How to know if you’re an entrepreneur

Here’s an interview of me in Inc. magazine. John Warrilow did the interview. The topic was how to know if you’re an entrepreneur. I basically said that you know you’re an entrepreneur if you are crazy, in a manic way, and you are willing to risk the health of your family and have no chance of a stable income, ever.

Then John sent his book to me. It’s called Built to Sell. It turns out that John did a startup and he sold it, and his book is, basically, how to be so smart about doing a startup that you are aiming for a reasonable, not-pie-in-the-sky exit from day one.

I spend a lot of time talking about how startup life is completely crazy, and the founders are crazy for choosing it. But in fact, the lower-stakes, lower-risk entrepreneurship, where, instead of having investors, you use your own time and energy to make money on the side while you are doing other things – that’s a great way to structure a life.

Ramit Sethi has great advice on how to do this. Its called Earn $1K On the Side. And now I bet a ton of you are going to sign up for his program, and I should have negotiated beforehand to get a cut of whatever he earns from this post. But I am stuck thinking about insanely risky businesses with high reward and so I forget to do things like earn $300 when it’s just sitting there.

Okay. So, anyway, I’ve been thinking that everyone can be the type of person who tries stuff on the side, because the process is really learning about yourself and what you have that the world values (like Craig did here). The Farmer found me because he was researching about entrepreneurship; farming is an incredibly low-margin business, so farmers have to be great entrepreneurs in order to stay solvent.

The Farmer showed my eight-year-old how to feed a baby calf for a year so that he could sell the calf at market. My son earned $400 for that calf at a cattle auction, and I swear, we watched my son’s self-confidence grow right there, in front of our eyes as he collected his check from the auctioneer.

My five-year-old asked why he doesn’t have a calf. The Farmer suggested that since the five-year-old’s job is to collect eggs every evening, he could start and egg-selling business. Besides, my youngest son’s talents are probably less on the animal husbandry side and more on the sales side.

He caught people in the school parking lot and asked if they wanted to buy eggs. People asked questions: How much, how are the chickens raised, what color are the eggs. My son loved knowing the answers.

Someone asked him what he’s going to do with the money he earns.

My son thought about it. Then he said, “I guess I’ll build a hot tub.”


He organized each carton so there were many different colored eggs.

I told him to be very careful during the egg delivery because he won’t be able to make as many sales if he breaks a lot of eggs. He took the advice very seriously:

He got so good at selling eggs, that one day, he had a friend over and an egg order came in. My son told his friend that if he helps collect the eggs and deliver them, they’ll earn $4 and the friend can have half the money. The friend said yes, they put on their superhero capes, and they were off to the chicken barn.

So, after only a few weeks in the egg business, my son discovered what I think are the best parts of entrepreneurship: Building friendships, having fun, and taking joy in each small success. Watching my son makes me really believe that everyone can be an entrepreneur if the expectations for huge payout are small and the expectations of the joys of self-discovery are huge.

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  1. Michael Cortes
    Michael Cortes says:

    This post truly made me realize what my “fantasy” about working for myself really is. It’s about meeting people, learning stuff, and being able to travel.

  2. cindy
    cindy says:

    love this story.. i don’t think many parents how important it is for young children to grow their confidence by taking charge of something. i’m asian and was brought up in asia so we were all about studying. i remember a period during elementary school when i sew willow baskets (not the whole thing, just the top rim) for money. if i made about 20, i got my breakfast allowance for the week. (in VN we don’t eat western style breakfast at home, we went out and bought stuff outside.) I would have my breakfast money anyway whether I did the basket. but i could remember i felt really great trying to hit my KPI.
    Recently i went for a 2 week vacation at the seaside in Bulgaria. There in the morning I went for a free yoga/exercise lesson taught by a 6-year-old ballerina from Ukraine. The girl was just beaming and full of confidence.

  3. Martin
    Martin says:

    Great and inspiring article. I totally agree on entrepreneurs being crazy in a good way. :-)
    During the last year’s I’ve found that a lot of (young) entrepreneurs struggled with finding a good business idea. That’s why I developed a structured approach to find a good business idea.

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