My daughters, Jessica and Jennifer, caught the entrepreneurial bug early. They hadn’t been out of school that long when they decided to start their own company. I didn’t try to dissuade them. It was risky, but I believed—and I told them—that if they didn’t try, they’d never know what was possible. As I said at the time, getting out of your comfort zone, jumping into the water—that’s a good thing, even if the water is cold and the wind is blowing. And that’s what they did. They had a big idea and wanted to make it fly.
When I look around, I ask myself, what do the world’s greatest entrepreneurs have in common? One thing I’ve noticed is the same level of passion and engagement that I’ve seen in Jessica and Jennifer. Here are the 4 crucial aspects of successful entrepreneurs:
Entrepreneurs have confidence. To be a successful, entrepreneurs need to have exceptional confidence and strong self-esteem. They may not have been the best and brightest students—I certainly wasn’t—but, somewhere in their developmental years, they internalized a message that they could do anything they set out to do. They believe in themselves.
Entrepreneurs are visionary. They go forward even if all the dots aren’t yet connected—trusting that they’ll connect later. Steve Jobs, the great entrepreneur and founder of Apple, who died in 2012, gave a memorable commencement speech in 2005 at Stanford University where he talked about connecting the dots. Recalling his own life, where he’d made some unconventional choices, including dropping out of school at one point, he told the graduates, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Entrepreneurs have courage. As Jennifer put it when I asked her, “Being an entrepreneur takes gumption. You have to walk into unfamiliar situations and put everything on the line. You have to have mental fortitude and say to yourself, ‘All they can do is say no—why don’t I ask?’”
Entrepreneurs have heart. We often hear about the most successful entrepreneurs—people such as Bill Gates and Sergey Brin—who have become phenomenally wealthy. But most entrepreneurs are not among the superrich, and their motivation seems to be more about love than money. If you go into something with the primary goal to make a lot of money, you won’t necessarily succeed. But if you create from the heart, success often follows.
In the United States, 21 percent of high-net-worth individuals made their money through entrepreneurship, and many other nations are following suit. But money alone was rarely the motivation. Confidence, vision, courage, and heart—those are the real motivations of entrepreneurs, and these are the keys you need to develop to find entrepreneurial success.