Know What You’re Not

For many years, I fantasized about being an entrepreneur.

I would read stories of people like Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs and tell myself that someday I’d be like them.

For me, it wasn’t their money I admired, it was their status of being labeled an entrepreneur. 

To me, it seemed like being an entrepreneur was the ‘cool’ job to have. You swam against the tide and turned your vision into a reality. If you did it well, eventually you were worth millions and the world loved you.

My entrepreneurial fantasy was solid. The reality was not.

About two years ago, I got more ‘serious’ about these ambitions and started working part-time in a startup. I figured that I’d excel because of my entrepreneurial tendencies and desire to be a maverick.

The truth is, I sucked.

Inside the startup, there was no rhythm, no reason, no routine. Everything was completely inconsistent. The whole company was guided by a huge question mark instead of a clear direction.

For almost two years, I worked hard and created some small results. I’d seemingly have a breakthrough and then a backslide. I kept telling myself that I would eventually break though as an entrepreneur.

One day recently, I finally realized: I was bullshitting myself.
I wasn’t failing for lack of effort; I was failing because I am not an entrepreneur.

True entrepreneurs creatively destroy everything they’ve built just for the chance that something better might emerge. They can’t help but do that. To me, that is incredibly stressful and kind of stupid. I value building things, and watching them grow for a very long time.

While I may have some entrepreneurial tendencies, I am honestly better as a ‘number two’ (or three or four) working for an entrepreneur.

When I admitted this to myself, I sighed a deep breath of relief. I’d known it all along, but I kept feeding myself the fantasy that I was an entrepreneur.

It took me almost 20 years into my career to understand what I am not. It took letting go of my ego, my desire to be a ‘cool’ entrepreneur. It took admitting that I am more effective being a ‘number two’ in business than a ‘number one’.

In life, many of us have a fantasy of something we’d like to be. For some of us, it is a business owner, for others it is some sort of creative endeavor. But often we are not cut out to be the very thing we fantasize about.

It probably seems like I am saying ‘give up your dreams’. That is not the case.

What I am saying is know what you are not. If you have an inkling you might be good at something, then try it, but be aware that the reality is very different from the fantasy.

Within 2-5 years of starting towards a dream you should know if you are truly cut out to make it. If you are, that’s great. If you are not, then keep searching and refining your definition of who you are.

By knowing what you are not, you’ll save yourself time and struggle. Best of all, you’ll  open up your world to become who you truly are meant to be.


9 thoughts on “Know What You’re Not

  1. Great post. I can totally identify. I’m no good at coming up with solutions. I cannot pluck ideas out of the sky, I’ve tried, but it’s not my talent. I am the girl that can get the idea DONE. I’m organised, thorough and complete everything I am tasked. I just need someone to tell me what they need doing. It’s a relief when you realise who you are 🙂

    1. Thanks Nicky, yes it is sometimes difficult to admit to ourselves that we aren’t something. I am actually writing a companion piece right now which is about trusting the talents you do have and letting them guide you. Glad this post was valuable for you too 🙂 – DMS

    1. Joel, thank you for your comment. I am glad to hear you are getting closer to understanding this for yourself. I see life as an ever evolving journey, and it sounds like you are on a similar path 🙂 – DMS

Leave a Reply to D. Jeff HeggieCancel reply