Find success in everyday life by thinking more like an entrepreneur

Even if you don’t own your own business, USC’s Noam Wasserman notes, an entrepreneurial mindset can help bring success in other areas of life like marriage, career and more.

April 17, 2018 Koren Wetmore

Want success in every area of your life? Try learning how to be an entrepreneur  — even if you don’t own your own business — and there’s a good chance that daily life can become more rewarding.

The skills required to found a thriving business are the same set you need for a winning project, a healthy marriage, or a prosperous career, said Noam Wasserman, director of the Founder Central Initiative at the USC Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and author of the forthcoming book Life is a Startup.

“Having an entrepreneurial mindset involves taking traits that usually conflict and strategically combining them so as to reap their benefits, while avoiding their pitfalls,” Wasserman said.

Below are some key pairings to consider that will help you learn how to be an entrepreneur in everyday life:

Passion and analysis

Whether you’re pursuing a goal or falling in love, passion fills you with energy and keeps you moving forward beyond fear. If not balanced with analysis, however, it has the potential to hinder or even harm you. Wasserman likens this to a swimmer who dives into a pool without checking to see if it is filled with water. On the flipside, unchecked analysis might keep you from ever putting a toe in.

So when considering an investment, a career, or the best plan to achieve your goals, research and study the facts to gain understanding, take a gut check and if your head and heart agree, go for it. “There are times when following our gut, our passion, is the right thing to do. Other times we need to pull back on the reins and put more thought into it,” Wasserman said. “Ask yourself which outcomes might you celebrate and which might you regret?”

Short-term gains and long-term vision

Successful planning — be it a work project or a life’s journey — requires the ability to pair short-term needs and long-term vision. A decision that takes care of immediate needs might seem right (like avoiding a difficult conversation you loathe having) yet can lead to problems later on. Or, you may get so focused on what might happen down the road that you wind up in decision gridlock and fail to act now. When you are more focused on how to be an entrepreneur, you can find balance between the two.

Wasserman offers a real-world example: A graduate who wants to make a mark in the nonprofit world may also be planning to get married and start a family. If not careful to balance immediate needs with long-term plans, that graduate could end up picking a higher entry-level salary in an unwanted career to pay for a wedding, a mortgage and the needs of a growing family. However, if the graduate can pair short- and long-term vision, he or she could opt to get married but not before saving up beforehand and resisting the immediate appeal of a lavish wedding and a large house (with an even larger mortgage). That way, taking an entry-level nonprofit job will be feasible in the short term and can lead to a meaningful career — along with a rewarding family life — in the long term.

Success and failure

While most people try to avoid failure, few plan for success.

So when you achieve your dream, you risk being unprepared for the changes it brings. “You might save enough to make the down payment on your dream home, but then not have the funds to handle the monthly mortgage payments,” said Wasserman. “You need to prepare for the potential downsides of success so you can handle it when it comes.”

You also need to plan for failure, so if it happens, you can harness it for good. Force yourself to think of at least five things that could go wrong, and then decide what you will do if they occur. “Find a way to use each setback as a blessing,” Wasserman said. “Maybe it’s a wakeup call to move in a different direction or into a less prominent but higher impact role. It could even become the motivation that enables you to scale to greater ‘I’ll show them!’ heights.”

When you learn how to be an entrepreneur, you plan for both failure and success. That way the unexpected bumps in life’s road won’t be able to sap your energy — or derail you.