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Articles - The Entrepreneurial Personality

The Survivor Entrepreneur

Friday, August 06, 1999




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


Are you impatient with details? Do others work too slowly? Are you hypercritical? Do you make things happen? Do others admire you? Can you usually handle twice the work of others? Are you tenacious? Are your successes due to your own hard work? Do you thrive on adversity?

If you recognize yourself in this short quiz, then you are probably a survivor entrepreneur, someone who overcame great obstacles to accomplish their dreams in life. Many entrepreneurs fit this profile. For example, if you are impatient with details, it is because you are a big picture thinker. You are a visionary who can see the outcome before the average person. While the details are important in creating the outcome, without the vision, your life can become nothing but maintaining the details of life. You are impatient with details and with people who spend their days committed to details. But without those detail people, would you have anyone to help you turn your dreams into reality? Others don't really work too slowly, but it appears so to the survivor personality.

Because your survival depended upon quick action and attending to what was immediately necessary to accomplish your dream, this type of entrepreneur has honed efficiency to a fine science. Grass does not grow under your feet. Your gaze is constantly on the horizon, looking for the next opportunity or the next problem to solve. If you're a passenger in the car (which is usually not the case!) you tell the driver to turn right at the next intersection before arriving at the intersection. It seems slow and inefficient to you to tell the driver only as you arrive at the intersection or even after you have passed it, which is what the "slow" people do. However, those slow people do enjoy the ride more than you do. For them the fun is on the way to the destination. Your ability to do a lot of work is based upon efficiency and vision. Because you already can see where you're going and because you are constantly scanning the environment for improvements, you are a marvel at being in the right place at the right time. However, when you err, you are exceptionally hard on yourself.

When you are usually right, it is hard to accept failure, even if a small one. Learn to accept failure graciously; you'll have more friends and supporters that way. Others may have experienced more failure than you have and they need to know that you understand and are human too. Don't stop being right, but be more patient with your errors and those of others. Yes the survivor entrepreneur makes things happen. He or she is a bundle of energy that few can keep up with. Because of your uncanny insight and charisma, you have the ability to be a great leader too. People admire you for your talents. They want to share in your good fortune by helping in some small way. Be aware of the important responsibility that you carry. A leader who engenders this kind of trust has to be extremely ethical. Do not assume because your charisma has won people over that those same people fully understand what they are agreeing to. You are the one with the vision. You need to be responsible to lead people where the need and want to go, not just what is best for you. Many survivor entrepreneurs underestimate their strengths. They often assume that others have the same level of tenacity, the same ability to work hard that they do. They may think others are lazy or weak because they can't keep up. The survivor entrepreneur believes that all it takes is applying him or herself to succeed. However, it's important for the survivor entrepreneur to realize that your big picture thinking is what has made you successful, not necessarily hard work. Because you can anticipate fairly accurately what the next move should be this saves you time, energy and many mistakes.

Others who do not have this skill must learn by trial and error, a timely and more laborious step-by-linear-step process. Not everyone has this visionary ability. It is your gift and one that should be used generously and wisely. Others have different gifts to contribute that are just as valuable, but without visionary ability, they really can't so easily understand what you grasp in an instant. So take the time to walk them through what you know. When they do understand your picture, you may find that the detail person or the linear thinker has a profound contribution that you overlooked. The word survivor is used to describe this type of entrepreneur because you have overcome extreme hardship to arrive at your successes. Some of you grew up in poverty. Some of you never knew one or even both of your parents. Some of you have overcome illness, physical disability, a poor education or learning problems to achieve the American Dream. Some people wither in the face of adversity but not the survivor entrepreneur. He or she views adversity as a challenge, as an opportunity to prove what he or she is made of. The adversity may not be pleasant, but conquering it is a thrill. In a crisis the survivor entrepreneur is the hero. However, it is important for survivors to be careful not to make a life of surviving. Some survivor entrepreneurs keep creating crises in their lives, often unconsciously, so that they can get the thrill of mastering the crisis. The entrepreneur may be able to handle this excitement but your family and friends may tire quickly of the emotional roller coaster. Save thesurviving for real adversity and take the time to stop and smell the roses with the ones you love. There are deep and profound rewards in the tiny things that occupy ordinary life too, if you will explore that territory. Just ask your child or grandchild to lead you to this simple life, even if only once in a while.