President Barack Obama proclaimed November as "National Entrepreneurship Month." Here is my tribute to entrepreneurship, also posted on the Teens In Tech blog.
I vividly remember the moment I feel in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur. It was shortly after moving to Silicon Valley, while watching Mark Zuckerberg and Jim Breyer on the Harvard to Facebook lecture by Stanford Technology Venture Program's Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Seminars. During that podcast, I realized that with an idea and the right vision anything is possible. It is this conviction to take a risk to follow your dreams that is at the core of entrepreneurship.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines entrepreneurship as "the of organization, management, and assumption the risks of a business or enterprise." Yet, this definition makes entrepreneurship seem like a set of actions instead of a mindset. In my opinion, entrepreneurship is not a prescribed set of actions. Following the beaten path does not make one entrepreneurial. Actually, it is the disregard of what is conventional that gives a person an innovative edge.
From an etymological point-of-view, the word entrepreneur is based on the Sanskrit word "Antha Prerna," which in translation means "self-motivated." Self-motivation is the hallmark of an entrepreneur. Self-motivation is the x-factor, separating those who have the entrepreneurial mindset from others who are trapped in the conventional way of thinking. Self-motivation is not an ability, but a desire to reach for something greater. Something much larger than oneself. The late Steve Jobs captures this with his famous comment toward an employee: "We're here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?"
With that simple phrase, Steve Jobs has encapsulated the idea of people in entrepreneur. Beyond making money and fame, Jobs desires to change the world. He is not motivated by the external factors that fuel most people, but instead by his own passion to make a difference in the world. The same is true for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. On multiple occasions, Zuckerberg turned down astronomical offers for Facebook, instead opting to indefinitely perfect Facebook. Again, Zuckerberg is driven by the dream that he can change the way that people interact for the better. For Zuckerberg, the money and fame come to internal drive to make Facebook best product possible. For Jobs and Zuckerberg, everything is secondary to their internal motivations.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, self-motivation is expressed in a variety of forms. Whether you are coding an app into the wee hours of the morning or running to your fifth pitch in one day, it takes a high degree of dedication, a characteristic that is emblematic of entrepreneurial spirit. At times it can seem difficult to find that self-motivation to move forward. During a particularly trying team situation this summer, I sat outside the Stanford Technology Venture Program workspace and reflected on what compelled me to be an entrepreneur. After I reaffirmed why I love entrepreneurship, I was able to clear my head, put behind my frustrations, and find the self-motivation to move forward on my work. Although entrepreneurship can be a roller coaster, the ability to self-motivate will get your through the ups and downs.