How Malcolm Gladwell Inspires Entrepreneurship

gladwell_malcolmIf you haven’t heard of him, Malcolm Gladwell is the best selling author behind books likeOutliers and The Tipping Point.  In Outliers, he looks at what makes high achievers different, from a very analytical perspective.  In The Tipping Point, he looks at how ideas, trends, and other things spread like wildfire.

Regardless of whether you agree with the arguments he makes, and the connections he lead you on, Malcolm Gladwell shares a ton of great advice that entrepreneurs, and potential entrepreneurs, should really take to heart.

Here are some of the key ways that Malcolm Gladwell inspires entrepreneurship in his stories:

Autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.

– Outliers: The Story of Success

Last week I talked about the key trigger points that make you want to quit your job.  They all stem from these in some way or another.  If you’re looking to be an entrepreneur or self-employed, you need to think about how your situation will be different than it is now.  Maybe it’s because your efforts will show you a direct reward?  Maybe you have more autonomy?  Whatever your circumstance is, changing without thinking about these qualities will not necessarily lead to more satisfaction.

Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.

– Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

This week, Pat Flynn talked about the Idea Stopper.  The premise that almost every idea goes in a two step cycle: excitement, followed by some external element that snuffs out your candle.  The trouble with insight is that having a new understanding of something gives you an idea.  This idea isn’t solid yet.  You need work with it.  If the wind blows you in another direction, you may easily lose that insight or idea and move on.

In some cases that may be a good thing – maybe the insight was that you hate doing something.  But you also don’t want to live in regret about not having started a project or moving forward with an idea.  Develop a system for vetting your ideas – write them down, don’t forget them.  Some will inevitably stick, while others won’t.  But you don’t want your ideas snuffed out unintentionally.

It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether or not our work fulfills us.

– Outliers: The Story of Success

This is one of my favorite quotes from Malcolm Gladwell.  It’s also one of the key intros in my Quitters Checklist.  Part of deciding whether entrepreneurship is for you is understanding what fulfills you.  Maybe creating your own business and working for yourself does that.  But there are also millions of people who don’t get excited by the premise of self-employment – in fact, it scares them.  In that situation, you need to really identify what excites you about working and what you really like to do.

I’m a firm believer in that money will come to you if you’re doing what you enjoy.  You shouldn’t be doing things just for money.  You should figure out how to make money doing the things you enjoy.

Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

– Outliers: The Story of Success

Too many people are stuck in a mindset that rich people just had everything handed to them.  But, if you ask anyone trying to make the hustle happen, or even people who are at the top, they’ll gladly share with you their war stories and years of hard work.

I’ve found that the most successful people are those who’ve risked it all, and worked super hard, to make their ideas come true.  If you check out my Young Millionaire Series at The College Investor, you’ll continually hear stories about entrepreneurs who had bet their last dollar on their businesses.  That takes determination and hard work.  They deserve to enjoy it once they’ve made it.

No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.

– Outliers: The Story of Success

This is another quote that I live by because I’ve seen it to be true countless times.  If you’re looking to start a side job and work your way towards self-employment, it’s going to mean late nights and early mornings.  I’m going to be putting together a mock schedule of what a side-hustler’s job looks like, but realize – it’s late nights and early mornings.

And you can get rich that way.  Working a nine to five job, and following it up with freelance work or a side hustle, can really put you on a solid financial footing.

Even if you don’t work for yourself, it’s the people that volunteer to pick up shifts at work, and don’t mind staying for overtime, that provide the most for their families.  It’s never the guy who goes home early every day and never offers to help out when needed.  Realize that, and you’ll see a fundamental truth about providing for your family.

A study at the University of Utah found that if you ask someone why he is friendly with someone else, he’ll say it is because he and his friend share similar attitudes. But if you actually quiz the two of them on their attitudes, you’ll find out that what they actually share is similar activities. We’re friends with the people we do things with, as much as we are with the people we resemble. We don’t seek out friends, in other words. We associate with the people who occupy the same small, physical spaces that we do.

– The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Finally, I wanted to highlight the importance of networking and friendship.  Solopreneurship and freelancing can be lonely ventures.  If you’re doing it on your own, you still need to connect with people.  It’s one of the biggest reasons that people go to office jobs – socialization.  If you’re working for yourself, I highly recommend joining a group or network of like-minded people so that you can build friendships in your niche and make connections.  This will make the whole adventure that much more fulfilling.

To end this, if you’re thinking about being an entrepreneur, realize this: Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.  Malcolm Gladwell said this during an interview, and it really does bode true.

If you just do the work, slave at the nine to five, if you don’t have meaning, your hard work is fruitless.  You can try to build meaning at work, or you can try to build meaning outside of work, and both are fine.  Just don’t get stuck in prison and be a slave to your own mind!

What inspires you towards entrepreneurship?

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