How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Reka Forgach

September 1, 2021

A recent interview with Tim Ferriss shed some light on the “trendiness” of becoming an entrepreneur.

“Seems like it’s becoming cool to be an entrepreneur,” says the world-renowned productivity hacker, in this short excerpt on the Jocko Podcast. 

And it’s true – many young, aspiring entrepreneurs are enticed into starting a company with promises of fame and fortune in the way of Elon Musk and co.

It doesn’t take long for a savvy, critical thinker to see through the ruse and understand the depth of work it takes to become an entrepreneur. Fewer will come to terms with the high chance of failure, and push on with pursuing their venture regardless.

But what of the rest of us mortals? What are the limits of entrepreneurship, and can others, even those without a business model, benefit from entrepreneurial activities?

“You don’t have to start a company to be an entrepreneur. You just have to be someone that makes things happen. If you feel like you can’t do it – or it’s an experiment – and cap the downsides, then you’re taking the measured, intelligent approach,” – Tim Ferriss.

With this quote, Ferriss is touching upon something powerful, that any growth-oriented person can tap into and benefit from: the entrepreneurial mindset.

Defining the entrepreneurial mindset

Of all of the moving pieces in a startup, it’s safe to say that entrepreneurial mindset is the single most important factor that will make or break a venture’s success. The umbrella term covers a set of attributes that describe how founders think, act, and perceive the world to help drive action, focus, and growth – the key ingredients needed to disrupt an industry.

Since just about anyone can come up with an idea, entrepreneurs are constantly being called on to raise the bar on the quality of their marketable idea and meet the myriad challenges that come with business building with creative solutions and decisive action.

Andrea Kozma, the founder of CEU iLab, describes entrepreneurial mindset as an ability to successfully deal with the unknown. And the lynchpin to get there is through the willingness to experiment. 

“Entrepreneurial mindset means entering a journey with specific assumptions, and being open to the fact that when I begin testing the promise and the product the feedback might not support the assumption. A successful entrepreneur will listen to the feedback, accept that parts of the assumption were mistaken, build the feedback into the learning cycle, and validate that the product is truly the kind of solution that the market demands.”

Stretching the idea of “entrepreneurial thinking”

Though not everyone is cooking up ventures to disrupt an industry, anyone who is creative can benefit from these aggregate characteristics. The ability to identify opportunities, think creatively, and pick yourself up and try again after failing can propel you forward in an in-house job as an employee, in a side hustle, or as a problem solver in your own personal life. 

You’ll find that, without fail, spending the time cultivating a mindset that reduces doubt and boosts positive solutions will result in benefits: be that in stronger, more aligned personal relationships, greater adaptability in the job market (and less job stress), professional growth in your current role or career path, or even a higher quality in your downtime.

“These days, we’re continuously socialized in a way where unpredictability is the norm. We can’t expect to learn something in school, target a career and climb the ladder. Life continuously offers us more dynamic situations that we didn’t expect. Accepting that the norm is not knowing something and learning to handle these situations is an unbelievably important life skill,” explains Andrea.

A mural on the wall depicting a head of a male statue with different colourful and black&white patterns next to it.
Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash.

The biggest killer of any creative venture is doubt

While there is a number of lists on entrepreneurial mindsets, the general characteristics all boil down to the same set. We’ve broken down the essence of what it takes to be open to experimentation, and to successfully push through the fear and learn from life’s unknowns.

1. Positive thinking

Positive thinking isn’t just for woo-woo yogis and therapists. The power of reframing challenges is integral in allowing leaders to overcome doubt and maintain a continuous forward movement in their companies. Not only does positive thinking keep a team from buckling in when they’ve reached a major hurdle, but in a company’s everyday life, it’s the founders’ positive attitude that keeps everyone motivated and personally successful.

2. Goal-oriented attitude

As most entrepreneurs quickly find out, building a business is no walk in the park. Without a titanic level of intrinsic motivation, the best of ideas and group of skillsets won’t succeed – a company simply won’t build itself. In order to stay motivated in the marathon of disruption, and on the darkest days when your mortgage future feels like it’s falling out of your hands, it’s imperative to set down goals and focus on the bigger picture. 

3. Resilience in the face of failure

When you’re setting yourself up for a million potential failures on a journey towards success, learning how to fall five times and get back up six is crucial for survival. And learning to welcome failure is the secret to thriving in an unpredictable environment. A healthy relationship with failure lets you stop wasting time and energy on shame, learning and adapting from the mistakes of the past to create stronger decisions in the future, and finding a new way to reset your course or collaborate. Which brings us to our next point...

4. Creativity

The ability to dream up the ideas that seem crazy to others – and then the millions of identically crazy steps you need to take to get there, requires a constant IV drip of creativity. Experimenting – and being willing to course correct, or even fail in order to learn – is the lifeblood of a successful venture. Creativity in a venture is expressed in every department – from your actual product to the way you hire your people. And it’s best executed together, with a little ‘secondary’ characteristic called collaboration.

5. Accountability

Good leaders have to take responsibility for both their successes and failures, providing a true example to their colleagues, customers, and/or employees. While difficult, being at the helm means saying the buck stops here, and the minute you shift blame, your audience starts losing faith. But applied well, with the power of self-awareness, confidence, and positive reframing, accountability may just make you invincible.

6. Decisiveness

The universe rewards movement. In order to make moves in any part of life, moves must be made. Entrepreneurship requires the courage to lean towards action, and commit to it full-heartedly. A good leader is able to persuade those around them with their example and dedication to an idea or solution.

CEU iLab one-year incubation program

The CEU iLab incubation program makes entrepreneurship more accessible by providing mentoring, know-how, network and a community for high-impact teams. All of this in a world-class environment, at a world-class university.