Consider our heroes. Even a cursory glance at most conference lineups reveals a host of speakers whose actual accomplishments are flimsy at best and whose primary skill seems to be self-promotion. (Should a first-time entrepreneur really be dispensing “knowledge?”) And yet we rarely stop to ask ourselves why we look up to those we’ve chosen. Instead of recognizing the entrepreneurs who have quietly risked it all to build something lasting, we get caught up in social media popularity contests and Twitter “influencers.” We too often ignore the men and women who have built companies that provide livelihoods for their employees while we fawn over self-help gurus offering four-hour short cuts. And although we act the part of intellectuals and world changers, most of us are so reliant on social proof that the first question we ask when considering a conference or event is, “Who else is going?”
Another disturbing trend is the drift toward motivational platitudes in the start-up world. Starting a company is hard, risky, painful and usually seems unfair. Starting a company that will leave a lasting mark on the world is reserved for the borderline insane or very lucky — not for those who need to be propped up with pep talks. In short, entrepreneurship is not a short cut. If you need someone to convince you that starting your own business is right for you, then it’s probably not. Going to conferences, hanging out with entrepreneurs or telling people that you’re a “start-up guy” does not put you in the category of those who put all their chips on the table to turn an idea into a reality.
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