Why Entrepreneurial Thinking Is For Everyone Now

“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 insights on: Books, Career Development, Interviews

Jocelyn K. Glei

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As Editor-in-Chief and Director of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei leads the 99U in its mission to provide the “missing curriculum” on making ideas happen. She oversees the Webby Award-winning 99u.com website, curates the popular 99U Conference, and is the editor of the 99U books, Manage Your Day-to-Day and Maximize Your Potential.
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