Stuck on measuring yourself against the entrepreneurial greats like Steve Jobs? Don't--it's only self-defeating. Here's a much better goal.
"Entrepreneur" is an awesome word. Many people, especially those for whom the corporate world is anathema, can't imagine being anything but an entrepreneur.
Unfortunately, for many aspiring business owners "entrepreneur" is also an intimidating word.
Why? If we play word association and I say, "entrepreneur," it's possible the first thing that comes to mind is a success story. Depending on your generation, maybe you picture Kroc, Walton, or Knight. Or maybe you see the smiling faces of Branson, Bezos, Gates, or Dell. Or maybe Page and Brin, Cuban, Zuckerberg, or Cashmore pop to mind.
Or maybe you just think, "Jobs," since Steve transcends just about every generational and socio-economic divide.
Then again, instead of flashing on a famous entrepreneur, something on the opposite end of the success spectrum could come to mind. You might picture pulling that endless string of all-nighters while living on Ramen noodles (the stereotypical breakfast, lunch, and dinner of entrepreneurial champions.) Or you might picture all those lean months and years of hardship and sacrifice as you struggle to create a business no one believes in but you... and sometimes, in your worst moments, not even you.
No matter what the outcome of your particular free association exercise, the word "entrepreneur" can feel like a lot to live up to.
Even successful entrepreneurs feel they don't. I know people who have built great businesses. Huge businesses. Massive businesses. But however bright their entrepreneurial beacon shines, in their hearts they still feel their light is lost in the glow of those who made greater sacrifices or who have accomplished even more.
And maybe that's you.
Maybe you're afraid to start a business because you feel you could never compare to the brightest stars in the entrepreneurial firmament. Or maybe you shrink from the thought of having to work and sacrifice and struggle towards a goal you may never accomplish. Or maybe you think other people have some intangible entrepreneurial something--ideas, talent, drive, skills, creativity, etc.--you just don't have.
If that's the way you think, you're wrong.
Success is only inevitable in hindsight. It's easy to look back on another person's entrepreneurial path to greatness and assume every vision was clear, every plan was perfect, every step was executed flawlessly, and tremendous success was a foregone conclusion. It's easy to think Steve was always the iconic Steve.
He wasn't. His success was never assured. It was often in doubt. Only in hindsight does it appear Steve was destined to succeed.
Plus, not only do you already have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, in many ways you are already an entrepreneur. "Entrepreneur" is commonly defined as, "a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on financial risk to do so."
Let's see. You already organize your affairs. You already take on financial risk. Even if you currently work for someone else you're still an entrepreneur because you organize and operate the business of you.
So don't measure yourself against other entrepreneurs and find yourself wanting before you even begin. Don't measure yourself against some standard of effort and sacrifice and perseverance you feel you can never achieve.
Pick a goal and measure yourself against that goal. That's the only comparison that ever matters.
You don't have to try to be the next Jobs. You can try to be something a lot better.
JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden