As the “gig economy” continues to grow, the likelihood those of you between 16 and 30 will be self-employed is nearly certain. It’s better to be prepared for such rather than scramble to make ends meet under duress. Those contemplating on the self employment route will soon consider themselves an entrepreneur – taking calculated risks for a return. Preparing to be an entrepreneur starts with the right attitude. I propose the following theory regarding entrepreneurship:
Hubris is a sure-fire way to fail in business as an entrepreneur.
Before we begin, let’s add a few words to your vocabulary. Hubris, a relatively uncommon word these days, is defined as “excessive pride or self-confidence.” Empathy, a similarly under recognized word, means “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Intuition is a critical ingredient to entrepreneurship and means “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.”
With our vocabulary level set, let me explain my theory…
Hubris & Humility
I propose that the deeply rooted intuition necessary for an entrepreneur to empathize for a customer, to understand their needs and to see opportunities, is supplanted by the callousness of hubris. Further, I assert that hubris in your character is the opposite of humility and that humility is a required ingredient for empathy.
We’ve all experienced the individual who is full of hubris, cannot be taught, has the answer to the problem before we finish describing it and delivers a ready-made solution for any and every challenge before them. Actually hearing, understanding and processing your challenge is unnecessary to this type of person. In extreme cases, this person twitches while they politely permit you to finish describing your challenge.
Let’s say you’re untangling a complex problem. You seek advice from a friend who has, in the past, demonstrated they can listen with intentionality and focus. You want their undivided attention to assist you in solving your problem. You know their intentionality and focus while engaging with you (aka the modern-day phrase “be in the moment”) will enable them to experience the nuances in your word choice, pauses in your speech, inflections in your voice and the oh-so-important body language. You could have selected from among a dozen good friends, but knowing your friend will have deep empathy for your situation was a wise choice. Generally, such people’s time is in high demand.
Had you sought counsel from a less empathetic friend, you likely would have received proverbial “from the hip” advice. This friend, while surely not possessing ill intentions, wouldn’t have listened intently nor with focus. Garnering their counsel likely would have resulted in minimally considered solutions and haphazard outcomes.
The Importance of Empathy in Problem Solving
Thus, empathy is required to fully understand and address a problem or opportunity. An entrepreneur who seeks to have greater empathy for customers in a given market is much like the chosen friend above. The likelihood they’ll produce a more thoughtful, insightful and more targeted solution to a business opportunity is greatly enhanced due to their focus on the problem they’re solving. Conversely, the entrepreneur who brandishes his hubris, knows it all and does shoot from the hip is incapable of possessing the empathy necessary to fully understand a customer’s needs.
The next time you see a self-labeled entrepreneur brandishing their hubris, duck – and close your wallet!
Read the entire Tools for Tomorrow series!
Ron Brumbarger is one of Indiana’s most recognized technology and education entrepreneurs and visionaries. As a dedicated husband, father, friend, mentor, business owner and volunteer, Ron continually strives to weave his many passions into a unique tapestry to serve others. He has spent his entire professional career leveraging an entrepreneurial mindset to help disruptively change education, apply technology to enhance business practices and facilitate organizational growth. He co-founded BitWise in 1992 and served as the company’s president and CEO until January 2018. He was tapped in 2006 by Indiana’s Governor Daniels and Ball State President Gora to start Indiana’s first, statewide, virtual-charter school. In 2013, he founded Apprentice University®, an award-winning, competency-based college of higher education, preparing future leaders.