Entrepreneurs are often glorified for their one big project that sells to a large company for an absurd amount of money. But this does not reflect reality for the vast majority of entrepreneurs. If I had to guess, I'd bet that 99.8 percent of entrepreneurs do not fit this category.
How many Mark Zuckerbergs are there? How many Elon Musks? How many Steve Jobs? Richard Bransons? Tony Robbins? Jeff Bezos? Bills Gates? Melissa Mayers? Tony Hsiehs? Mark Cubans? I'm running out of big names that immediately come to mind. Why? Not because I can't think of them, but because there really aren't that many when compared with the number of moderately (or un-) successful entrepreneurs.
You might be thinking I'm wrong, but visit any major media outlet--especially tech-oriented outlets. You'll find that it's a small cast and crew that adorns the front covers and main spreads.
One of the biggest problems with entrepreneurship is the over-glorification of successful entrepreneurs.
This over-glorification creates an unrealistic environment and skewed perceptions of success. Do I think every entrepreneur should aspire to be as successful as Mark Zuckerberg? Absolutely! But the likelihood of that actually happening? Your chances at winning the lottery are probably better.
Why are the odds of success so low?
It's not surprising that three quarters of entrepreneurs and small business owners fail within their first year. The bar of success is incredibly high. Instead of focusing on building the best businesses they can, they chase the dream of Series A funding, big buyouts, and viral success. The mainstream discussion of entrepreneurship has people's heads in the clouds when their heads should be down, focused on honing their craft or creating amazing experiences for their customers.
Media outlets talk about two types of entrepreneurs:
But where's the entire middle gap?
Where are the people who are forging their own way, but aren't famous? Where's the article about the mom and pop granola company in Michigan that started in a quaint kitchen and is getting national distribution? What about the all-natural, all-organic popsicle company out of Florida that's quietly carving out a niche?
Here's the problem with the middle gap of entrepreneurship and why media outlets will never talk about majority of us who sit in that gap: It's not sexy. It doesn't draw headlines. It doesn't help advertisers make money with click-bait headlines.
So what's the point here? I probably haven't told you anything you don't already know or haven't thought about it.
The point is that the rest of us (the middle gap in entrepreneurship) need to stop reading the headlines and aspiring to be the next somebody. Entrepreneurs and small-business owners need to stay laser-focused on their businesses. Not just on zeroes in a bank account, but on the actual experience a customer receives as well. The quality of the product being sold. The bending-over-backward level of support.
Everyone wants a marketing strategy or out-of-the-box advertising idea. Those things are fleeting and about as rare as the next Steve Jobs. What isn't rare or fleeting is the power of word-of-mouth marketing and building a business people want to talk about. No social network, media outlet, tool, tip, trick, or tactic will ever trump the power of one friend telling two friends, who then tell two more friends.
As entrepreneurs, we also need to stop cringing when someone calls us entrepreneurs. That word just means a business owners who take risks. That's who we are. We need to embrace that. Entrepreneurs aren't just super successful folks in Silicon Valley or people who've failed at trying to start a company. We're mostly the giant gap in between those things and we should relish the opportunities that we create for ourselves.
Stop chasing the entrepreneurial dream and start realizing you can carve out your own path. Your level of success should be measured by your own values, not against Elon Musk's plans to terraform another effing planet.