I’m currently on a trip to Taiwan, the homeland of my parents. Now, I speak mandarin at about a 5th grade level, so I’m about as talkative here as a Marine in a math class. Hence, I’ve been feeling like a stranger in a strange land, hanging out with what seems like the 8th group of cousins I’ve never met before. Most just pass along a polite hello because of my general lack of communication ability and there’s not too much we seem to have in common — I’m the interesting American relative who looks Chinese but speaks like a foreigner — because I am. One cousin though, ambles up to me with the hesitation of forming a question in a language he’s not used to, “I heard you want to start some businesses?”
“Uh…dui,” I mumbled back in the affirmative. Immediately, he brightened up.
“Me, too!” We started chatting and talking about our various business ideas — things we’ve tried, tools we’ve used, struggles we’ve faced. Even though the conversation was broken, our enthusiasm, interest, and support for what the other was doing was obvious. I’d had conversations like this in America, and now I was having one halfway around the world.
When you want to be an entrepreneur and others find out, you get a lot of strange looks from people that don’t get it. They point to the struggles, and the risks, and the challenges of entrepreneurship as the obvious reasons not to get into it, not realizing that those very things are what drives us. It can be lonely at times, and it’s easy to fall into moments of self doubt. I definitely have. That is, until I run into another entrepreneur. We could be separated by age, background, or even country of origin, but I can see myself in them. It’s in these moments of recognition that I realize that there is something that is unique and universal to what drives entrepreneurs.
Here’s why this is important. There are many people out there that are holding back from becoming entrepreneurs because they think they have to prove that they can make it before calling themselves one. That’s just not true. You don’t have to wait to be anointed. There is no certification in entrepreneurship. The day you become an entrepreneur is the day you decide to be one. There is someone younger, poorer, dumber, and less advantaged than you who is becoming a successful entrepreneur at this very moment. Let’s make this clear — not everyone who starts on this journey of entrepreneurship is successful. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll be any good at that regular day job everyone is so fond of telling you to get or stick with, either. I just know that entrepreneurship is what I believe I should be doing. Beyond applying myself to the best of my abilities, there’s not much else I can control.
I strongly suspect that if you’re an entrepreneur, you know exactly the feeling of recognition I’m talking about. It’s the same way Marines can pick out another Marine from a mile away (and I suspect that’s similar with all the services). And if you don’t think of yourself as an entrepreneur, but you also recognize all these feelings that I’m talking about, then you’re probably one of the many people toiling at their jobs or going to school or even working at someone else’s startups, who is waiting for someone to one day kindly point out that you’re in the wrong place — all the entrepreneurs are meeting down the block. Let me tell you now, no one is going to do you this favor. I know, because I waited for the longest time until I figured it out for myself. If you’re wondering if you are an entrepreneur, stop wondering. You all ready are one. Now go show the world.
Byron Chen hosts a podcast over at SuccessVets.com, a resource site he founded for veterans and service members. He interviews amazing people to pass along their lessons learned to help others with their careers and lives after the military. Guests have included CEO’s, authors, entrepreneurs, and other successful veterans covering topics like interviewing skills, salary negotiation, and business. Prior to this, Byron was a Captain in the United States Marine Corps and a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.