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How to be an entrepreneur: 6 ways entrepreneurs think differently

Entrepreneurs collaborating on project

For many, entrepreneurship is an appealing concept: Work from home, day or night – you get to create your own rules, right? Unfortunately, there's one major caveat: those long, tedious hours you need to invest if you want to build a profitable business from scratch.

So, what is it that makes entrepreneurs tick and tolerate the rigors of launching a business? Are they wired differently from the rest of us? What’s their secret sauce?

Despite what you've heard, entrepreneurship isn't necessarily born – much of what makes a great entrepreneur is learned. Here are six essential qualities that will help channel your inner CEO.

1. Entrepreneurs find their own ways of thinking – and don't need your approval.

Neuroscientists have long studied the way entrepreneurs make decisions, which they call "entrepreneurial cognition."

Entrepreneurs tend to score higher on measures of self-directedness, as well as scores in novelty-seeking, optimism, and eagerness. Consider Benjamin Franklin’s five-hour rule: find an hour a day for intentional self-learning.

They also seize opportunities faster than the average person, and are continuously searching for new, creative ways to innovate, grow, and connect the dots.

However, adopting a growth mindset and the confidence to self-direct may not be something that just happens by itself, researchers say.

A study published in the journal Nature and led by David Yeager, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, demonstrated that ninth graders encouraged to believe they could overcome obstacles to their learning experienced a performance boost at school.

2. Entrepreneurs challenge the status quo – and are prepared to go it alone.

When someone says "This is how so-and-so did it" or "We have to do it this way because," it's like fingernails on a chalkboard to an entrepreneur. A willingness to break the rules and strike out on your own comes with the territory.

Entrepreneurs have their own way of doing things and do not always feel the need to seek consensus. Research from Jason Greenberg of New York University and Ethan Mollick of the University of Pennsylvania found that business ventures launched by solo founders survive longer and generate more revenue than those started by teams. There really are benefits to going it alone.

Of course, don’t become isolated. Surround yourself with people who can help you succeed, ask them good questions, and seek out fellow founders for that all-important entrepreneurial advice —but in the end, trust your gut.

The key to becoming an entrepreneur isn't becoming the next Elon Musk – it's becoming the next you.

3. Entrepreneurs see opportunities, not problems.

Glass half-full optimism is a key personality trait of successful entrepreneurs.

Challenges trigger the kind of outside-the-box thinking and desire for innovation that successful business owners are known for. And that leads to seeing opportunities where others might see roadblocks.

Cultivate innovation wherever you can. Adopt a business mindset: take on new pursuits at work, or set aside time to brainstorm solutions to common problems.

In this age of fast-paced technological change, the opportunities for industry disruption are plentiful. Did you apply for your first patent yet?

4. Entrepreneurs take measured risks.

Contrary to popular belief, most entrepreneurs are not bet-the-ranch gamblers. They do have a willingness to take the right kind of risk at the right time, though.

Always consider the benefits and downsides to a difficult decision, but don't be afraid to follow your instincts.

Also, contrary to what most people think, the average age of a successful entrepreneur is 45, according to research published by Harvard Business Review.

Sure, the high-profile 20-somethings achieving unicorn status are impressive—but they do not represent the vast majority of founders plying their expertise and taking risks in the middle and later stages of life.

There’s also evidence that founders with prior business experience in their field are more likely to succeed. Perhaps not surprising that, on balance, experience matters when it comes to what makes a good entrepreneur.

5. Entrepreneurs are relentlessly passionate.

Entrepreneurs put the cult of personality in company culture, often building their companies in their own image. Think of Anita Roddick, trailblazing founder of The Body Shop at a time when female entrepreneurship was frowned upon by many.

Passion is a key ingredient in growing a successful business, which might also account for why they're so revered by society for living out their dreams.

We all know someone who "lives, eats, sleeps and dreams" their business 24/7—sometimes at great personal sacrifice. Might that person be you? Just make sure to take time for yourself amid the craziness. Exhaustion is a real thing—even the most determined go-getters need to prioritize their health.

6. Entrepreneurs learn from their failures.

The ability to bounce back from failure is a key characteristic of successful business owners, especially in the beginning. Some venture capitalists and angel investors won't fund entrepreneurs who haven't had at least one failed business.

Rather than become discouraged, entrepreneurs tend to capitalize on opportunities to acquire new knowledge. Learning how to become an entrepreneur doesn’t happen overnight. After all, any number of well-known entrepreneurs tried and failed first, including Steve Jobs, Ray Kroc and Thomas Edison.

As Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Illumination indeed from the inventor of the light bulb.

How to be a successful entrepreneur

It's a mistake to try to be something you're not. Instead, maximize who you already are—and grow through the experience. If you see yourself in these characteristics that many entrepreneurs share, you might just have what it takes to succeed.

Along the way, remember to learn from mistakes, and constantly look for ways to improve. If you’re looking for expert advice, you can always seek out a mentor in your target industry.

When you’re ready to learn new strategies in areas like supply chain optimization, you can always consult an established company with a proven track record.

Interested in learning more from a logistics company that launched with its own strong sense of entrepreneurial spirit in 1907? You can schedule a virtual consultation with UPS solutions expert who can provide strategies to optimize your business and help it grow.

Talk to the UPS Startups Team

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