Four unrecognised traits common in entrepreneurs

Notions of ‘what makes an entrepreneur’ are typically rallied around a few select individuals, the names of which are enunciated with the reverence once reserved for biblical figures. It doesn’t help that the superstars of entrepreneurialism – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Zuckerberg, etc. – have had a fair amount to say about being an entrepreneur, providing a gospel of facts, conditions and prerequisite traits loosely bound in digital scripture by dutiful Reddit fans.

Not wishing to add to this list, which invariably includes the need to be extrovert, wield ceaseless tenacity and possess a penchant for social awkwardness (if not a touch of narcissism), let’s talk about the traits that though shared and very much apparent, aren’t as frequently discussed.

  1. Empathy. Understanding a need is essential to catering to it. Empathy is implied every time we talk about emotional intelligence, and one of the in-the-middle traits alluded to when we discuss the disparity between academics and ‘street smarts’. There are some people to whom others gravitate, pulled in by a natural desire to be understood and the individual’s ability to understand. Empathy enables entrepreneurs to disassociate from the narrow confines of their immediate reality to feels what matters to others – their ticks, fears, anxieties or desires. Applying a narrow lens to perception means omitting the salient details occupying the periphery.
  2. Recalcitrance. For entrepreneurs, the habit of resisting authority begins at a young age. Mental pathways are coded differently – with little appreciation for oppressive structures that ordain ways to live and arbitrate right and wrong. This begins with a rebellious streak during the school years and later flourishes into an assertive sense of possibility – a conviction that the world is mouldable to their vision. The truth is some depend on others to tell them what to do, and others find the very notion abhorrent and maddening.
  3. Ability to live in the present. Many of us struggle to live in a ‘now’, and we suffer for it. We waste hours contemplating the future, and that one moment containing our ideal conditions for success. Entrepreneurs have always been able to keep a steady eye on tomorrow whilst remaining firmly rooted in the present. It’s in the present, after all, that the act of success transpires.

    Entrepreneurs tolerate uncertainty and risk, and don’t mind waiting to see the future unravel without assumption, expectation or preoccupation. 
  4. Live without distraction. Distraction is detrimental to our convictions. As a tempered gust swamps a flame, the day-to-day distractions endured can take us far from our intended course. This is especially true if we’re not seeing immediate results from our pursuits. The need for gratification is universal, but some are more patient for the results.

    Too much of our culture provides instant gratification, which can temporarily satisfy our need to be rewarded for our efforts. But this results in a troubled, circular relationship with effort and reward. The less patient we are, and the more willing to divert our attentions elsewhere, the longer it takes for our ambitions and dreams to become realities.