As I travel the world, I find too many "wantrepreneurs."
Wantrepreneurs are potential entrepreneurs who just haven't started. They're the ones who dream of entrepreneurial freedom, but don't take action to make that dream a reality.
Here are some of the excuses I hear many potential entrepreneurs using to shackle themselves to a life they need not lead. I call them the "seven buts":
1. But...I don't have a great idea.
Today, you don't need a fully formed opportunity on day one, let alone in advance. Instead, today's founders use customer discovery to find a problem they themselves have. So start by making a list of customer segments of which you yourself are a member (for example, I'm a member of the following segments: dad, professor, investor, and comic book collector). Then ensure you have full access and deep insight into one of those segments. Your great opportunity likely lies in solving the most inelastic problem that segment has.
2. But...I don't have money.
Costs have gone from $5 million to $500 to start a company.
3. But...I'm too old/too young.
There's no evidence that age matters.
4. But...I don't know how to get started.
Ignorance is no longer a defense. Two decades of startup success has left trails to be followed. Look to proven methods, tactics, and theories like the Lean Startup, 100 Steps 2 Startup, and Disciplined Entrepreneurship. (Full disclosure: I helped create 100 Steps 2 Startup.)
5. But...I can't quit my life and risk it all.
You no longer have to. You can begin today, without cost or risk, without quitting, and without selling everything and betting big. Instead, start small. Do some customer discovery. Chat with potential early adopters about your idea. Incrementally build up a business case to justify the next step in the evidence-gathering process. If your dream is a nationwide chain of restaurants, start with a hot dog cart, then a food cart, then a pop-up restaurant. Going slow isn't just smart. It is sane.
6. But...I'm not a risk taker.
It is a long-disproven myth that entrepreneurs are huge risk takers. They just believe in themselves more than the average person does.
7. But...I'm afraid to fail.
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. That is true in basketball, hockey, and in life. Failure is not just possible; it is probable. So learn to learn from failure. Don't worship it, but don't fear it.
Now that we have debunked the "buts," let's talk about the next step: taking the first step. The only thing worse than failing is never trying. So here are a few low-cost, high-impact things you can do right now to start your entrepreneurial journey:
- Subscribe right now to a daily dose of entrepreneurial enthusiasm. Register for a blog, an email newsletter, or a podcast.
- Attend a Startup Weekend. Starting a startup has changed dramatically over the last two decades. A Startup Weekend is the best way to get up to speed on 21st-century methods, and it is a fun way to spend 50 hours.
- Join a local founder network. Online is fine, but join something offline though local community events and meetups. Expose yourself to other founders. Make sure you do this face-to-face at least once a week.
- Make a list of customer segments you belong to and the biggest problems they have. Ask yourself: Are you passionate about this? Can you access this group? Do you have insights about the domain?
In my mind, entrepreneurship is neither an art nor a science--it is a practice, like meditation, financial literacy, or Krav Maga. One learns entrepreneurship by doing entrepreneurship. So do some entrepreneurship today, and take the next step to being a wantrepreneur no more.