Entrepreneurship is not a Panacea. It requires its own Education.

Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal, says that Higher Education is the new over-inflated bubble.

I agree with his premise.   A nice, costly certificate from a well branded Center of Learning is no guarantee of a safe, secure life.  In the end it will depend on you making use on a daily basis of the knowledge and the network of contacts you get in the course of your studies.  It will mean taking better decisions because you have better tools and practice in examining complex problems, and you are able to pick apart problems to find root causes.

Entrepreneurship is not a panacea. 
However, I would challenge his assertion that jumping into entrepreneurship is a solution for many.  The attitude of “I will make my own luck” is great, but, in the immortal words of Colin Powell “Hope is not a Strategy”.

It is easy to point to Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and say “phew…  glad these guys dropped out of school…  look at what they achieved”.  These are the lottery winners.  They had a lot going for them – Bill Gate’s mum was on the board of United Way with the Chairman of IBM…  possibly giving young Bill an advantage when he sold his DOS operating system to IBM’s personal computer division?

Entrepreneurship requires many skills
Entrepreneurship requires learning.  The best place to learn is next to experienced entrepreneurs who are building businesses.  You need an apprenticeship.  You need to try, fail, learn, try again, succeed, try again, fail, learn…  Tenacity combined with reflection…  Read Paul Graham on The Most Important Determinator of Entrepreneurial Success.

Entrepreneurship requires network.  Only people who know and trust you will give you resources.  You need to get to know people with resources that you may need.

Entrepreneurship requires tough ego-free decision making.  The ability to take a step back from the situation and examine the problem.  Don’t be an entrepreneur if you can’t handle the brutal choice between horrible and cataclysmic.

Entrepreneurship is lonely.  Only other entrepreneurs can really understand how lonely.  The Entrepreneurs’ Organisation is a great place to connect, and their Accelerator programs help early stage entrepreneurs get a good start.

Entrepreneurship is an attitude towards life.  Scott Adams talks about how he used his time at university to really learn about running businesses.

Successful entrepreneurship is a different game.  Malcolm Gladwell wrote a piece (“The Sure Thing”) a couple of years ago in the New Yorker looking at what “Rich Entrepreneurs” (1-2% of total) do differently than “Poor Entrepreneurs” (98-99% of total).  The first was start thinking about the 3-5 year exit strategy rather than the current great idea…  There are plenty of other things that the rich entrepreneurs do to reduce risks and control their outcomes.

A better education system?
So maybe we need to define the path for learning entrepreneurship?  And perhaps work better at creating an education system that fosters to the strengths of each of us – not just those that are good at maths & science, at sitting still for hours, at paying attention for hours…

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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