The ability to eat glass

(And other characteristics that entrepreneurs possess.)

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? If you own or manage your own business, take a big step back and look at the big picture… why do you do it? Why don’t you just have a “regular job” like most of your friends and family? What is it about you that makes you “an entrepreneur?”

Let’s try to figure it out.

If we start in the obvious starting place, the Merriam Webster definition of an entrepreneur is “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” Sounds reasonable. If I asked most of you, you would give a definition close to this. But I believe the definition of “entrepreneur” is often very different depending on who you ask.

If you were to ask me, I would define an entrepreneur as “one who takes an idea and turns it into reality.” While this is a very general definition of an entrepreneur, I like the broad scope. Plus, I think it also encompasses the philosophy of an “intrapreneur” as well. (For those of you who haven’t heard of this term, “intrapreneur” is often used to describe entrepreneurs working within organizations who are not the founders.)

Maybe the best way to define an entrepreneur is to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. How do entrepreneurs describe themselves and others like them? Many people consider Richard Branson to be the consummate entrepreneur, as he has continued to open new businesses in new industries and put his own twist on things. I’ve heard him speak and he is very entertaining and engaging. In this article, Mr. Branson recommends that entrepreneurs simply take the leap. He points out that there are always so many reasons not to do something, but it takes someone special to do it. And if anyone should know what it takes to “do something,” it’s definitely him.

In that same vein, a student recently asked Elon Musk a question, “As an established entrepreneur, what is the number one tip you have for all the young entrepreneurs waiting to startup?” He replied, “I think it’s very difficult to start companies; it’s quite painful. A friend of mine has a good phrase for doing a startup: it’s like eating glass and staring into the abyss. If you are wired to do it, then only do it, not otherwise. So think of it this way – if you need inspiring words, DON’T DO IT!”

An excellent point. If you have to have someone push you into entrepreneurship, it’s probably not for you. And Mr. Musk reiterates what Mr. Branson said – there are many reasons NOT to be an entrepreneur, but you have to believe in yourself to be successful.

These are just a couple of examples from two of my favorite entrepreneurs, and their thoughts on what it means to be an entrepreneur.

So, what did it take for you to make the leap? Stop by some time and let’s talk entrepreneurship. Or glass eating. Or both.