Develop the entrepreneurship spirit in you

Entrepreneurship is in our DNA, but has taken on different forms today and in the past.

Rooted in the past, entrepreneurship has branched out and paved a way for advancement. Not all this development has been positive, but it has affected us all. If you were to trace your ancestor’s genealogy, more than likely you’d find an entrepreneur in your family tree. Those characteristics lie within you. Today, we need to encourage the development of those characteristics in adults and youth, and by doing so we give the future a chance to improve.

What comes to mind when you hear the term entrepreneur? Do you envision a Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Rockefeller or Capone? The term was first used in 1723 and referred to leadership, initiative, innovation and possibly new design, but it was in practice long before that. It was part of us when we first ventured out from Africa thousands of years ago. It was within us when we set out over the oceans and across continents to look for new opportunities, new resources and new wealth. However, as Joe Abraham in a recent TED talk put it, not all entrepreneurs are alike. They can take on different persona and rise to success through different talents.

Think of the age of exploration. Ferdinand Magellan, Leif Erikson, Christopher Columbus and the Silk Road: These explorers were not just out for exploring, they were looking to capitalize on riches, resources and new business opportunities. They used what information they had at the time, but took great risks for immeasurable prospects. They saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. These are risk takers.

Edison, Deere, Ford, Goode were inventors as well as entrepreneurs as well. They came up with novel ways of using existing products and put their own twist on it. They made the product of service better. They saw a new way of presenting it, perfecting it or producing it that inevitably made them a profit.

Although these entrepreneurs approach a problem or opportunity differently, these entrepreneurs all have common characteristics. Some show stronger than others. Nathan Resnick from “Entrepreneur” magazine lists “5 Key Characteristics Every Entrepreneur Should Have.” One is that they have good communication skills. Entrepreneurs networked well, either with funding, gathering resources or soliciting the help of others. They generally gobble up information and use it to their advantage. Columbus believed the world was round from the scholars that informed him, but how big and how far to the other side was still unknown. Columbus also gathered funding from sources outside his home country and was able to convince a crew to join him on the adventure.

ChildSelf-confidence and self-motivation also play key roles in the character of an entrepreneur. They are go-getters and are always looking to better themselves and make their situation, or that of others, improved. Along with self-motivation, these men and women show initiative. This is what brought the pilgrims over on the Mayflower, the pioneers west, and in the case of Clara Barton, sent nurses to the front lines.

Other skills that resonate in the spirit of an entrepreneur are their analytical abilities and decision making. They do make the tough decisions and take leadership, and at times can be wrong – sometimes hundreds of times, as Edison can attest to. They may seek the help of other experts, but they persevere and press on. It’s what we may call grit. They stay focused and goal oriented. If things do go wrong, they get right back up and are resourceful in solving that problem.

We, as a nation and as a planet, need to nurture this entrepreneurial spirit. It has helped us spread knowledge around the world, and that with destruction too, but it has also brought us closer together as a people. We need entrepreneurs to help solve the problems we face today and will have to face in the future. It’s within us. It’s in us if we give it a chance to grow, especially in youth, and that can cultivate a brighter future for all of us.

To grow and develop these skills, many of which are also aligned with the 21st century skills needed for youth to be successful, and to learn more about youth entrepreneurship and Michigan 4-H, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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