They hate the idea that they could gamble and lose it all, so they never gamble. But there are a small group of people – perhaps less than 10 percent of the population – who are comfortable with risk. They’re willing to raise the stakes, even when the odds appear to be against them because they believe that they can win the day.
Of course, the parallels between being a gambler and being an entrepreneur break down when you think about it. When it comes to gambling, the house always wins, and no matter how hard you “try,” you’ll always leave the casino poorer than when you went in. But with entrepreneurship, it’s different. First, you can win in the long term, so long as you’ve got great ideas. Plus, if you’re willing to work hard, you can nudge the odds in your favor, stacking the deck against your opponents.
This is one of the reasons why entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Donald Trump work so hard. Trump, for instance, used to put in sixteen-hour days to his business to make sure that it was a success. Musk worked even harder, especially around 2008 and 2009 when the financial crisis threatened to derail both SpaceX and Tesla. In interviews, Musk regularly talks about his 100 hour weeks and the fact that he works literally every single hour that God sends. He talks about how you can always beat your competitors by working twice as hard. If they’re only working 50 hours a week, but you’re working 100, you can get twice as much done and beat them to the punch.
Of course, being an entrepreneur isn’t for everybody. Do you find risk seductive?
Most startups are in debt, at least for the first couple of years. Many have short term business loans, designed to keep the cash flowing while they develop their products. Some companies are in debt even longer, especially those with a future focus. Tesla, for instance, didn’t turn a profit for more than 10 years. Amazon took until 2004 to record its first profit, ten years after the company was founded.
If you’re planning on doing something really disruptive that’s going to take the market by storm, then you’re going to need a lot of capital behind you. As such, you’ll have to get used to the idea of being in debt and be careful of your “burn rate.”
Many entrepreneurs fail, not because of the market, but because of their inability to go out into the world and motivate themselves. Some people need somebody barking orders at them over their shoulder to be motivated into action. If that’s you, then it might be a good idea to give entrepreneurship a miss.
A competitive spirit is essential for people who are entrepreneurs. You need that inbuilt desire to be the best, otherwise, your product will be surpassed by the competition. An obsessive attention to detail is essential.
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