“When in doubt, create assets.”- Anon. quoted in Tim Grahl, Your First 1000 Copies
“The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.” – Jean Baptiste Say
“He just hasn’t turned the corner yet. It hasn’t clicked and until it does, he’s not going to do the quality of work he’s capable of. What was it that clicked for you?”
“Not sure, to be honest. Part of it was just confidence and taking ownership.”
I was talking with a CEO that had a recent hire on his mind. She was smart and hard working. She did what she said was going to do and she did it on time, but she wasn’t entrepreneurial.
I reflected after the conversation. I’m trying to become a better entrepreneur, more entrepreneurial. What does that mean though?
To some extent, we get it. You can look around or hang out with entrepreneurs and let the sub communication and osmosis make you more entrepreneurial. I listen to podcasts and read books and re-arrange my schedule to be able to hang out with entrepreneurs I admire.
At the same time, it would be helpful to know what you’re aiming at. What is it that we’re all trying to get better at? How do you begin investing in yourself and in entrepreneurship?
Asset Thinking: Why C’s in High School Are a Leading Indicator of Success
To be more entrepreneurial simply means to think in assets—to acquire and grow assets.
Entrepreneurship = asset acquisition + asset growth.
This is clear when you think about it in terms of business or physical assets. If you bought a business, and over the course of two years its profits doubled, then its valuation would have roughly doubled as well. You bought an asset and you grew it.
However, there are more implications outside of business alone that are frequently early indicators of entrepreneurial success. You can be entrepreneurial in any aspect of life.
You remember how well-structured high school was? They gave you a class schedule; they told you what to study; they told you what would be on the test; and then you just did as you were told. You didn’t have ownership of any asset. It’s not surprising a lot of successful entrepreneurs got C’s in high school or dropped out—they didn’t fit into the no-asset system.
College gives you back a little bit of ownership. You get to choose which courses you want to take; you have to cook your own food; you do your laundry. You start to acquire some assets like relationships with classmates and (maybe) some useful knowledge from classes.
However, you still only get to choose from a select set of options. Most People lives their whole lives like that, eating at a buffet.
You have options. Sometimes it’s a small buffet with a choice between chicken or beef (strict high school), and sometimes it’s a big buffet with three different types of tilapia, veal, pork tenderloin and an awkward side table with chicken nuggets clearly intended for kids but that you eat anyway (liberal college).
You get to choose which of the options you want and how much of each to a degree.
Then you get out into the real world and get a J-O-B, JOB! Your buffet usually gets bigger. There are more jobs than there are classes at your university; you have more options.
You’re excited! I was excited! I’ve got a job! This is so cool!
I get to buy a spread collar shirt from Nordstrom and and go to a fancy office building and sit in conference rooms that look important and talk about things that, based on the serious expressions everyone is wearing, are, indeed, important.
And that’s cool for a while. I worked in two different jobs for two years and it was cool. The first plate at the buffet is usually really good. But after a couple of plates, those chicken nuggets don’t look so good anymore.
After a few years, a job doesn’t look so great. It starts to feel constricting and limiting. You feel like you have a certain potential and you don’t have space to grow into it.
You have to be at the office and work when the company says, not when you feel most productive. You don’t own your time.
You have to work where they tell you, not where you feel most inspired. You don’t own your location.
Everything you create at the office is owned by the company. You don’t own your work.
Entrepreneurship—investing in entrepreneurship—is the process of acquiring assets and growing assets and getting the accompanying freedom and sense of meaning that comes with it.
Entrepreneurship is about becoming the cook.
Instead of choosing from a set of options, you decide what those options are.
Becoming more entrepreneurial means less eating, more cooking (sometimes literally).
Going from consumer to producer.
It also means accepting the responsibility that comes with that. The cook owns the buffet. He runs it. While he has complete freedom to choose what’s served, he’s also responsible for it. He has to make sure the food is prepared on time. If people don’t like the food, they complain to him.
This is, perhaps, why many people like the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, but never actually make the jump. While many people like the idea of running a restaurant, most people that actually open one soon find out they like the idea more than the reality. You can get better returns on your work, but you have to do the work, and often more of it.
“Don’t Look for Talent, Find People Who Do Things.”
When you own assets, you have to think about the future, because you have to decide what to do with those assets. How do you grow them so they are more valuable in the future than they are now? If you can’t grow them, can you sell them to someone who thinks he can grow them?
Assets appreciate. A bunch of new furniture for your apartment will not appreciate. It’s not getting any more valuable collecting barbecue stains in your living room.
Relationships appreciate. Relationships I started two years ago are more valuable today than they were two years ago. Not only has the process of deepening the relationship been rewarding, those people have invested in themselves and done really cool stuff with their lives. Our relationships have gotten deeper and they’ve been acquiring and growing assets—writing, podcasting, building businesses, and building other relationships.
And all of those things-writing, podcasting, building businesses, and building other relationships-are assets which they’ve grown.
Whether you’re in school or at a job or running a business, you can still become more entrepreneurial by taking ownership of more and more assets and figuring out ways to innovate and grow them. If you simply do as you are told and follow directions, you aren’t becoming entrepreneurial.
There’s the famed quote from the Spider-man comic: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
But the inverse is equally true and far less recognized: With great responsibility comes great power.
Investing In Yourself
If you start taking ownership of assets and growing them, you will acquire commensurate power and freedom. Whenever I feel powerless or constricted, it’s typically because I haven’t taken enough responsibility and ownership.
Say you’re running Facebook ads, you’re building a WordPress site for a friend, and you’re recruiting clients. Those are all activities that take ownership of assets and resources.
Now you just have to figure out a way to “shift economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield” in the words French economist Jean Baptiste Say.
Can you parlay the WordPress and Facebook experience, as well as past industry knowledge of skiing from having lived in Colorado, to run marketing campaigns for companies that market to skiers?
A good test to see if an organization is worth working with is to start taking ownership of assets and trying to grow them. I was fired from my first job at an English school for trying to redo the curriculum. Many entrepreneurs have similar stories.
When I’m in hiring mode, I always go back to Tucker Max’s article, “Don’t look for talent, find people who do things.”
Tucker wrote the article after reflecting on why many former team members he’d had were successful and reading an interview where Google recently discovered that all their hiring processes were worthless. GPAs are worthless, test scored are worthless, brain teasers are worthless. Even the actual INTERVIEW is worthless. After reviewing tens of thousands of interviews and comparing what candidates had been scored versus how they performed on the job, there was zero correlation.
Things that have been major hiring factors for me include losing a hundred pounds and starting a weekly meetup group to talk about dating.
These aren’t business-related accomplishments, but they’re indicators of people who have taken ownership of an asset and grown it, shifted it from an area of lower productivity to higher productivity.
They took ownership of their health and improved it.
They took ownership of their dating life and improved it.
I’ve hired people for stuff like that over people who have had five years of experience in paid advertising.
It’s much harder to teach someone to become entrepreneurial than it is to teach someone paid advertising.
I have an apartment with no furniture other than a bed, desk, and two cookie sheets. My entrepreneurmobile 2001 Honda Civic, that blew a compressor in the Mojave Desert last summer, started rattling again this week.
Whatever, I’m not investing more in a car when I could be investing in an asset that apprecciate. I can already walk to the cafe. Nothing interesting is going to happen from having a nicer car or nicer furniture.
I want to spend that cash to buy back more time to invest in assets.
If I can buy back ten hours a week of my time, holy snikes, can I acquire and grow a lot of assets in ten more hours a week.
I can go pick up friend from the airport and deepen a meaningful relationship.
I can start a weekly meet up with other entrepreneurs.
I can build an autoresponder sequence to introduce people to my writing more effectively.
I can read an extra book a week and expand my knowledge base and improve my writing.
Those are all valuable assets, and they will appreciate. My Civic is not appreciating.
Entrepreneurship’s fundamental aspect is the ability and desire to take ownership of existing resources and innovate with them to create more wealth, to move them from an area of lower productivity and yield to a higher one. Entrepreneurship is a skill set, a practice that anyone can start to invest in and acquire.
That’s Not My Job
Sometimes, I find it easier to understand a concept by inverting it.
The antithesis of becoming more entrepreneurial is embodied by the statement, “That’s not my job.”
I was talking with a developer a few months ago when we had an issue on a website we were working on, and I asked him to fix it. It turns out it was an aspect that’s not his particular expertise, and he said, “That’s not my job.”
I’m even keel. I rarely get upset. But it’s a good thing we were talking on Skype, because I would have punched him in the face if we were in the same room.
“That’s not my job” is a rejection of ownership that refuses freedom and responsibility.
As the degree of ownership you have in your life expands, so does the degree of freedom and responsibility. Many people that complain of a lack of freedom in their lives, refuse to take ownership and responsibility for their life!
No shit, you don’t have any freedom—you haven’t taken ownership or grown any assets!
If you feel like you’re lacking freedom and power, is it possible that you aren’t taking ownership and responsibility? That’s always been the case for me.
Last Updated on July 30, 2019 by Taylor Pearson
Valentin Van Nhut says
Really good article, thank you. It would be interesting to expand to “what assets matter most” for an entrepreneur to grow. I can think of traffic and conversions in a broad sense, and relationships.
Taylor Pearson says
I actually took a stab at that about a year ago: https://taylorpearson.me/cash/
Perhaps the article I’m most proud of, but it needs to get developed further to be more helpful.
Mike Stankavich says
Taylor, this is very reminiscent of a conversation that I had with Tim Conley last week. I think that this article would translate well into how to promote yourself too. Clearly portray a track record of DOING something relevant to your prospects.
And the corollary to the C grades in high school is of course coasting at the J-O-B, working 2-3 hours per day to produce enough to keep the pay check.
Taylor Pearson says
I suspect you’ve seen it, but this was the first thing that came to mind reading your comment Mike.
Mike Stankavich says
Actually I haven’t seen that one before. It does indeed perfectly illustrate the point.