"Entrepreneur" is an incredibly powerful word. Many people, especially those for whom the corporate world is anathema, can't imagine being anything but an entrepreneur.
Unfortunately for many people who dream of owning their own business, "entrepreneur" is also an intimidating word.
Why? If we play word association and I say, "entrepreneur," for some the first thing that comes to mind is a success story. If you're old school, maybe you picture Kroc, Walton, or Knight. Or maybe you skew a little younger and see the smiling face of Branson, Bezos, Gates, or Cuban. Or maybe you go more recent and Page, Brin, Cuban or Zuckerberg pops to mind.
Or maybe the first thing you see is "Jobs," since Steve transcends nearly every generational and socio-economic divide.
But then again, the first thing you think of could be something from the opposite end of the success spectrum. You might picture pulling an endless string of eighteen-hour days while living on Ramen noodles, the breakfast, lunch, and dinner of entrepreneurial champions. Or you might picture all the lean months and years of hardship and sacrifice and maxed-out credit cards as you struggle to create a business no one believes in but you ... and sometimes, in your worst moments, not even you.
Whether you think of incredible success or devastating failure, the word "entrepreneur" can feel like a lot to live up to — or or to live with.
Even successful entrepreneurs feel they don't live up to the word. I know people who have built great businesses. Huge businesses. Massive businesses. But however bright their entrepreneurial beacon shines, in their hearts they still feel their light is lost in the glow of those who made greater sacrifices or who have accomplished even more.
And maybe that's you.
Maybe you're afraid to start a business because you feel you could never compare to the brightest stars in the entrepreneurial firmament. Or maybe you shrink from the thought of having to work and sacrifice and struggle towards a goal you may never accomplish. Or maybe you think other people have some intangible entrepreneurial something — ideas, talent, drive, skills, creativity, whatever — that you just don't have.
If that's the way you think ... you're wrong.
Success is only inevitable in hindsight. It's easy to look back on another person's entrepreneurial path to greatness and assume every vision was clear, every plan was perfect, every step was executed flawlessly, and tremendous success was a foregone conclusion.
It's easy to think Steve Jobs was always the iconic Steve.
He wasn't. His success was never assured. It was often in doubt. Only in hindsight does it appear Jobs was destined to succeed.
Plus, not only do you already have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, in many ways you are already an entrepreneur. Entrepreneur is commonly defined as "a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on financial risk to do so."
Let's see. You already organize your affairs. You already take on financial risk — even if you currently work for someone else, you're still an entrepreneur because you organize and operate the business of you.
So don't measure yourself against other entrepreneurs and find yourself wanting before you even begin. Don't measure yourself against some standard of effort and sacrifice and perseverance you feel you can never achieve.
Pick a goal and measure yourself against that goal. That's the only comparison that ever matters.
You don't have to try to be the next Jobs. You can try to be something a lot better.
You can be the next you.
Jeff Haden is a Ghostwriter, speaker, and Inc. Magazine contributing editor.