Despite what you've heard, entrepreneurship isn't necessarily born – it's learned. Here are some essential habits of successful business owners.
For many "cubicle farm"-dwellers, entrepreneurship is an appealing concept: Work from home (or anywhere, for that matter), day or night, in your Sunday best or skivvies – you create the rules. Unfortunately, there's one major caveat: You have to put in the long, tedious hours toward building a profitable, full-fledged business from scratch.
"Entrepreneurs seize opportunities faster than their cubicle counterparts, continuously searching for new, creative ways to innovate, grow and connect the dots." – Dove Press
However, for every hoodie-wearing, multibillionaire Mark Zuckerberg, there are thousands of earnest, hardworking American entrepreneurs who've never made a single headline. What is it that makes them tick? Are they wired differently from the rest of us?
Neuroscientists have been studying the way entrepreneurs make decisions, which they call "entrepreneurial cognition," and the results are fascinating. As reported in Dove Press, an open-source online medical journal, entrepreneurs seize opportunities faster than their cubicle counterparts, continuously searching for new, creative ways to innovate, grow and connect the dots. Entrepreneurs also score higher on measures of self-directedness, as well as scores in novelty-seeking, exploratory excitability, optimism and eagerness.
And what's best, these aren't innate characteristics every entrepreneur is born with – they can be learned. Here are six ways powerful people think differently, and how you can, too.
1. Entrepreneurs find their own ways of thinking – and don't need your approval.
Entrepreneurs have their own way of doing things and do not seek consensus, according a study featured in Inc. magazine. Surround yourself with people who can help you succeed, and ask them good questions—but in the end, trust your own gut. Taking full control of your own destiny and responsibility for the results of decisions will help you pave a – hopefully profitable – path that's all your own.
2. Entrepreneurs challenge the status quo.
When someone says "this is how so-and-so did it," or "We have to do it this way because…" it's like fingernails on a chalkboard to an entrepreneur. A willingness to break the rules tends to come with the territory, as researchers at University of California, Berkeley, and the London School of Economics found recently. According to the study, successful entrepreneurs tend to get in trouble more often than their peers as teens, especially when it came to following rules. The key to becoming an entrepreneur isn't necessarily becoming the next Bill Gates – it's becoming the next you.
3. Entrepreneurs see opportunities, not problems.
Glass-half-full optimism is a key personality trait of successful entrepreneurs, says research reported in Entrepreneur magazine. And that leads to seeing opportunities where others might see roadblocks. For entrepreneurs, challenges trigger the kind of elated, outside-the-box thinking and innovation successful business owners are known for. Try taking on new challenges at work, or set aside time to brainstorm solutions to common problems.
4. Entrepreneurs take measured risks.
Contrary to popular belief, most entrepreneurs are not bet-the-ranch gamblers. They do have a willingness to take the right kind of risk at the right time, as the UC/LSE study goes on to suggest. Always consider the benefits and downsides to a difficult decision, but don't be afraid to follow your instincts.
5. Entrepreneurs are relentlessly passionate.
Entrepreneurs put the "cult" in company culture, typically building their companies in their own image. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland found that passion was a key ingredient in growing a successful business, which might also account for why they're so revered by society for living out their dreams. We all know someone who "lives, eats, sleeps and dreams" their business 24/7—sometimes at great personal sacrifice.
6. Entrepreneurs learn from their failures.
The ability to bounce back from failure is a key characteristic of successful business owners, especially in the beginning, says research published in the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development. Rather than become discouraged, entrepreneurs tend to capitalize on opportunities to acquire new knowledge. After all, any number of well-known entrepreneurs tried and failed first, including Steve Jobs, Ray Kroc and Thomas Edison, among many others. Some venture capitalists and angel investors won't fund entrepreneurs who haven't had at least one failed business.
It's a big mistake to try to be something you're not. But if you see yourself in these characteristics many entrepreneurs share, you might just have what it takes to succeed.