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1.12 Entrepreneurial Mindset

We also argue that entrepreneurs and successful entrepreneurs have a different mindset and attitudes (Brännback and Carsrud 2009). Research has found differences in the cognitive styles of entrepreneurs and that successful entrepreneurs have different entrepreneurial leadership styles. Some of these skills can be taught, so entrepreneurial education is not all bad. Because some characteristics are attitudes that can be influenced through education, but some of this is closer to art. For an in-depth discussion of various aspects of the entrepreneurial mind, we refer you to our edited volume (Carsrud and Brännback 2009) in which there are 15 chapters dedicated to various topics about the entrepreneurial mind.

Based on research, we strongly believe that any person with a desire to pursue an opportunity and to achieve a goal can be entrepreneurial and can become an entrepreneur if all other factors are equal. While we have to be cautious in defining success—as that is also a matter of kind and degree—it is possible for any entrepreneur to be successful. In Chapter 2 we return to the discussion of what success means. Moreover, for a person to be entrepreneurial does not mean that the person has to start a for-profit company as demonstrated in the preceding example of Dr. Jonas Salk.

To us entrepreneurship is an attitude toward life as much as it is an ability to create and then lead a firm. Having said that, we think it is vital to understand how entrepreneurs think since we also argue that entrepreneurs appear to perceive their reality differently than those who are not entrepreneurs. For example, why do some persons, and not others, decide to become entrepreneurs? Why do some quit a job in a large firm with a good salary and nice benefits and become life-style entrepreneurs by starting a winery or an art gallery? How do some consider such an option desirable and feasible while others do not? While theory maintains that opportunities exist when there is a competitive imperfection, we argue that very few entrepreneurs consider a potential opportunity in those terms.

We believe most potential entrepreneurs will think of a possible idea from the personal perspective of whether it is something one wants to do (desirable) and something one thinks one can do (feasible). This notion is consistent with the theory of planned behavior, which posits that a person who finds an opportunity desirable and feasible is likely to create a venture. Absent intention, there is no action, and thus no new venture. For a greater in-depth discussion of this theory, see Carsrud and Brännback (2009) with several chapters that explain aspects of this theory with respect to entrepreneurs.

To make our position clear, this book focuses on the individual thinking of creating, attempting to, or actually already starting a venture to address an opportunity or need. Yet, we think it is important to offer some justification to these desires and attempts in a wider perspective. In fact, most societies want entrepreneurs and for these to create ventures. Entrepreneurship is not just associated with Capitalist societies as we find entrepreneurs in avowed Communist countries like Cuba, Vietnam, and China. Most societies, other than North Korea, have realized entrepreneurship is important for national wealth creation. We are sure there are entrepreneurs in North Korea, but this is one place where you can be shot for being one. That ugly reality aside, since the 1980s entrepreneurship has been a mantra for many. It has also become a source of concern when it seems to be in a slow decline as in the United States since 2008. However, entrepreneurship has been around and studied for centuries and we expect it to continue to do so for an unforeseeable future.

Finally, we want to be perfectly clear, entrepreneurship is for anyone willing to take the time and expend the energy. Entrepreneurs are men and women. They come in every color of skin and ethnic variety. They are gay, straight, and transgender. They are both young and old. They are geniuses and the not so bright. They may be Olympic athletes and they may have disabilities. You do not have to live in Silicon Valley to become an entrepreneur. We know of plenty of rural entrepreneurs and those in urban centers. You do not have to be rich to be an entrepreneur. We in this book try to give you examples of a wide variety of people who have become entrepreneurs. You can be an entrepreneur regardless of what is thrown at you. We are reminded of a story of a 57-year-old woman whose husband divorced her. She lost everything, including the house, car, and her money. As a parting jab, her ex-husband told her to get a dog. She did, a large English Bull Dog. She started making cards with the dog’s picture on them. They sold rapidly, she made more, branched out into other products with the dogs picture. Today, she has the last laugh on her ex-husband as her venture is now a multimillion dollar business. The deciding factor is a mindset.

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