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Big Ideas

Why Entrepreneurial Thinking Is For Everyone Now

Entrepreneurs make their own luck, and so should we, according to the new, break-out bestseller The Start Up of You.

“We need a new playbook,” says entrepreneur and author Ben Casnocha. “The world has changed. The world of work has changed. Many of the assumptions that have guided how we think about careers in America are no longer true.”

The Start-Up of You, written by Casnocha and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, is that playbook. It argues that we can no longer expect to find a job, instead we must make our jobs. As Hoffman says, we have to “find a way to add value in a way no one else can. For entrepreneurs, it’s differentiate or die — that now goes for all of us.”*Relevant for recent grads to mid-career professionals in the midst of a transition, Start-Up provides pragmatic, actionable advice, finishing each chapter with tasks to complete in the next day, in the next week, and in the next month.I chatted with Casnocha — a longtime favorite blogger of mine — after reading Start-Up to explore the book’s themes in more depth and investigate his collaborative process with Reid.

What role does passion play in a good career plan — if any?

Definitely plays a role. When you’re passionate about something, you tend to do better work, longer. The question is whether you find passion or develop it through competence. And then how you square passion with other considerations — such as your aspirations and the market realities. So, passion is key, yes, but it’s rather more complicated than many career writers would have you think. Passion without being good at it doesn’t get you very far; passion that no one will pay money for is also limited in scope. You need to weigh various factors, passion being one of them.

Do you think there’s something new about “entrepreneurial thinking”? Or is it the new word for a type of thinking that has always existed?

All humans were born with entrepreneurial instincts. We quote Muhammad Yunus to this effect — he said that for a very long time humans forged lives by finding food, feeding ourselves. The instinct to create a life is deep within us. What’s new are the specific skills that complement that instinct — the skills for adapting in the modern world.

What do you think is the No.1 misconception of people heading into a new career or looking to make a job transition?

That if you simply work hard, good things will happen. It certainly increases the odds, but working hard is no guarantee of anything. There are no guarantees, period.The question is whether you find passion or develop it through competence.

How important is being comfortable with uncertainty?

Anything worth doing is going to have degrees of uncertainty associated with it. Clamming up and treating any uncertainty as “risk” to be avoided will preclude you from seizing the very best opportunities. So, it’s important. How you actually go about embracing risk and uncertainty is something we detail in the book. One tip: induce risk in small chunks, bit by bit, to raise your tolerance.

I love the idea that you present in the book of an “interesting people fund” — where you encourage people to set aside time and money in advance to keep their networks up to date. Can you talk a little bit about this “long view” approach to networking?

The interesting people fund is a pre-commitment strategy: by pre-committing time and money to meeting interesting people, you increase the likelihood that you actually do it. Because many people know they ought to do it, and think about doing it, but when push comes to shove and it’s time to take an hour out of your day or spend $40 buying someone lunch — they punt on it.
In terms of the long view of networks, if you’re not taking the long view, you’re doing it wrong. Relationships — be it romantic, friendship, or professional – take time to develop. A lot of time. Rushing a relationship into a short term transaction can jeopardize the long-term relationship potential.

I recently read a great quote from Steve Pavlina: “If you struggle financially, upgrade your social skills. Money flows through people.” Does this resonate with you?

Absolutely. In the opportunities chapter we say that every opportunity is attached to a person. Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity — including one that has a financial payoff — you’re really looking for a person.

Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people.

If I had to distill the advice in the book down to the simplest possible equation: It might be something like “constant curiosity + action = career success.” Is that accurate? What would be your equation?

Gosh, hard question! “Constant curiosity + thoughtful action = career success” could be one. “Change + adaptability = success” could be another. Networks should also be in there somehow!

What was your writing process with Reid like?

I’ll be writing about this more on my personal blog in a bit. But the short answer is that we focused on our comparative advantages. I was working on it full-time and could go deep on some of the ideas and how we should organize them. Reid thought a lot about which ideas from the start-up/entrepreneurship world could be mapped effectively to careers. As with all books, we went through a lot of iterations to get it right. Anne Lamott nailed it: “Shitty first drafts.” I will say that writing a book forces a certain rigor on the ideas — the linear text limits you but in a way that ultimately sharpens the ideas, I think. Certainly that was the case for us.

More Posts by Jocelyn K. Glei

A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with how to make great creative work in the Age of Distraction. Her latest book is Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. Her previous works include the 99U’s own bestselling book series: Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.

Comments (11)
  • Ayn Roberts

    While I love the idea of entrepreneurship and defining your own career path, I’ve seen some negative side effects associated with this that leaves me troubled as of recently. Especially for recent grads and young professionals, striking it out on your own tends to close you off from opportunities for mentorship and missing out on some foundational understandings that only come from working within a larger professional context. The fracturing of larger business structures into smaller firms and establishments, in my opinion, has left many robust industries unable to properly train and include those just entering the field so that these young professionals are forced into career situations that cut them off from learning and exposure to things outside their own ideologies. That’s not to say that all young professionals should be relegated to the role of apprentice, but I do believe that this entrepreneurial structure doesn’t lend itself well to these more traditional forms of learning and growth.

  • Kunal

    The traditional form of learning and growth has been quite a rigid structure. People spend years in the job function reporting to their seniors. From an entrepreneurial point of view, these years can be utilized to test your idea and fail at an early point in life. The formative years are thus utilized doing self learning and failing rather den not failing and being perfect. 

  • Ben14251

    The haves have it all, and the have-nots have nothing

  • James

    I gotta say I really enjoyed this post! I feel like that’s what I’m going through right now with LifeSketch –    It’s definitely a learning experience and is filled with the curiosity & action. I’ve helped many people, but it’s really finding a happy medium to to provide over the internet what I do in person. Even though it’s not the current traditional path by most people I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else. It’s quite exciting!

    From my research over the past couple years this book seems to definitely be “spot on.” I may have to take a better look at it!
    Thanks so much for the post! 

  • R Vanna

    Super inspiring. Definitely going to pick this one up.

  • Craig Desmarais

    Awesome post!  It’s so true, we must differentiate ourselves from others in how we add value to those around us and in our area of passion.  

  • Diyanaa Mercy

    I agree, Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people.very interesting words…  very helpful for me
    Here is a good link to look at a more detailed statistical perspective:

    thanks Behance….

  • Ajshvr

    I like this a lot… Going to get the book now…

  • Ayn Roberts

     I’m definitely not advocating that the traditional route is the best for everyone, there’s room for both, but I do think there’s value lost by particularly the very young and experienced when they strike out on their own. Especially when it comes to understanding production and logistics, having a great mentor for the first few years after college is a phenomenal resource that can save you from learning some very tough lessons on your own.

  • Time Clock Software

    I have a question, what suggestion do you have for fresh grads who have failed in their business attempts?

  • robinmelina

    Love your message, great interview and great book! I finally invented a name for myself as an “embarkologist” because “career” is not directly translatable into correct Castilian Spanish, the main language for my market in Chile. My own approach will be improved through the ideas of this book, helping me to explain the foundations for creating an entrepreneurial existence, which is really how individuals can manage their own futures with exciting tools other than the CV and the college degree! Networking, inventing ideas, passion and honed competencies work well for either the traditional market place or for the undefined market place of innovation, start ups, and free-lancing. Hope the book comes out in Spanish!

  • Snoopy

    Many lessons for starting entrepreneurs:


  • Heidi Haaland

    I agree with you, Ayn. And good mentors in every field also recognize that the transaction works both ways – when you teach and pass on, your own knowledge increases.

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