I have learned a tremendous amount over this past year. A lot about myself and even more about things I thought I already knew. But learning that being an entrepreneur is a lot like being a parent surprised me. I have been an intrapreneur – trying to bring innovation and culture change through human-centered design, commercialization, and engaging emerging technology. But there are defined goals and objectives in established organizations. And strategies. When you are starting a business as an entrepreneur, you are still figuring many of these things out. As parents, many of us don’t have it all figured out. I haven’t met a parent yet, whether they have one child or five say, “Yep, I’ve got this parenting thing down. I’ve mastered it!” I think entrepreneurship is the same. You find yourself in unique situations you never thought possible. I don’t believe you conquer entrepreneurship as much as you embrace the journey, the feeling, the challenge, the passion, and the purpose. Embracing this odyssey is a lot like being a parent and raising your children the best you know how. You are not exactly sure how it is all going to turn out, but you know the journey is worth it. In spades.
I also think it’s impossible to learn everything about how to be an entrepreneur or for that matter, a parent. There is always something new in both. Just as the kid does not come into this world with instructions the same goes for being an entrepreneur – there are no “this is what you need to do today” instructions. You do have “Top 10” lists, but these tend to be more general guidelines than exactly what you need to do for your unique situation. Of course, everyone has advice for what you should do as if there is some magic crystal ball that is available only to them. As a father, I find myself not sure how to handle many situations and do the best I can at that moment in time. And like an entrepreneur, I get lots of unsolicited advice.
I wish I had this experience before having done some stints in corporate strategy, technology commercialization, and venture capital. I would have asked much better questions than I did. And I would have been a better partner, collaborator, and listener. I know being an entrepreneur has made me a better person. A better father, son, brother, husband, and friend. I am more patient, more understanding, and more humble.
For those of you thinking, “I’m not an entrepreneur” – if you are a parent, in some ways, you already are.