July 15, 2013

Distinguish Yourself: Think Like an Entrepreneur

By: Roger Custer

A friend and I were talking the other day about a job description for a program position at a conservative organization. Our “conclusion” was to scrap the traditional duties and experience sections in favor of a simple phrase that defines what we really want in a new employee:

“We seek to hire an entrepreneur with a good attitude who loves liberty.”

I know hiring is more complicated, but those qualities essentially describe a successful employee. Many fields require special skills and experience, but much of that can be learned as long as the employee thinks like an entrepreneur, has a good attitude, and is there for the right reasons. Think about the most successful people at your organization and I bet they match this description.

I’m a fan of Peter Sims and his book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries. In it, he writes, “The most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas – they discover them.” His argument is that great ideas come from trying little bets and new ideas constantly until they lead to a breakthrough. For example, he points out that Chris Rock is always trying new lines and jokes informally with his friends before he even practices a main stage act. The jokes and one-liners in his comedy routine are the result of hours and hours of testing in small crowds and among friends. We need this kind of thinking in the liberty movement.

The problem is that our education system discourages risk and sets out a very specific way to succeed. Most students do the minimum amount of work to get an A or B and move on to the next class. The same students enter the workforce and are not shown how to be an entrepreneur. They’re not taught that they can try new ideas, suggest new ways to do things, or break outside the mold and start their own company, organization, website, blog, etc. Some entry level employees continue to do the minimum and expect to receive a grade or constant feedback. Unfortunately, it never comes!

My advice is to think of yourself as a liberty entrepreneur. Even though you are not starting a business, you can use the same driven mindset to get more accomplished and try new things within the context of any job. You can get involved with outside organizations or start your own. You can try new ideas and always innovate to create value for your employer. Just think how many more opportunities are available now than when William F. Buckley graduated from Yale and realized that we need to stand athwart history and yell “stop!”

What are you doing to get started? How are you changing your thinking?

Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation