01/22/2012 05:10 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2012

Why Entrepreneurs Aren't Like the Rest of You

I set fire to the rain.


An aspiring life coach has been working to help me improve in several areas. She found some of my old notes (I think they came from listening to the Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan) about the four habits shared by most entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs usually have four characteristics:

1. They perform best in times of chaos.

2. They wait until the very last minute to finish projects.

3. They need to have an adrenal rush, like a big opportunity or their backs against the wall, before their creativity kicks into place.

4. They are motivated by goals that seem unreachable.

In his book, Built to Last, Jim Collins calls that last trait, "Big Hairy Audacious Goals."

The people who started Amazon wanted to have "Every book, ever printed, in any language, available in less than 60 seconds." The people who run Google want to "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible."

Amazon and Google aren't quite there yet, but they are working on it.

Anyone who has ever worked with, or hired me, knows that those four traits define my personality.

I am often the one calm person in times of chaos.

One of the reasons I like participating in meditations or settlement conferences is that I can step back from emotion and keep focused on the overall goal.

I'm the first call when someone dies, gets injured or has a financial crisis. I'm at the top of my game then.

But this inner calm doesn't happen for me in my daily life. Then, I'm capable of bouncing off the walls on the most trivial of matters.

Give me a 10 foot putt to win the hole and I normally make it. Take the pressure off and I knock the ball into the weeds.

A lot of my friends are trial lawyers. The good ones seem to have that "calm in chaos" mindset.

My body has some kind of inner clock that tells me when to start a project so that I can finish two minutes ahead of deadline.

I never miss a deadline and the work is first rate, but if you're expecting it two weeks early from me, it will never happen. I've operated like that my entire life.

Along the way, I've been involved financial management, structured settlements, running political campaigns and journalism. Those professions cherish deadline performers. Which is good, since the rest of the world wants to kill us.

Some people hate the media because they think journalists have too much power and bias. Others hate us because we never pick up our socks off the floor.

Entrepreneurs are motivated by passion, enthusiasm and the rush of new ideas.

Otherwise, we don't do much of anything. We tend not to be motivated by daily routines or repetitive work.

Dreaming the Impossible Dream is a concept that many starting businesses don't get.

If their goal is to get rich quick or plod from day to day, they aren't entrepreneurs -- they just have a job they can't get fired from.

I have all kinds of impossible goals.

I wish for world peace, but I'm not in a position to do much about it.

I long to live the rest of my life never hearing another word about any member of the Kardashian family. But I have not been to make that happen, either.

I've had a longtime goal of assuring that my clients hang onto all their money.

Since most of people I deal with have suddenly and unexpectedly gotten money after an injury settlement or lottery jackpot, it's not as easy as you would think.

An estimated 90 percent of people blow through a lump sum in five years or less. I'm going against long odds.

Like the people at Amazon and Google, I'm still working on it.

Another goal is to see that no American is ripped off again by Wall Street or by predatory financial products like payday loans.

Some people think that is truly impossible. But, like the song says, I dream of a day when we "set fire to the rain," and change the financial system to come up with a model that is fair to everyone.

Like my fellow entrepreneurs, I like to dream big dreams and make things happen.

From looking at the entrepreneurial personality traits, like it or not, it is a role I was born to play.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the bestselling author of the book Wealth Without Wall Street: McNay, who lives in Richmond Kentucky, an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor. You can learn more about him at

He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Settlement Group ( which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners, and the families of special needs children.

McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianship's. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.