There's a snappy but crappy and entrepreneurial spirit-crushing term gaining momentum. It's the "wantrepreneur" and I hate it.

I don't know who originally coined the term but it is terrible. The claim behind it is that there are a growing number people out there who want to be entrepreneurs and claim the title without actually starting a business.

Gary Vaynerchuk has picked up and run with this concept and isn't shy about calling these people out. Now, of course, I'd never say anything negative about the much-revered GaryVee. That'd be blasphemy to many business folks. However, I'll say this--I believe Gary has this one only partly right.

Gary's experience is that there are people claiming to be entrepreneurs who lack the ideas, know-how, and wherewithal to actually start and run a business. He believes that people make this claim about themselves because it sounds cool. His concern is that this group, in fact, lack the self-awareness about their true strengths and goals and are pursuing a path that dooms them to future disappointment and a delay in pursuing the right path for them.

All of this is right on. I agree that many people suffer from a lack of self-awareness and get trapped chasing dreams and goals that seem attractive on the surface or impressive to the people who matter in their lives. I also agree that these efforts consume time and energy and ultimately delay people from finding the best career path and getting down to business applying their strengths.

The part that he has wrong is that this is somehow a phenomenon unique to business start-ups. It's not. There are wannabes in every industry, every business, every organization, and every discipline everywhere. Likewise, there are accomplished people in all of these places that hold absolute disdain for the new, less experienced players. It's a class haves versus have-nots scenario.

Hating on anyone who is exploring their options and trying on different roles doesn't help anyone. Having a revered leader shout that inspired individuals don't have what it takes and are only going to hurt themselves by trying doesn't effectively encourage anyone to become more self-aware. It only makes them feel bad and possibly more lost.

This notion of "wantrepreneur" to me feels similar to an old attitude that used to be common within the running community. Times and distances mattered and were used to set the standard of who could call themselves a runner artificially high. Honestly, what difference does it make how far or how fast someone else is going? In recent years, the running community (with a nudge from a number of fitness start-ups) has changed dramatically and is now inclusive of all kinds of people. The standard to call yourself a runner these days simply requires that you 1) own a pair of shoes and 2) get out on occasion and move your legs faster than a walk. I love this and feel it's a huge step forward. This benefits people's health and well-being and creates billions in business opportunities.

We could do the same for people wanting to start businesses by eliminating any arbitrary entry criteria. One of the beauties of our capitalist system is that the market will help people define what success is for them. There are no revenue or profits thresholds--only that both are positive over the long-run.

If Gary believes that he's protecting people from hurting others with their claim of entrepreneurship, I encourage him to think about it another way.

If someone is investing money, accepting a job, making a friend, or agreeing to go on a date with someone solely because they say they're an entrepreneur without asking for any other information, then shame on them.

In the meantime, I think all of us can do a better job of supporting each other through the discovery process and this can be done without critically calling them out with an entrepreneurial spirit-crushing term. Wanting to be something is very much a part of the process of self-discovery and building self-awareness.

Published on: Jul 7, 2016