Successful entrepreneurs are just like successful non-entrepreneurs. They come from all sorts of backgrounds, all types of demographics, have all levels of education and experience and expertise....
In many ways successful entrepreneurs are the same as everyone else.
Yet look closely and you'll see that in certain key ways, they are very, very different--even if they aren't officially entrepreneurs (yet!) but simply have an entrepreneurial mindset.
Here are the qualities Joel Basgall, co-founder and CEO of Geneca, the custom software development firm and six-time Inc. 5000 honoree, feels exceptional entrepreneurs (and people who may not have started companies but definitely have an entrepreneurial mindset) have that set them apart:
1. They hate playing politics.
Entrepreneurs can't stand playing politics--and to some degree, people who play politics. They don't care about jockeying for promotions or trying to be "right" in a meeting.
An entrepreneur's primary focus is on solving difficult problems and accomplishing cool things.
2. They love when others win.
Politically motivated people hate when other people earn praise or recognition; they instinctively feel that diminishes the light from their star.
Entrepreneurs aren't competitive, at least not in that way. They want to be recognized, but their accomplishments don't preclude others from doing great things, too.
They want everyone else who does something awesome to get recognized, too.
3. They desperately want to see ideas come to fruition.
Maybe they love to dream up their own ideas. Or maybe they love to help others build out their ideas. Either way, entrepreneurs want to make things happen--new, exciting, crazy, groundbreaking things.
The same is true for employees with an entrepreneurial mindset. Great people are drawn to working at Google because they know their great ideas will be supported. Great people are drawn to Geneca because they want to build new things and see them come to life.
Entrepreneurs don't want to manage what already exists; they want to create what doesn't exist--yet.
4. They're meta-thinkers.
Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time thinking about thinking. They like to think about the best way to think about a goal or challenge or problem. They like to think about how to think differently and develop a different angle or approach or perspective.
Entrepreneurs like to think about thinking, because when they find new ways to think, they find new ways to act.
5. They prefer to make or enhance the rules.
Meta-thinkers instinctively evaluate every rule--and look for ways to improve it.
They prefer to figure things out. They see rules as problems to solve or challenges to overcome.
6. They believe nothing is sacred.
Entrepreneurs don't say, "Well, that's just the way it is."
Entrepreneurs never feel what is must always be. Perspectives can be shifted. Laws of physics can be broken. Conventional wisdom may not be wisdom at all.
Even when something huge stands in their way, entrepreneurs know there's a way around it--they just need to figure it out. Changing a paradigm makes new things possible.
7. They love solving problems.
Entrepreneurs constantly look for problems to solve: sometimes little, sometimes big, sometimes technical, sometimes business- or team-related. Drop entrepreneurs into a static situation and they'll create "problems" they can solve.
8. They're great at self-assessment.
Why? They constantly evaluate what they do, and then work hard to be even better tomorrow than they are today.
Entrepreneurs are honest with themselves.
9. They embrace nontechnical feedback.
Entrepreneurs readily take input from others. And they definitely don't put up barriers to feedback--feedback, especially critical feedback, is just another problem to solve. Becoming better is more important than their egos.
That's because entrepreneurs don't see feedback as threatening--feedback is enlightening. Plus they, like employee-entrepreneurs, know they need a lot more feedback on interpersonal skills and personal growth than on technical skills.
Why? Technical issues are obvious. Because they are constantly self-assessing, entrepreneurs know their technical limitations better than anyone else. But what other issues might be standing in their way?
If you see what they need to improve on and tell them, you become their hero, because now they can solve a problem they weren't aware of.
10. They actively create their future selves.
In general, entrepreneurs realize they are often their own worst enemy. They don't see themselves as controlled by external forces; they think the barrier between what they are and what they want is almost always them.
So they're constantly trying to be better tomorrow than they are today--even if the people around them wish they would just give it a rest.
11. They adore taking things off their plates.
Look at pictures of Albert Einstein and you would think, "Dude never changed clothes?"
Nope--but he did have a lot of identical clothing. He didn't want to waste brainpower figuring out what to wear every day.
Entrepreneurs have a similar tendency to systematize, not to be anal but to take small and large decisions off their plate so they don't have to waste time thinking about them. So they eat similar things, wear similar clothing, and create daily routines. They organize so they don't have to waste brain share on things that don't really matter.
But don't confuse creating routines with being compulsive. Entrepreneurs will change a routine the moment they see a flaw or an opportunity to make an improvement.
There's method to the apparent madness--you just have to look for it.
12. They're awesome at leveraging self-reward.
Entrepreneurs almost always do the things they have to do before they tackle the things they want to do. They use what they want to do as a reward.
And that means the more things they have to do, the more they'll get done.
(But that doesn't mean they're great at celebrating success. Because they're constantly trying to improve, a "big win" isn't big--it's simply the outcome of all the things they did to make it come true.)
13. They believe they're in total control…
Many people feel luck has a lot to do with success or failure: If they succeed, luck played a part; if they fail, the odds just didn't go their way.
Entrepreneurs feel they have complete control over their success or failure. If they succeed, they caused it. If they fail, they caused it.
14. ...So their egos don't suffer when they fail.
Entrepreneurs don't see failure as a blow to their ego. Failure can be fixed. A future self will figure it out.
Failure is just another problem to solve.
15. They do everything with intent.
Like Jason Bourne, entrepreneurs don't do "random." They always have a reason for what they do, because they're constantly thinking about why they do what they do.
They're not afraid. They're not emotionally attached to ideas or ways of doing things.
They just want to be better and to make the world better.
And best of all, they know they can--and will.