The last decade I’ve spent working with entrepreneurs around the world was also a decade spent studying entrepreneurs around the world.
(Best free MBA ever. In fact, I got paid to do it!)
And if I had to pick one thing that unites the upper echelons of extraordinary overachieving founders – if something definitively sets them apart from everyone else – it is this one thing:
Entrepreneurs take an unreasonable amount of responsibility.
It’s almost pathological, the level of responsibility that ultra-successful business owners take.
Prospective investors said no in the pitch meeting? I could have done better.
Critical, depended-upon employee ups and leaves for personal reasons? I should have seen it coming.
External economic forces put a financial squeeze on the industry? I should have pre-empted all this.
The examples are countless. In every aspect of business and life itself, entrepreneurs have an outsized belief in their own ability to predict and manage external events.
This comes with a tremendous burden: Many business owners I’ve worked with describe – in their darkest moments – feeling as though everything is their fault.
This mental schema for seeing yourself at the causal center of the universe is a classic double-edged sword: When you’re winning, everything is your fault. Unfortunately… it’s also your fault when you’re losing.
What these entrepreneurs have realized is that in both good times and bad, to assume responsibility is the most powerful posture you can take.
Whichever way events in your life and business unfold, owning them and acting “as if” you’re the driving force behind them – even if that’s a bit of a hallucination – increases choice, flexibility and agency. In a chaotic world, those feelings are powerful medicinal.
Responsibility is a helluva drug.
The non-entrepreneur “civilian” world is largely made up of people who’re uncomfortable with any responsibility they have. They seek to defer it or escape from it, handing it over to bosses, corporations, market forces or politics.
This makes newly minted entrepreneurs feel like they’re having some wake-up-from-The-Matrix moment… when they realize that the people around them are desperate for someone to come along and take outsized responsibility.
It’s a weird hypothesis – especially since I also believe in (and am grateful for) the incredible luck and privileges that my life is built on – but I’ve seen the effects first hand:
If you want to accomplish extraordinary things as a business owner, adopting a presupposition of outsized personal responsibility for everything in your life is the singularly most significant mental step you can make… to stack the odds winning big in your favor.