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  • mattheelan

The Entrepreneurial Mindset.

"The entrepreneurial mindset is characterized by a willingness to fail, learn, and adapt, while others may be content with the status quo."

- Anonymous

I recently spoke at the University of Missouri-Kansas City about the "entrepreneurial mindset." Before I gave the talk, I reached out to some entrepreneurs I've worked with in the past to get their take on the topic.

First, I spoke with my mentor, who has been running his own business for over 19 years. I asked him if he considers himself an entrepreneur, and he surprised me by saying, "Not really. I just have a unique set of skills and perspectives that I use to solve problems for companies."

"The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities." - Peter Diamandis

Next, I talked to a friend I worked with for five years who had a similar response. He said, "Back in the 1990s during the Dot-com bubble, it became fashionable to call oneself an entrepreneur, especially in tech. But most entrepreneurs I know just see themselves as problem-solvers and builders. In my case, I identified a gap in the marketplace, created a product to fill that gap, and built a business around it. Even after 20 years, we're still solving the same problem - the people, organization, and technology have changed, but the problem remains." During my talk with the students, I asked the audience some questions to gauge their own mindset: Do you like uncertainty? How do you respond to the unknown? Where do you fall on the risk continuum? How do you handle setbacks and failure? When I didn't get much of a response, I tried a different approach: Do you enjoy finding new opportunities? Do you like using creativity to solve complex problems? Do you aspire to be seen as a visionary or innovator? Do you want to be known for solving complex problems?

"Entrepreneurship is not about avoiding failure, it's about embracing risk." - Gary Vaynerchuk

These questions and the associated answers are what make up the entrepreneurial mindset, but many people who embody this mindset don't necessarily see themselves as entrepreneurs. The answers also describe what it's like to work in small, growth-oriented businesses, which is where I've been fortunate to spend most of my career. I feel privileged to work with these talented individuals as they pursue their dreams. Celebrating their successes and working together through tough times has earned my deep respect for entrepreneurs as builders and problem-solvers.

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