The Entrepreneurial Muscle: Why Business Pioneers Start Young

5 min read

Excerpts from the World Economic Forum Annual MeetingBy Bozhanka Vitanova, Global Shaper, Boston Hub, Brandeis Innovation Center

What makes successful entrepreneurs the way they are? Are they born or made? The founder's mindset seems to be closer to the latter — and starts early on in life.

World Economic Forum asked Carbon Lighthouse founder Brenden Millstein and other entrepreneurs about the founder's mindset.A common point among pioneering entrepreneurs is a core formative experience of accomplishment that took place between the ages of 10 and 16, an age where inhibiting factors have not yet come into play. Before the doubt and insecurities of adulthood settle in, most children believe their dreams are completely feasible.Some evidence of success during a person’s formative years in the face of uncertainty, helps mould the so-called entrepreneurial muscle — a process comparable to the way athletes build muscle memory.

Continuing to overcome challenges throughout life builds entrepreneurial muscle memory, or one’s personal database of achievements. The process is stiff and slow at the beginning, but becomes progressively easier with every iteration.

Eventually, activities linked to an entrepreneurial skill can be performed without significant conscious effort. That is why entrepreneurs do not even recognize that they have unique entrepreneurial skills; it feels very natural.

Here are seven core skills successful entrepreneurs share:

  1. Agency: tendency to take action, initiate and execute with self-efficacy
  2. Awareness: the ability to spot opportunities worth pursuing, with a capacity to focus and eliminate the noise from the signal
  3. Communication: the ability to get ideas out of one’s mind and into the minds of others with as little loss as possible
  4. Networking: the ability to build and maintain authentic, mutually enabling relationships
  5. Problem-solving: application of creative and analytical skills to address complex, multifaceted problems
  6. Resilience: the ability to delink rejection with failure
  7. Resourcefulness: the capacity to breed imaginative solutions in an environment infused with constraints
Carbon Lighthouse founder Brenden Millstein started flexing his entrepreneurial muscle when he had to practice creativity arranging gigs for his jazz ensemble when 15.

He continued using his resourcefulness muscle as he went into college with a founder's mindset:“I was breakdancing in college and wanted to open for a Busta Rhymes concert in Boston. Raphael, my co-founder at Carbon Lighthouse, helped me find the person managing the show, and I shared that I ran the best breakdancing crew in Boston. Jack, who was running the show gave us a 10-minute audition.""Then I called the actual best breakdancers in Boston and told them they should join my crew since we had an audition with Busta Rhymes. They did join. And we opened the show.”Star entrepreneurs experienced a personally important accomplishment early on. However, in the same way you do not need to be a star athlete to run your first 5K, even as an adult, you can start flexing your entrepreneurial muscles by starting small.

Get yourself out of your comfort zone and start building the muscle memory that will make it easier to develop a founder's mindset when needed.

Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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