Defining entrepreneurship: lifestyle or achievement?

Entrepreneurship showed up early in my life.

I had big ideas from a young age and often spent my time imagining new inventions.

Like so many entrepreneurs, I didn’t enjoy doing just one thing. If I had to spend the first eight hours of my day in a classroom, I’d spend the afternoon planning what I’d build at the next day’s recess.

That energy only accelerated with time. I’d later learn to call this entrepreneurship: a constant cycle of taking on challenges and imagining new ways to do things.

People often define entrepreneurship in the context of business and risk, but I’ve experienced it as a lifestyle. The simple reality of entrepreneurship is that idea generation is a default function – entrepreneurs live to launch little revolutions and flip tradition on its head.

Whether you’re at work or maneuvering a morning commute, new projects, products and plans parade into the entrepreneur’s stream of consciousness, demanding to be brought to life.

Those ideas live on napkin scribbles, stray Post-Its and notebooks filled with what-ifs. Some have been animated while others are stored away for a someday with better timing.

Harvard Business School professor (and “godfather of entrepreneurship studies”) Howard Stevenson defined entrepreneurship as “the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.”

And that’s exactly how I see it – the pursuit of big ideas regardless of outstanding obstacles. It isn’t necessarily defined by a successful startup or the number of Post-It ideas you churned into reality.

To be an entrepreneur is to be willing to go against the grain no matter where that grain has grown. It’s a state of mind, not a title you win after earning your stripes.

That state of mind so often manifests in startups, but it also comes alive in the blank spaces – at big companies, in the fringes of old-school politics and among little movements where big change is imminent and risk-taking is a prerequisite.

There’s no dress code for that mindset.

So, whether it’s one CEO’s IPO or a dreamer’s scribbles on a napkin, entrepreneurship anywhere is the start of a good thing, and it’s time we think about it more broadly than in the context of unicorn startups.

How do you define entrepreneurship?

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