Are Entrepreneurs Born or Are They Made?

I get this question all the time: are you born to be an entrepreneur or can you develop the requisite skills to become a founder? The nature vs. nurture debate has puzzled scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and, to be honest, me. 

Here’s the dilemma:

If you’re not born with “it” (that intangible entrepreneurial je ne sais quoi), are you doomed to live life in the ranks of the non-entrepreneurs? Or, in the contrary, can anyone learn the traits you need to build successful ventures?

For me, the answer to the question is clear. While not everyone may be destined for full-time entrepreneurship, everyone - and I mean everyone - can be entrepreneurial. To understand why, let’s take a look at some hard facts.

You can learn business-focused entrepreneurial skills

The how of starting a venture is something you can definitely learn. After all, my main goal with The 10% Entrepreneur was to lay out the general steps you need to take to build your first side venture.

Anyone can apply the lessons from the book to their life and their venture. They can also learn from the many resources that are available to aspiring entrepreneurs, whether they read this blog, learn from other entrepreneurship-focused authors, or take online or offline courses. In fact, a study conducted at Babson College found that students who took two or more courses related to entrepreneurship were more likely to become entrepreneurs in the future. 

We live in the age of the autodidact. Free resources are everywhere and you can find great material no matter where you live. Just log on and dive in. Of course, reading and taking courses is just the start. At some point, you’ll need to move on to the next step and practice.

It's Harder to Learn Personality Traits, but Not Impossible

Developing the personality of an entrepreneur is the challenging part of the process. Researchers believe that there are a series of innate qualities that most big-league entrepreneurs have. A 2014 Entrepreneur article identified the following key traits:

  • Passion
  • Tenacity
  • Tolerance of ambiguity
  • Vision
  • Self belief
  • Flexibility
  • Rule breaking

We tend to learn these skills from childhood, following the example set for us by our parents and other role models. That makes sense, but it’s not just about environmental factors. As a result, some academics have worked to find the so called “entrepreneurial gene” as a key marker for entrepreneurs.

A study conducted by the King’s College evaluated the genetic factors that may determine how entrepreneurial a given person will be. They found that 37 to 48 percent of the tendency to become an entrepreneur is genetic. The study also found links between certain traits (such as extroversion, vision and openness) and genes.

Before you run out and buy a 23andMe kit, remember that these early findings seem to prove that those who have these traits are more likely to succeed as entrepreneurs. But they are not the only factor at play. You need to flex your entrepreneurial muscles if you’re going to win. That means working hard at developing these traits into real world skills. 

You Become an Entrepreneur by Taking Action

In the end, whether you’ve got entrepreneurial “genes” or not, there’s only one thing that matters when it comes to succeeding: your willingness to take action. 

That’s why I always give anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur - 10%, 100%, or 110%, the same advice: Go! Whether that means figuring out what kinds of projects make most sense for me on searching for a business partner, you cannot let the world happen to you. You need to go out into the world and make things happen. 

Don’t let the fact that your skills (business or personality-wise) may need some sharpening. When you get going, you will learn in the field, strengthening your skills along the way. 

Take it from me: For the majority of my life, I didn’t see myself as entrepreneurial at all, but now just a few years after embarking on my first venture as an Advisor, I’m now a full- fledged 10% Entrepreneur.

If I can do it, you can too. 

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