• Darin Vilano

Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made? | Inside My Business

Are entrepreneurs born or made?  Just what is it about this question that sparks such spirited debate among businesspeople, especially those that self-identify as entrepreneurs?  Regardless of which side of the argument you reside on, you have to admit that there’s a level of fascination with entrepreneurship that you just don't see with other career paths.  You rarely, if ever, hear anyone ask whether accountants, lawyers, ironworkers, or plumbers are born or made.

When people ask this question what they’re really talking about is natural talent versus acquired skill.  And, framing the question in this way creates an either-or  proposition.  It’s got to be one or the other, right?  Well, not so fast.  It turns out that both have a role to play, and it’s my belief that acquired skill carries far more weight in the long run.

There’s no question that possessing natural talent in a specific area is an advantage.  It means that you have an predisposition to be great at that particular thing.  This natural gift can give you an edge and even a head start over others, but it will only carry you so far unless it’s truly developed.  In other words, it takes acquired skill, the other part of the equation, in order to fully realize this potential.  It’s the constant and consistent practice, development, and hard work that allows you to reach the level of mastery.

Unfortunately, we all know people who had natural talent in something, but they never leveraged, nurtured, or developed it.  And, eventually, that natural talent atrophied and died.  As the old saying goes, the world is full of wasted talent.  Therefore, it’s plain to see that natural talent (a.k.a., being born with it) clearly isn’t enough.

Although you can’t control which talents you’re born with and which you’re not, you can control acquired skill.  And, it turns out, this is the variable that makes all the difference.  Acquired skill is what determines whether or not natural talent is transformed into greatness in the first place.  And, acquired skill allows you to develop in areas where you may have been lacking in talent.  Years of learning, executing, and taking action in an area where you have passion is a recipe for developing competence and success over the long term.  And, yes, this applies to the vocation of entrepreneurship too.

But, in order to completely address this topic, we have to deal with a flawed argument that’s often made in favor of natural talent.  It goes something like this:  “No matter how much I practice my jump shot or put in work in the gym, I’ll never be as good as LeBron James.  Therefore, it really comes down to natural talent.  You’re either born with it or you’re not.”  But, this is a false dichotomy.  Comparing entrepreneurs, or anyone for that matter, by this standard simply doesn’t make sense.  That’s like saying that you’re really not an entrepreneur unless you’re at the same level as Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey.  And, we all know this is ridiculous.  Why would we use the top 0.0000001% as the defining benchmark for anything?

Entrepreneurship is a big tent.  There’s room for anyone who’s willing to put in the work to be a part of it.  And, there are many ways to define success beyond just wealth and fame.  Creating jobs, delivering a product that makes a difference, pursuing a passion, contributing to the economy, supporting family members, giving back to the community, helping the environment, and creating a legacy are just a few examples of how entrepreneurs define success for themselves.

And, because entrepreneurship is such a long game (you can literally play your entire life), the skill you acquire will compound over time, thus making up for any lack of natural talent.  So, don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t be an entrepreneur just because you don't have the stereotypical narrative of hustling and working lemonade stands when you were a kid.  There are countless stories of successful entrepreneurs who would not describe themselves as being born with “it.”  Yet, they put in the work, pursued their passions, and achieved their dreams nonetheless.  If you have the desire and willingness to acquire the skills necessary over the long term, then you can also be a successful entrepreneur in however you choose to define it.

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