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One Surprising Sign You’re Cut Out to Be an Entrepreneur

Do you have what it takes to start a business? A veteran entrepreneur suggests a surprising character for start-up life.


Dream of starting a business, but wonder if you have the best personality for the job? 

Veteran entrepreneur Kevin Johnson may be able to help you answer that. On his blog, he writes about the unexpected characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.

For example, in his latest post, he suggests that if you like to be the smartest guy in the room, start-up life might not be a great fit for you. Intellectual humility is actually a good sign you'll do well as an entrepreneur, he writes:

The average person is intimidated by smart people...If given a choice to spend a week quarantined with really smart people or people of average intelligence, the average Jane would choose people of average intelligence.  Who can blame her?  But what a tragedy! It’s as if Jane’s fear, ego, or yearning to fit in prevents her from growing and learning.

When in high school, I learned the value of hanging around brilliant people. Somehow I ended up befriending some really bright students. I make it sound coincidental, but the relationships I developed were probably strong because I was a social outcast like they were. The geeks always are, right?  Nevertheless, the end result was the same; I was able to learn so much from them and therefore increase my abilities...Today, I continue to maintain an ever-expanding circle of intelligent people. They make me feel inadequate and sometimes just really stupid, but I am OK with that because I know that I learn so much from behooves every entrepreneur—and anyone else who strives to be successful—to surround himself with the brightest and best minds.

With so much emphasis in the media placed on the cleverness of entrepreneurs (and no doubt many of these folks are incredibly clever), Johnson's post is a nice reminder that focusing on your own relative intelligence really isn't productive (or probably much good for your mental health).

A better bet is to devote your energy to acknowledging the talents and abilities of others and seeking out ways to learn from them, even at the cost of sometimes appearing less than brilliant yourself. It might be hard on your ego but it's probably good for your business. Columbia Business School professors have even written that dumb is the new smart, citing a willingness to admit what you don't understand and appear foolish as a highly undervalued business skill in this post financial crisis world.

Do you agree that successful entrepreneurs need to be willing to spend time with people that make them feel dumb?

Last updated: Mar 27, 2012


Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

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