6 Signs You May Be Afflicted With Entrepreneur’s Syndrome

6 Signs You May Be Afflicted With Entrepreneur’s Syndrome

Education Entrepreneurship skills

Entrepreneur’s Syndrome can strike at any age but symptoms may be detected early in the young. While this condition can be cured by stifling creativity, the best treatment is to deal with the symptoms.  While I am not a doctor, I have done extensive research on this subject and feel qualified to comment on this syndrome which has reached epidemic proportions in some parts of the world.  Plus, I played a nurse once in a skit at a school fund raiser.

Our son, Joshua, has always been curious about how things worked and, as he’s grown older, had his own ideas about how things could be improved. It was obvious that he saw the world around him differently than most people. While many of us fly through our day taking many of the products and services we use for granted, Joshua always seemed to have an idea for a better design or a new product. Young entrepreneurs are like that.

When he was very young, he would take apart the toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals to see how they worked. When he drew pictures for school projects, he portrayed unusual angles and multiple dimensions. Once, when we returned from a vacation, he asked if he could have the disposable Kodak camera. After downloading the pictures, it didn’t take him long to discover the power supply by completing an electric circuit with his finger. That got his attention!

He spent much of his free time, from about age eleven, researching electronics, learning how to code, building printed circuit boards, and watching YouTube and Instructibles to learn how to do things. In his early teens he taught himself how to “jail break” iPhones (a hack that overrides the built-in limitations of the phone and allows for greater customization) and sold his services to his classmates. When we discovered he was doing this, which was followed by a discussion of why it was a bad idea, I asked him how much he charged and how he knew how to price it. He replied that his pricing varied a little bit because he charged an amount that made it worth it for him, but one his classmates could afford without having to ask their parents for the money.  “Asking parents for money is usually a deal killer” he said . I knew then that we had an entrepreneur on our hands. Either an entrepreneur or a con man.

The signs that you or your loved one may be afflicted with Entrepreneur’s Syndrome:

1. Curiosity about how things work – Taking apart everything from toys to VCRs is normal.  THE TREATMENT: Get inexpensive electronics, mechanized, digital equipment, toys and appliances from garage sales and Goodwill so they don’t take apart the good stuff.

2. Seeing the world differently – Notices things others don’t.  Sees problems and solutions.  Caution: This can also lead to strong opinions, fierce independence and significant confidence. This all sounds good until, as a parent, you have to manage and direct it. I have always told my wife that our kids being skilled in communication when they were young was cute until they became teenagers and used it as a weapon. There are days when I think we should have never encouraged them to speak.  THE TREATMENT: Encourage and talk to them about their observations and thought processes.  While, as parents, we can’t allow these young, potential entrepreneurs to be disrespectful, they likely feel a bit ackward that they think differently than others and they need an outlet to help them figure things out.

3. Problem solving – There a pattern of problem solving that evolves into dealing with more and more complex projects that accompanies maturity.  THE TREATMENT: Help them think through the problem but do not take the lead or help them avoid failure.  Be patient.  If they fail, they may get frustrated, disappointed, and appear to lose confidence. Be supportive.  They will figure out what to do next.  Failure is part of the learning process.

4. Free time spent researching and learning – Those afflicted will spend some of their free time exploring the world around them to understand new technologies, and to teach themselves how to do things. THE TREATMENT: Be guarded about where, and from who, they get their information.  Some great sources are not necessarily age appropriate.  We allowed Joshua to use the internet extensively but he couldn’t have a laptop in his room until he was an older teen and he was required to be in open areas of our house where we could observe what he was doing any time we wanted.

5. A sense of economics, the value of things, and product development – In my experience, those afflicted with Entrepreneur’s Syndrome have an innate sense of value. While they may not have the in-depth knowledge of how to price a product or service, they generally have a sense of what a good idea looks like as well as profit and loss.  THE TREATMENT:  Whether it’s a lemonade stand, hacking iPhones, building websites, or building an early version of a hardware product, the afflicted must have opportunities to put their sense of economics into practice.  Insure that what they want to do is not illegal or immoral and turn them lose.

6. Communicating their ideas – Those affliced with Entrepreneur’s Syndrome generally have a personality that allows them to pitch their ideas and to get others interested in buying their product or service, or helping with developing the solution. Great ideas aren’t worth much if you can’t communicate their value.  THE TREATMENT: While our personality is a gift, good communication is a skill.  The afflicted need guidance and practice in order to properly tell their story, communicate their ideas, and get people to care.

THE TAKE AWAY:

Parents – As challenging as this affliction may appear to be, the one thing we don’t want to do as parents is to stifle the creativity and innovative thinking of our kids. The SYSTEM will do enough of that.  Our job is to provide opportunities for them to discover and explore their gifts and passion, to build knowledge and skill, and let them fail along the path to discovery.  This is the only TREATMENT that works.

Young Entrepreneurs – If you have some of these symptoms, you may be feeling different than many of your peers.  Never stop exploring and creating.  Seek out groups of like-minded people. The IDEA group – Innovators, Developers, Entrepreneurs and Artists.  TREATMENT – Solve a problem and build something.  It’s the only treatment that works.  Start today and you can lead a long and happy life doing what you love.

4 Ways That Entrepreneurship Is Like Hitting a Major League Fastball

4 Ways That Entrepreneurship Is Like Hitting a Major League Fastball

Entrepreneurship Sports

Major league baseball and entrepreneurship.  Two major building blocks of American culture and two things you don’t usually think of as being comparable.  After working  with many first or second time startup founders, I’ve begun to compare their success to hitting a baseball in the major leagues.

In the time it takes a human to blink, .4 seconds, a 95 MPH fastball will travel 60 feet, 6 inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.  The batter has to determine the rotation of the ball and velocity in the first 12 feet.  From 12 to 30 feet, .14 seconds, the batter must decide if the pitch is hittable.  This leaves him approximately .2 seconds, near the limit of human reaction time, to swing the bat.  A variance of a fraction of a second or a fraction of an inch can be the difference between a hit and a called strike, foul ball or grounding out.  In addition, an errant pitch can cause serious injury if it hits the batter.

Many sports pundits have stated that hitting major league pitching (90 + mph fast balls) is possibly the most difficult feat in all of sports.  I can attest to that.  In high school and in college I stepped into the batter’s box against pitchers who eventually had long pro careers.  Their fastballs were clocked at 87-90 mph at the time.  The ball was coming so fast that I had to guess at what pitch was coming so I could start my swing soon enough to even have a chance of hitting the ball.  I didn’t guess right very often.  So what does this have to do with entrepreneurship?

  1. Major league batters expect a hit every time they go to the plate – Every young entrepreneur aspires to hit it out of the park their first time at bat. Like baseball players, it takes that kind of bold, confident mindset to even have a chance of success.  That belief, despite the odds, is what gives both major league batters and entrepreneurs the courage and confidence to be successful.  One can have this belief when they have spent many hours practicing their craft and developing their skills.  Successful knowledge acquisition and skill development can give you great confidence in being successful, even against seemingly insurmountable odds.
  1. Even when a batter fails, he learns something – Good batters learn something about the pitcher, even when they strike out, that increases their odds of success the next time up to bat. Entrepreneurs must do the same.  Even in defeat, young entrepreneurs should learn more about product development, customer acquisition, fund raising, team building, and much more, in preparation for their next venture.  Every failure, big and small, is an opportunity to learn.  If you are going to fail, make it count for something.
  1. A baseball game lasts nine long innings – Major league games play out incrementally, with many twists, turns, strategy alterations and momentum changes. Sounds a lot like the saga of a startup company.  Homeruns are great but most of the time games are won with of singles, doubles and clutch plays.  Batters usually get 4-5 times at bat during a game.  Perseverance, patience, and taking advantage of opportunities are keys for success for both entrepreneurs and major league batters.  Strike out three times and then hit a game winning homerun and you’re a hero.
  1. The odds of success aren’t good – In the pros, a batting average over .300 in a long career can land you in the Hall of Fame. Ty Cobb, pictured with this blog and arguably the greatest hitter ever, had a lifetime batting average of .366 over a 24-year career.  What if you failed 7 out of every 10 times you tried something?  In baseball, only the best hitters in the game get a hit 3 out of 10 times at bat.   In addition, if you hit the ball only 1 out of 4 times at bat, play great defense, make clutch plays, and have a long career, you can still make the Hall of Fame.  Entrepreneurship is similar.   You will lose far more than you win.  What if your first three or four startup attempts aren’t successful?  As we used to say when we were behind in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs, “it only takes one”.

Would you consider yourself financially successful if you started 10 businesses over a 40-year period, failed at 3 of them but didn’t lose too much money, had mediocre lifestyle businesses with 4 of them, and liquidity events with the other 3 that yielded a net income of $7-10M?  I would.  In addition, what if that journey provided you the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people, travel the world, help others, and bring your family and friends along for the ride?  Now that’s a successful life.

THE TAKEAWAY – Young Entrepreneurs – Expect to hit a homerun your first time at bat as a startup founder, but don’t be too disappointed when it doesn’t happen.  Remember, businesses fail, but people only fail when they quit.  Learn from the failure, nurture your contacts and mentors, continue to improve your technical and soft skills, and keep looking for that next GREAT IDEA.  Entrepreneurship is a journey, not an event.  Keep swinging.

3 Education Strategies for Young Entrepreneurs

3 Education Strategies for Young Entrepreneurs

Education

When our entrepreneurial son Joshua was 15 years old we were talking about engineering school.  When he was 18 we all agreed that going to college was not the best route for him despite relatively high ACT scores, a high grade point, being the Vice President of his class at Catholic High in Little Rock, AR, and having multiple college scholarship offers.  If you’d have told me when he was 15 that he wouldn’t go to college right out of high school, I’d have said you were crazy.  However, having researched college programs around the country and having some knowledge of the inner workings of our education system for high school and college, I believe there are some strategies that young entrepreneurs should consider.

  1. Set your priorities – When Joshua was in high school, we made business pursuits a priority equal to his formal education. His grades suffered a bit but we were willing to accept that for him to pursue his entrepreneurial goals.  Follow the traditional path of high school and college, but recognize that most entrepreneurial knowledge and skills development happens outside a classroom.  Striking the right balance is challenging but it can be done.  Be prepared for most people around you, especially educators and parents who believe in the traditional path for their kids, to not understand your choices.  Traditional classrooms may be a good place to convey knowledge, but knowledge without application is limited to talking about concepts not putting them into action.
  1. Go to college but focus on building your product/company – The college part of this balancing act is to attend part-time, to select an area of study that will be less challenging in which to get a degree, or to accept mediocre grades that will still permit achieving a degree. The part-time approach allows you to make progress toward a degree but at a slower pace.  The strategies of majoring in a less challenging field of study or accepting lower grades just to get a college degree is a recognition that the real skills and knowledge acquired outside the classroom are of equal or greater value as a college degree.  This is a bit of a hedging strategy in which one gains real world entrepreneurial experience while also meeting the requirement by most employers that requires a college degree.  Use online sources to maximize your schedule flexibility.
  1. Delay college – Focus 100% on building a product and growing a company. The is the reverse of the traditional path whereby getting real world experience comes prior to formal education.  Many colleges now offer a gap year to allow students who have been accepted to attend to delay their entry into college.  While I like this concept, the timeline is controlled by the university.  Building a company doesn’t follow a schedule.  If college is your first priority, but you want to get a little real world experience before you go, work in someone else’s startup.  If you are serious about your own startup, give yourself a time constraint for achieving a certain level of success.  If those milestones are not met, then consider your other options.  You can always go to college and you will likely be a more mature, focused student.

Joshua has chosen strategy #3.  He’s been out of high school for two years and has not taken any college classes.  The company made no progress for nine months due to involvement in a trademark legal dispute. Given that challenge, Joshua could have started college or taken classes.  Instead, he used that time to design hardware complimentary to the company software and to investigate other market opportunities.  If his entrepreneurial pursuits are successful, I’m not sure he will ever pursue a college degree.  I do know this, if and when he does pursue more formal education, he will do it on his own terms.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Make formal education work for you.  If you are serious about entrepreneurship, develop a strategy, set priorities and timelines, maximize your schedule flexibility with online courses, and make it work.  If you pursue a degree, it may take you longer than your classmates from high school.  So what!!  Don’t let that make you feel like you are behind.  Your real world experience will win out in the the end.  Besides, if any of them eventually start a business they will likely be in their late 30’s.  You may have built several successful companies by then.

3 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Need to Test Their Limits

3 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Need to Test Their Limits

Inspiration Parenting Startup Grind

This past Father’s Day I received a card from our entrepreneur son, Joshua, with a hand written note inside.  It was a very nice, heart felt note and in part of it he thanked me for challenging him.  I’ve told him on more than one occasion that if he could survive me, he’d be OK.  When he was younger, he didn’t appreciate what that meant as much as he does now.  When he was 17 the ARK Challenge business accelerator tested his limits . . . and he stood up to the challenge.  Fourteen hour days, a high level of competition, countless deadlines, multiple failures, and constant learning.  Why is it important that entrepreneurs routinely test their limits?

  1. We must routinely test our mental toughness, our physical endurance and our ability to perform under pressure. – We will be tested to our limits many times in our quest for success.  We will have to deal with the stress of running out of money, product issues with a deadline looming, firing people (sometimes even our co-founders), and our loved ones needing our attention when we cannot give it.  Will better planning, strong leadership, and hiring the right people help us avoid stress and tough decisions?  Yes, but we have no control over many factors that can cause our company to spin wildly out of control and create challenges.  It’s all about being prepared to handle whatever comes our way.
  2. We should test our limits in controlled environments –  I test my mental toughness and physical endurance five times per week in the gym.  I try to embrace the stress of deadlines and finalizing deals.  I also have quiet time and practice my faith as a form of meditation.  I do it because I need to know that I have the mental toughness, physical endurance, and confidence to deal with any challenge.  As entrepreneurs we also must be self-aware and assess our own performance in pressure packed, challenging situations.
  3. Gather data on our own performance – While we may not be able to do it in the heat of the moment, we need to assess what happened after the fact and ask ourselves and others how we performed.  We have to be brutally honest in these assessments to identify what we did well and where we need work.  Once identified, we can pinpoint strategies for improvement and to make us better prepared.  Knowing we are prepared to handle whatever comes will give us the confidence to embrace stress and challenges.

THE TAKE AWAY:  The Boy and Girl Scouts got it right with their moto of BE PREPARED.  It takes all we have to be successful entrepreneurs.  With the odds of success already stacked against us, we must do everything we can, that is moral and legal, to gain an advantage.  Most things we can do are pretty basic and just as important in our daily routine as our most important meetings or product deadlines.  Even if you don’t like doing it, push yourself to be organized, plan ahead, exercise, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, practice quiet meditation, and be thankful for your many gifts and opportunities every day.  A positive attitude and confidence may be our best tools for dealing with adversity.

3 Keys to Independence for Young Entrepreneurs

3 Keys to Independence for Young Entrepreneurs

Failure Independence

As we celebrate our country’s independence, I can’t help but consider the challenges faced by independent, young entrepreneurs.  I have quipped that “we raise our kids to be independent and then we don’t like it when they make their own decisions”.  This is never more true than with energetic, driven young entrepreneurs.

Gwen, my spouse of 33 years, and I raised our teen tech CEO, Joshua, to be independent.  Our job was to prepare him for life in a world that can be very challenging if you don’t know how to assess situations, make decisions and do things on your own.  I believe we succeeded.  Sometimes I think we may have done too good a job.

Some of the pitfalls of being independent and being a young entrepreneur with a natural sense of invincibility are as follows:

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know – This can give young entrepreneurs tremendous courage since they typically are totally oblivious to the possibility of failure. It can also put founders in some pretty serious situations with limited options, all of which are bad.  Be honest about what you know, and don’t know, and seek help to fill the gaps.  Surrounding themselves with people smarter than they are is a common characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.
  2. Independence doesn’t mean never depending on anyone else or sharing with others – This can really have some downside since entrepreneurs seldom know everything necessary and must depend on others to succeed. Also, entrepreneurship is a challenge both mentally and physically.  Entrepreneurs need others that they can trust will listen to what is going on with them and provide some unbiased insight and unconditional support.
  3. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – In fact, it is a sign of intelligence and courage when we have done all we can do to figure it out on their own and then turn to others to help us complete the mission.  It is a good thing when our sense of mission is more important that being independent or being right.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Like countries, young entrepreneurs must teach themselves how to do many things and be responsible and accountable for their actions.  However, this does not mean that one should go it alone.  Just the opposite is true. With countries, alliances and friendships matter.  Young entrepreneurs need others around them to fill their gaps in knowledge and skill, guide them, mentor them, and be a sounding board and willing listener for their ideas.