Einstein is often credited for having said,
“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its entire life believing that it’s stupid.”
While it is certainly a feel-good sentiment, I’m not bold enough to claim we’re all geniuses. But there is something that I do believe we all are that most probably don’t realize. We’re all entrepreneurs. Everyone.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t about your job title or about setting out to be self-employed. Every single person who has a job is an entrepreneur in the same way. The only currency any of us truly have in this world is our time. Time is the only thing that is real. And it’s finite. Money is a social construct, a bartering tool. But in and of itself, it has no inherent value. We all know this, whether we act like it is a different story. Money is just a tool to aid in our living. But time, time is all we really have. It’s all we are. Time is such a precious commodity that it may very well be the only priceless thing we can ever possess, or rather experience. Once time is gone, once it is spent, once it is traded away for an experience, or a chore, or an errand, or a job – we can’t get it back. That investment is permanent. Try to keep that in mind next time you catch yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media (guilty). Is it worth that permanent investment of time?
An entrepreneur is someone who creates the confines within which they work. They dictate or at least agree to the terms of the job. They stipulate that the work will be performed on their terms and what level of payment should be rendered for the goods or services provided. They compete with other entrepreneurs servicing their market. They must make themselves stand out from the crowd. They have to learn a bit of marketing, sales, pricing and valuation, etc. But so do we all. This is no different than what you have done when you were on the job hunt. You marketed yourself on your application or with your resume. You distinguished yourself during your interview and likely in various ways leading up to the interview. You determined a fair wage for you and your family in exchange for the labor and time you would give your employer. You performed a cost-benefit analysis with regards to your time, with your life. That is entrepreneurial.
I wanted to draw this parallel because we are likely going to live in a future where this mindset will be a necessity. A majority of the new work opportunities that are being created are in the “gig economy”, or on an independent contractor basis. 94% of net jobs created between 2005 – 2015 were created in the temporary, contract, and gig economy. Work is being created in chunks and then bid out in finite blocks or defined projects to be performed by a third party as opposed to being created in the form of a full time, permanent job. This means the way that many will secure work in the future will be through a very different method than we have been accustomed. Obtaining work is going to become more competitive. It will require marketing ones’ skill sets and abilities against other contenders for the same work. It will require the ability to provide a good or service more efficiently so that your bid will be more competitive. It will require taking advantage of online tools and technology to enhance your abilities and expand your capacities. It will require securing work opportunities repetitively after each project completion (ideally before the end of the current project).
Luckily, this is not as alien of a concept as many of us would feel. We’ve been doing this on the micro level our entire careers. It may seem intimidating on first thought, but like anything else, you’ll become better with practice. And to stay relevant in the workforce through the remainder of the 21st century, I believe many of us will need to develop and perfect our career navigation skills. These skills will be the new “soft skills” in the future of work. To navigate work opportunities and to successfully operate in the future, it will require the development of your very own career navigation tool kit. But you’ve already been trained on how to do this. You’ve successfully landed a job. You’ve been hired. You managed to make yourself appealing and stood out from the crowd to be where you are. It’s not new. It’s only putting a microscope to your best kept secret – you’re already an entrepreneur. You just didn’t realize it.