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Entrepreneurship: Nature vs Nurture

After reading this post (great blog by the way) from successful entrepreneur Wil Schroter, I had to wonder…Are entrepreneurs born or made? Wil lays seems to think successful entrepreneurs are born with the ability to take on great risks, and because of this they are able to really get out there and learn all they need to know to make their venture or quest successful. Business success lessons can be taught, and learned by anyone, but the key to being a successful entrepreneur in his mind, risk-taking, can’t be taught.

If we’re asking whether or not you can take someone who does not support risk and teach them to embrace risk, I think that’s a long shot. I’ve seen lots of people try to fake their tolerance for risk while trying to be entrepreneurial and it just doesn’t work. You can’t teach someone to be OK with not sleeping at night.

Therefore, if you’re born to take risks, you can learn how to apply that risk-taking desire into the business world of entrepreneurship. Born entrepreneurs can be taught how to become better businesspeople. But businesspeople cannot be taught how to become entrepreneurs.

His posting was inspired by this Fortune Small Business article, which goes back and forth on all the entrepreneurs who say that formal education had no help in their success and the academics (and a few entrepreneurs) who say the right education can create entrepreneurs.

What do I think? I believe that Wil is right on.

The inherent natural risk taking ability is really the trait I’ve seen in all the successful entrepreneurs I’ve known (including Wil). I believe that the key to building a successful business and thus being a successful entrepreneur is the natural ability to really just go out there and do whatever it takes to make things happen. It’s never the right time, never the right situation, and never the perfect place to start a business, so one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur is just starting.  A lot of people can’t take this leap because it will probably mean leveraging themselves financially, looking like a fool a lot of times to a lot of people, screwing up a lot, getting an ear full a lot, and being completely overwhelmed…a lot. Most really can’t stomach even the thought of going through all this. But with this complete immersion you are capable of learning and absorbing massive amounts of information that is relevant to the business. This rapid “expertification,” is what ultimately makes up your skill set in building your company and enables you to become a successful entrepreneur. If you can’t handle risk, you’ll never get that far.

So the short answer is (as Wil said)… A good education can take you a long way, but only risk tolerance can take you to the top. Whether that risk tolerance comes from a passion in your mission, hard work on your personal perspective, or is something your born with, it’s what you’ll need to be successful.


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