Thinking About Thinking

About a month ago, I was thinking, really contemplating, something. Don’t really remember what it was, but I do remember pausing in the middle of the contemplation and thinking to myself:

Why do you think so much?

I started to wonder if the act of contemplation was common among entrepreneurs. After all, if at this point it is not clear that I am obsessed with distilling entrepreneurship (in the greater sense, not the tech startup sense) to its core, then you haven’t spent 5 minutes speaking to me.

The question that is currently burning a hole through my brain is “What is the essence of entrepreneurship?” Are there key characteristics in entrepreneurs that one can see at birth? at 9 years old? In high school? Beyond?

Can a test be developed to determine the “entrepreneurial potential” of an individual that can be administered long before the person does any entrepreneurial action. (In this case, defined as “something business-y.”)

As the past couple of months have passed, I have started to spend more time watching how entrepreneurs engage with the world. Instead of always giving concrete advice, I provided concepts and watched them go.

It is no surprise that in talking with an entrepreneur, who is obsessed with making systemic change, that much of the conversion is of a contemplative nature. In fact, I would hazard to guess that the most successful entrepreneurs (from Tesla to Zuckerberg) spend a significant portion of their daily brain power contemplating.

What are they contemplating? Everything. That is the magic.

With a mix of intensity, intelligence and curiosity, a true entrepreneur sees every system, every business, even life itself as hackable. The genius of the 20% time at Google wasn’t that projects were developed that Google could exploit (although that was clearly an outcome), it was that it forced its engineers to stretch their entrepreneurial foundation by championing curiosity and contemplation. Entrepreneurism has to be practiced, and by allowing the time for hacking and thought, Google allowed its engineers to take that newly stretched entrepreneur muscle, and apply it to their day jobs. Frankly, it is no surprise that innovation at Google started to slip once the 20% rule was discontinued generally.

But what about execution? Certainly, the mark of a great entrepreneur is their ability to execute? Not really. The mark of a great entrepreneur is relentless resourcefulness which includes surrounding himself with a top team that is focused on execution. Does the entrepreneur “do” stuff or just think all day? Of course, they execute at some level, but it might not be writing every line of code, or selling every widget. But that is not their value. Their value is seeing the world as it should be.

I continue to explore the essence of the entrepreneur, and am slowing building a corpus of knowledge around the most evident characteristics. Perhaps one day, I will find someone to help me build Professor X’s Cerebo to find entrepreneurs (although mutants would be fun) or create a game that allows entrepreneurs to self-select like The Last Starfighter.

Let me contemplate that for a bit.


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