Who are You and How does this Influence your Entrepreneurial Journey?

image001The entrepreneurial journey is an intensely personal one. No fooling here. Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you that they live and breathe their work. At times they say that it feels like there is no separation.

So any conversation about entrepreneurship ought to start in that place: Who you are and how you move from there. Here are some thoughts for the roller coaster ride you may be on or are considering.

Know yourself

This is really a starting point for life. Socrates said it well: “The unexamined life is not worth living”. It may sound harsh, but I find it encouraging. Because at one level, I think everyone examines their life all of the time. We live, responding to situations around us all the time. We make a lot of decisions based on observation/examination. The issue? Most of the time we don’t dive very deep.

Knowing yourself is about being proactive in the understanding of who you are and what you are on about in the short life you have. What do you believe? What do value? What bothers you? What are you good at? What do you love to do? What feels effortless to you? What causes you to raise your voice? What gives you energy? What gives you rest?

It may not be surprising to know that a lot of people don’t know the answers to these questions. Know yourself and the anchor points of your life – your foundation. Move from there and see how your life and your business will be the better off for it.

Be yourself

Don’t lie and don’t pretend. This is essential for your own mental and emotional fulfillment and stability. It’s also essential because successful entrepreneurs have much more than great ideas to offer. People always believe in you before they believe in your idea. An idea without an animator is hopeless. Mickey Mouse doesn’t get very far without Walt Disney.

The key here is recognizing that it is exactly your unique (even if they are quirky) ways that differentiate you and will differentiate your business. If you are naturally a great friend, make sure that friendship is at the heart of your business. Are you a great listener? How does your business reflect that gift?

And those perceived weaknesses? Flip them and play up the strengths. Feel like your empathy is a weakness in a cutthroat business world? Double down and make empathy a core strength of your business. You will never regret running an unsuccessful company but keeping yourself and your self-respect intact. The real danger is a high-flying endeavor that erodes your soul. Your business and your self won’t last long in those circumstances.

Change Yourself

Being yourself doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change. Definitely change. Change a lot. And go into the whole enterprise ready to change.

You’ve surely figured out by now that the world around us changes at a blazing speed. We have to be ready to respond to it – not just with our businesses, but with ourselves. Each day, if we’re paying attention to what’s happening around us (from world events to our closest relationships), we’re required to adapt and change to the circumstances. Stay nimble, stay agile, stay innovative. Observe the world and make thoughtful changes to stay engaged.

Being yourself means knowing your principles and strengths and standing by them. Changing yourself acknowledges both a humility of spirit (consummate learning and growing) and desire for productive, meaningful relationships (be they with a customer, funder, partner or the very business environment itself).

Don’t do it by yourself

Whether you believe it or not, whether you are ‘working’ alone or not, entrepreneurship is always a shared journey. It may be with your business partners, your employees, your family, your friends, your spouse – even your customers! Entrepreneurship asks so much that it becomes part of who you are. Think about how much people already talk about their jobs. For entrepreneurs it’s 10x more. You’re on call constantly; you’re responsibilities are enormous. Your business is like a family member. A critical part of your life.

There is no reason to think that you would be able to do this alone (you can’t). So invest time and energy in the people who are either coming with you regardless (your family and friends) and the people who are going to help you specifically with the business (your partners, employees and customers).

Do not, for a second, try to fool yourself that any great entrepreneur did it on her own. Our culture likes to deify individual entrepreneurs, but for every successful entrepreneur, there are many people standing behind him or her, bringing that success to life. This is to be welcomed, cultivated, celebrated and enjoyed!


  • Have the students take a few moments to answer these questions for themselves:
    • What do you believe?
    • What do value?
    • What bothers you?
    • What are you good at?
    • What do you love to do?
    • What feels effortless to you?
    • What causes you to raise your voice?
    • What gives you energy?
    • What gives you rest?
  • Next have them take the answers to their questions and relate them to running a business. As discussed in the article, discuss how their challenges can actually be viewed as strengths in a business world.
  • Once the group shares their reflections, discuss how those in the room can help one another. How can one person’s strengths fill in the gaps for another’s challenges?

Guest Blog Author:
Chris Breitenberg is the former director of communications at Initiatives of Change International, and is currently co-founder of a start up called Parallel.

Entrepreneur In The Classroom:
The NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation Entrepreneur-in-the-Classroom (EITC) supplemental curriculum exposes students to entrepreneurship and the necessary steps to take an idea and turn it into a business. The FREE curriculum can be integrated into classes teaching a variety of subjects including music, art, fashion, business and many more. You must be registered to view the full Entrepreneur-in-the-Classroom curriculum.

More Information:
The NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization promoting the importance of small business and free enterprise to the nation’s youth. More information is available at www.NFIB.com/YEF. The Foundation is associated with the National Federation of Independent Business; NFIB is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals.

Related links:
Follow NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation on Twitter
Like NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation on Facebook
Follow EITC curriculum author Kathy Korman Frey on Twitter

November 26, 2014 at 12:57 pm Leave a comment

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It’s the age-old question: Are we reaching our potential? Can we dream the big dream, and reach it?

In this post, I feature a summary of the three major steps which theorists and articles touch upon time after time.

Continue Reading October 31, 2014 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

2015 NFIB Young Entrepreneur Award Applications Open!

Creating a new generation of entrepreneurs is one of this country’s greatest needs; that is why we are so excited to open the scholarship process to a new class of young entrepreneurs. Each year, the quality of applicants who have pursued the scholarships is extremely impressive and this year, our expectations are even higher. We at the NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation could not be more confident in our next generation of business owners. Any high school senior with a budding business and an innovative spirit is encouraged to apply.

Continue Reading September 30, 2014 at 11:58 am Leave a comment

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Continue Reading August 26, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Three Research-Based Tips For Managing Stress, Multiple Priorities, and Work-Life Balance for Entrepreneurs

This post, affectionately known as “Jedi Mind Control for Over Achievers” will teach you solutions that work for actual entrepreneurs.

Whether you’re an educator, a young entrepreneur, or a seasoned entrepreneur, balancing multiple priorities is a reality. A much needed skill is HOW to effectively balance these priorities, but, it’s not a class in school. So, here, we lay out some proven solutions.

Continue Reading July 29, 2014 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

Thank you, Entrepreneurship Educators

It’s summer break, which means you, as an educator should be enjoying your vacation. So instead of providing more entrepreneurial education resources, NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation would like to thank you for a job well done. Sparks and Honey has just released a report about Generation Z (born 1995 to present). The report is fascinating, and covers a wide range of topics about what makes Generation Z unique. Especially interesting to us is the idea that Entrepreneurship is in the DNA of this generation. We believe a lot of that DNA make up has to do with you.

Continue Reading June 24, 2014 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

How to Pitch a Business – (or yourself): Top Tips from an Expert

An entrepreneur’s worst nightmare is that people drool when they tell someone about their business. (But, not in a good way. More like a catatonic way.)…Here are top tips from a globally-known “Intrigue Expert” Sam Horn.

Continue Reading May 28, 2014 at 10:45 am 3 comments

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