Do you really know what you’re doing as an entrepreneur?

I have read two good posts last week, both from young entrepreneurs claiming they do not really know what they are doing as an entrepreneur. An interesting point of view I would like to share.

The first is from Ben Pieratt, founder of Svpply.com:

I enjoy naming products and I think I have a talent for it. I have an understanding of design that extends well past the aesthetic. I am proud of all this because I have worked for it.

But I have zero experience or expertise in building a company. I’ve never worked at a web or product startup, I’ve never worked in a healthy team environment. The design studio I co-owned was flawed to its core, and the companies I’ve worked at have had mediocre management.

/via Varsity Bookmarking My Job Pt.1 — I have no idea what I’m doing.

A brave and honest statement to make. And it kept me thinking. Do I really know what I am doing as an entrepreneur? Or is it just luck?

I don’t think it is sheer luck. I think I listen a lot to my intuition, because I know I can rely on it. For example, when hiring new members of my team, my first impression and the overall feeling I get when talking to someone is leading. Not their résumé or their track record. I learned this from prior experience where I relied on pros and cons instead of my gut feeling. But is it knowledge that makes you a good entrepreneur or intuition and thus making the right calls.

A couple of days later I read a post from Feross Aboukhadijeh, creator of YouTube Instant among other things, claiming none of us really knows what we are doing and it all is turning luck into success.

I wasn’t being especially brilliant when I thought of YouTube Instant. I didn’t have an epiphany, a secret how-to guide, or any awareness about the viral potential of the site. It was simply a random idea, like any other.Here is the truth. None of us knows what we’re doing. We are all just winging it. Yep, that’s right. Even Fortune 500 CEOs, Nobel Prize winners, and U.S. presidents — all are really good at winging it.The sooner you realize that no one knows what they’re doing, the sooner you’ll lose your fear of uncertainty and just go for it. Successful people aren’t by necessity any smarter than the rest of us.

/via None of Us Knows What We’re Doing

An even bolder statement than Ben’s, but there is truth in that. Are we really capable of creating our own success and are we capable of predicting what is the next big thing? Or is it just that successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are actually just doing it, working hard for it and therefore turning their luck into their success?

Feross quotes a scientist who studied the lives of 400 people over the course of 10 years and watched for any lucky breaks or chance encounters, both good and bad. Here is what he found:

My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles.

  1. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities,
  2. make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition,
  3. create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations,
  4. adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

It seems that my guess was right. It would also mean that being successful can be a choice and maybe can even be learned. Gary Vaynerchuck seems to think so in his book ‘Crush it’, where he states that if you live your passion and work really hard, you will be successful. Something I partly believe in.

In the end I do think it is about the people, not about their ideas, that make a startup successful or a person a successful entrepreneur. Hard work and doing where you believe in plays an important part in that. That also makes us the lucky ones, the ones that don’t really ‘work’, but the ones who are just very busy with their passion. Maybe because of that we create our own success.

Ben ends his post with the following closing mark:

The market and its masses will be the judge of the degree to which I am able to build my expertise. A jury of peers so large it gives immediate, impartial feedback on my performance any time I think to ask for it. I couldn’t ask for better. I am thankful for the opportunity. It is an amazing challenge.

And that’s how it is. Thanks Ben and Feross for your honest posts and the insights you gave me while pondering about my own entrepreneurship.

* Image courtesy of Werner Vogels from his presentation at The Next Web 2011 showing all Dutch startups

 

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