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How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Spirit

Fact: entrepreneurs are self-made winners. They take risks that pan out, develop bold, innovative ideas that others envy, and experience success at an unprecedented rate. According to FreshBooks, 96% of entrepreneurs have no desire to return to their old career and 61% of those self-employed would be happy with themselves and their achievements even if their career ended today.

In addition to this hard-won success, many entrepreneurs feel as if they have a better handle on their work-life balance than most average employees. The same study showed that twenty-two percent of entrepreneurs reported that their work-life balance was superior to that of a standard nine-to-five job — a staggering number considering the amount of work it requires to run an entrepreneurial business.

Whether you are a fledgling entrepreneur or an experienced self-starter interested in further cultivating your innovative spirit, MentorCruise has collected frameworks and tools based on academic research that can help you do so. The following models will help you hone your entrepreneurial spirit — and your next business idea.

Developing an Entrepreneurial Spirit: An Overview

An entrepreneur is defined as “an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards.” This cursory definition can be broken down into two detailed parts: the concept of entrepreneurship itself, as well as the components required to develop an entrepreneurial spirit.

Elements of entrepreneurship:

  • Entrepreneurship is developed and maintained through entrepreneurial alertness
  • Entrepreneurs and experts rely on mental shortcuts and frameworks to operate at a high level and prioritize what needs to be done
  • Entrepreneurs are goal-oriented
  • Entrepreneurs also need to learn how to handle stressful situations where they do not know the outcome of the situation. 

Developing an entrepreneurial spirit requires:

  • Cultivating a belief that you can and do possess the ability to achieve: People who believe in their abilities actually improve their ability to complete tasks. They also come back from failure faster and are more likely to succeed upon recovering from failure. 
  • Envisioning success: Understanding what success feels like is the first step toward achieving it. 

Step 1: Developing and Maintaining Entrepreneurial Alertness

Entrepreneurial alertness is a critical component of an entrepreneurial spirit that allows entrepreneurs to recognize and capitalize on new opportunities before others perceive them.

Creating and maintaining entrepreneurial alertness involves developing a “pulse for opportunities” — a concept that suggests entrepreneurism is defined and cultivated by both internal perception and external environmental factors.

Consider the following research findings as a basis for understanding and developing your own sense of entrepreneurial alertness:

Key findings on entrepreneurial alertness

(Brockman 2014): Brockman asserts that entrepreneurial alertness is “a cognitive capability that positively influences opportunity identification and development that includes perception, pattern recognition and evaluation.” In other words: entrepreneurial alertness is the process of seeing opportunities others do not and acting on them accordingly.

(Puhakka 2011): Puhakka found that entrepreneurial alertness is predicated on individual creativity — the more creative the individual, the more likely they were to become alert to unorthodox ideas and opportunities.

(Tang 2007): Tang lists that the qualities that lead to entrepreneurial alertness are: “human capital, social competence and social capital.” Tang also found that these qualities are heavily dependent on the environment in which an entrepreneur finds themselves — if there is ripe opportunity for market disruption and turbulence, and the entrepreneur can impact it, they have a better chance of developing entrepreneurial alertness.

(Gaglio & Kat 2001): Gaglio & Kat posited that entrepreneurs may simply be contrarians. Instead of taking information as it is, those with entrepreneurial alertness look for alternate explanations and different methods of achieving goals. This means mental frameworks and question modeling are a key part of honing entrepreneurial alertness.

Once you have absorbed what it means to cultivate entrepreneurial alertness, you will have a better understanding of how and when to perceive new opportunities and seize on them accordingly. This is the first step to developing an entrepreneurial spirit — be sure to keep following for a host of mental frameworks and modeling tactics required to maintain that spirit.

Step 2: Enhancing an entrepreneurial spirit through “chunking”**

**In addition to seeing opportunities others do not, entrepreneurs take in and utilize information differently than regular market actors. The process by which they do this is called “chunking.”

Have you ever spent countless hours studying information only to retain next to nothing? This is where chunking comes in: it’s the process of quickly becoming more efficient by grouping new information into smaller, manageable parts that can be used to produce outcomes you want without leaving you feeling overwhelmed.

Chunking is the opposite of studying, multitasking and to-do list making. These techniques fracture and split our attention, and do not contribute to an entrepreneurial mindset that is proactive and efficient. 

The chunking method:

Tip: as you read the following steps, try implementing them in real-time for better understanding. For instance, apply the chunking method to your daily to-do list and see how it changes your perception of what you should and should not prioritize.

  • Step 1: Capture your ideas. Start writing out thoughts and ideas so that they exist in a physical space somewhere. Keeping ideas locked in your head adds undue stress, which contributes to a lack of efficiency.

    Note: this looks like a to-do list, but it is not the same, as it is only a starting point for future steps!

  • Step 2: Find commonalities between list items and start grouping them. Grouping your to-do list into sections, such as “Chores,” “Professional Work,” “Creative Goals” and “Relationship Duties” helps you combine tasks into manageable sections that feel achievable. 

  • Step 3: Attach a purpose to your list. By relating your tasks to your highest possible life purpose, such as “Being A Successful Creative,” you will begin to understand the value of the tasks at hand. Completing chores, attending to your romantic partner and getting work out of the way are all ways to help you de-stress and hone in on your creative goals. 

  • Step 4: Take action. Now that you have a plan and a purpose, it is time to take action and achieve your goals. Goals are achieved, not discussed, and entrepreneurs know this.

Step 3: Developing mental frameworks for entrepreneurial action

Alongside chunking, mental frameworks are a wonderful process for thinking differently about solutions to problems. The following are four mental frameworks you can implement when looking for alternative solutions to common business problems:

  • Element 1: Inversion. This is the process of thinking backwards through a problem in order to arrive at new resolutions. For instance, imagine you are the head of a bread-baking company: instead of thinking about the recipe and kind of bread you want to bake, invert the process and assess your distribution method, the grocery chains you will work with, and what kinds of customers you want to appeal to.

  • Element 2: First- and second-level thinking. First-level thinking involves common, simple themes and solutions that most people generally arrive at. Second-level thinking involves asking questions about the probability of each outcome and whether the assumed outcome is likely to be correct. This allows entrepreneurs to field a guess at less likely outcomes and determine best possible courses of action accordingly. 

  • Element 3: Decision trees. These help entrepreneurs decide on a course of action based on multiple outcomes to determine the best possible next step. Each decision you lay out will give you two choices to make — making the process of decision-making less overwhelming than an endless list of possibilities.

  • Element 4: Take a multidisciplinary approach. Use multiple different thinking patterns, including those listed above, to aggressively test your hypotheses and see if they still stand on their own. 

Another key mental framework is the “Triangle of Effectiveness.” Don’t be afraid of the fancy term — all it means is that there are three sides of a well-developed entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Side 1: Mental Clarity. Above all else, entrepreneurs need mental clarity to make sound decisions. This holds true for both professional and personal life decisions. In order to remain mentally sound, entrepreneurs should be:

    • Well-rested
    • Well-nourished
    • Calm and focused
    • Conscious
    • Present with others
  • Side 2: Decision Principles. Decision principles are the qualities that help us make great decisions. This is prioritization as a mantra — everything you do in life should revolve around good decision-making. Entrepreneurs with great decision principles are:

    • Goal-oriented
    • Importance-driven instead of urgency-driven
    • Always prioritizing
    • Aligning to-do lists with personal strengths and competencies
  • Side 3: Information. Entrepreneurs need great information to make great decisions. By defining and collecting all the information you need before setting out to complete a task, you drastically reduce your chances of failure and frustration once the planning stage is complete. Entrepreneurs who collect information beforehand have:

    • Their personal values and their mission defined
    • A short-term 3-month business plan
    • A long-term 6- to 12-month business plan
    • A process to track performance and achievements

By developing each of these sides of the Triangle of Effectiveness, you increase your chances of remaining effective at what you do in both the short- and long-term. You can also use this framework alongside chunking to get the jumpstart your entrepreneurial alertness.

Step 4: Ruthlessly Prioritizing

Prioritizing is the final key component of developing a powerful entrepreneurial spirit. Doing so will make you more efficient and proactive. The following are all tactics you can use to prioritize ruthlessly and efficiently:

  • First: Consolidate your task list. Choose one place to store all tasks: email, Slack, a notepad or elsewhere. The place itself matters less than the fact that they are all captured in one place for your review. 

  • Second: Analyze your task list. Use the four ‘D’s of Do, Defer, Delegate and Delete to determine what is a priority and what should wait until later. 

    • Do: These are items you should do now.
    • Defer: These are the tasks you can put off until later.
    • Delegate: These are items you should assign to someone else.
    • Delete: These task items are not important and can be removed from your list.
  • Third: Choose a method of prioritization that is right for the current day or scenario. Not every prioritization method works for every task list, so decide between:

    • Using a priority matrix
    • Adopting relative prioritization
    • Making a task list
    • Picking a single, top item to focus on
    • Determine which tasks will help you get the most out of the day

Maintaining an Entrepreneurial Spirit

Understanding the basis of an entrepreneurial spirit does not mean that you will automatically maintain it. Maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit involves:

  • Remembering to connect with your inspiration and never stop innovating
  • Relying on coworkers or others to assess whether your entrepreneurial vision is still accurate 
  • Asking yourself pertinent questions, such as:
    • Am I thriving or am I languishing?
    • How is my vision faring 1, 2, or 5 years later?
    • Am I still taking advantage of resources such as MentorCruise, which can help me find entrepreneurial mentors that can help me find new pathways?
    • Have I continued to bounce back despite setbacks?
    • How can I continue to keep my passion and drive alive?
    • Am I doing a good job of establishing connections that will help me continue to believe in my goal down the road?

Remember that maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit takes time and effort — and that developing and maintaining that spirit in the short-term is counterintuitive to creating the basis of an entrepreneurial lifestyle.

Unique Opportunities for Entrepreneurs Online

Not all entrepreneurs are the same. Considering the demographic shift toward remote work has expanded in the last year, many entrepreneurs are considering opening remote-only businesses. If this applies to you, be sure to take advantage of your unique situation as a remote worker. Remote workers enjoy additional benefits when it comes to cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit, including:

  • Being able to use digital tools to your advantage
  • Connecting virtually with others who can help you develop your vision 
  • Taking advantage of lower maintenance costs
  • Digitally acquiring the best talent to bring your vision to life
  • Using collaborative tools to help others believe in your vision

At the same time, setting ground-floor rules as a remote entrepreneur is important. Remote entrepreneurs do not have the luxury of extended face-to-face contact, which means additional rules will need to be implemented in order for you to continue to work and manage others effectively. Try:

Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Spirit Takes Practice

Becoming an expert entrepreneur does not happen overnight — if it did, everyone would be a business magnate. For these reasons, it’s important to cultivate your entrepreneurial spirit each and every day. Continuing to hone key elements of an entrepreneurial spirit will ensure you achieve your goals, bounce back quickly from failed ventures, take advantage of all the business options available to you and — ultimately — find lasting success.

If you want to further cultivate your entrepreneurial spirit, MentorCruise can help. Use mentorship to help you build on your next big idea.

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