The Self-Aware Entrepreneur

I was cautioned recently to beware Internet Bubble 2.0.

This annoyed me no end because 1) I’m still smarting from my costly, naive enthusiasm for Internet Bubble 1.0 ("Wanna write a business plan in exchange for stock options?" "Sure!" and "Let’s invest in tech stocks!" "Okay!"), and 2) the guy who warned me is 16 years old.

What does a one-time-shame-on-you-two-times-shame-on-me, eternally hopeful Internet Bubble 2.0 girl say to that?

I have learned to choose my entrepreneurs wisely. I look for the self-aware ones.

In Rethinking Marketing: The Entrepreneurial Imperative, Minet Schindehutte, Michael H. Morris, and Leyland F. Pitt list eight paradoxical trends they believe will define life, business, and the world in the 21st century.

From my experience, I offer eight personality traits of entrepreneurs and the paradoxical behaviors that can emerge from those traits:

1. Creativity versus obsession
2. Self-confidence versus arrogance
3. Drive versus inflexibility
4. Ambition to influence versus demand for omnipotence
5. Ambition to succeed versus greed
6. Empathy with associates versus use of associates
7. Independence versus isolationism
8. Protection of one’s invention versus suspicious secretiveness

From what I have observed, the personality traits of entrepreneurs that seem to spark ideas, turn ideas into products or services, and generate dreams of bringing creations to the world through businesses, are the very same traits that can result in behavior that undermines the human and humane relationships needed to launch and sustain the business.

"Know thyself" was reportedly engraved on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

If we even attempt to know ourselves, if we try to foster self-awareness, we give ourselves the chance–and the power–to choose our behavior. Our personality traits no longer are the sole determinants of our behavior. We get a say in what we do.

At Concept Camp in February 2008, Jim Flowers, Director of high-tech incubator VT KnowledgeWorks, reminded prospective entrepreneurs, "The world is wallpapered with great ideas. It’s not wallpapered with [pictures of] people who can make it happen."

Having plenty of failed Internet Bubble 1.0 business contracts with clip art logos wallpapering my office, I know he’s right.

I think the self-aware entrepreneur has a greater chance of making it happen than the self-blind one.

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