Lessons from Entrepreneurs on Risk, Failure, and Self-confidence

by Benjamin Gran

Entrepreneurs are frequently misunderstood. Many people think they're a bunch of fearless pioneers with big egos and a big appetite for risk and no fear of failure. Others think all entrepreneurs are all technically minded like Bill Gates, or are creative visionaries — or would like to be — in the vein of Steve Jobs.

While it’s true that many entrepreneurs have a healthy amount of self-confidence, the full picture of a typical business owner’s personality is much more complicated. There are a few lessons newer business owners can learn from recent studies about the personality traits of entrepreneurs, and which character traits can improve their chance of business success.

Entrepreneurs are not always risk takers.

Many people assume that entrepreneurs are risk takers, but according to a recent study discussed in a New Yorker article, they're not all wild thrill-seekers. Entrepreneurs tend to be just as risk-averse as everyone else — except when it comes to starting a business. In starting a business, entrepreneurs tend to be highly confident.

Not all are flashy adventurers though. Many entrepreneurs are perfectly content to lead a quieter life, until they are inspired to focus their risk-taking on one specific area of expertise where they see an opportunity.

Entrepreneurs require careful confidence.

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Many businesses fail, or fail to fulfill the owner’s original vision. It’s important for entrepreneurs to have confidence, since starting a business can be risky and exhausting, and their efforts are needed in order to start the next Apple, Facebook or Google, even if many of them will fail along the way.

Entrepreneurs tend to believe strongly that their business idea is going to succeed, and tend to have high confidence in their own chances of success and abilities. But they do not start businesses recklessly; instead, they spot opportunities where they believe their idea or company can succeed where others might fail. Entrepreneurs recognize the risks, but they believe they can be the exception.

Entrepreneurial failure is not always a sign of future success.

It's a common saying in entrepreneurship circles that you can't be afraid to fail, failure is not a bad thing, etc. — but according to some recent studies cited in the New Yorker, entrepreneurs who fail on their first venture are often less likely to succeed in starting future companies. So perhaps one takeaway from this is that while failure is not the end, it’s always important for entrepreneurs to look before they leap.

Entrepreneurs tend to be given a lot of respect in American culture — and that is good, since they do an important service to society by taking risks and starting companies that might someday grow to create jobs and provide products and services that make a difference in people’s lives. But it’s important for entrepreneurs not to get caught up in their own hype or believe in their own invincibility. Be aware of the risks. Be confident, but don't be blind to the possible downsides. The best entrepreneurs are powered not by arrogance or reckless aggression, but by a well-founded belief in what they can achieve.

About This Author

Benjamin Gran

Benjamin Gran is a full-time freelance writer specializing in blog articles, white papers, technical writing, speech writing and other business writing.


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