Not long ago, entrepreneurship wasn’t considered a “real job.” Today, it’s everywhere. Even people who aren’t entrepreneurial themselves sing the praises of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, and everyone talks about how important it is to have more entrepreneurs.
Bill Aulet, the managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, became an entrepreneur before it was “cool”—because that’s what came natural to him. Although he’s now in the world of academia, he’s an entrepreneur by design, but an accidental academic. Teaching entrepreneurship to students, his goal is to help others avoid the mistakes he made.
He also believes in dispelling common myths about entrepreneurs, who, even as they become more well-regarded, are still very misunderstood. Misperceptions are rampant. Here are a few of the myths:
1. Entrepreneurs have to be genius-level high achievers. In reality, entrepreneurs are unique people who are extraordinarily passionate, but they don’t have to be unbelievably smart. The class valedictorian is probably one of the least likely people to become an entrepreneur.
2. Entrepreneurs are individualists. In reality, entrepreneurs have to be team players. Going it alone is a path to failure, but when you have a team, you increase your chances of success. However, it has to be the right team, a heterogeneous team that will challenge each other and help one another grow.
3. Entrepreneurs have to have charisma. Do you think Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates are particularly charismatic people?
4. Entrepreneurs love to take risks. Not so—entrepreneurs figure out their strengths, where they have an advantage, and then use that advantage. They take risks, yes, but above all they have to manage risks.
5. Entrepreneurs are undisciplined. You can’t make it as an entrepreneur without the discipline to create a plan and execute. An entrepreneur has to think differently and creatively, but also has to execute.