The Exultation of Entrepreneurship Porn

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I mentor a lot of young adults seeking to strike out in life and make their marks in the sands in of time. What I see many of them wanting to do is to found their own companies with exhilaration, risk-taking and passion. Overall, I see this zeal from a positive perspective and salute the young men and women who are doing great things on their own and succeeding in the challenging times of Nigeria today.

However, I also see a lot of what is now called “entrepreneurship porn”. This phenomenon is luring away many ambitious young adults into launching their own businesses somewhat prematurely, when they would be better off working in a more organized and established organization. Not everybody has the capacity to run a business but too many are catching the “entrepreneurship porn” fever.

Everybody wants to be the next Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, etc. The success stories of the founders of these vastly successful companies is so alluring that many young adults find it difficult to resist the desire to venture. I remember when desiring to work for established organizations was the norm e.g. Andersen, KPMG, GTBank, Unilever, etc. Graduates finished from school and wanted to get employed and forge their careers in these organizations.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in one of the opening chapters to his 2017 book, “The Talent Delusion,” explains why many ambitious young adults today would be better off working for an established company than trying to build their own business.
Tomas said, “the vast majority tell me, ‘You know, I’m going to be a startup guy. I’m launching something. I’m going to create the next big X, Y, Z.” Exact same thing our young adults in Nigeria tell me every time we talk about what they want to do with their lives.

“Who are we to crush their spirits?” Chamorro-Premuzic said. “But I think we have a responsibility to inform people that the probability of attaining that is really, really, really low, and that to actually attain it, they’re going have to sacrifice so many things.”
Today, my observation is that many young Nigerians are hypnotized by stories of entrepreneurs who, against the odds, made it big. Even if they’re not prepared — personally or professionally — to launch a business, they forge ahead anyway.

“People feel like, ‘Oh, I have an idea. I don’t like the idea of having a boss. I’m going to be the next Elon Musk, (Dangote)'” Chamorro-Premuzic said. “It’s not that easy.” He says telling people that you are an entrepreneur is “sexy”.

Morra Aarons-Mele, the founder of Women Online and The Mission List, coined the term “entrepreneurship porn” in a 2014 Harvard Business Review article, to describe “an airbrushed reality in which all work is always meaningful and running your own business is a way to achieve better work/life harmony.”

In the article, she makes the point that entrepreneurship is hardly as liberating as it can seem: “Starting a company doesn’t mean being freed from the grind; it means that the buck stops with you, always, even if it’s Sunday morning or Friday night.”

When Aarons-Mele launched her companies, “I just wanted to make a living,” she said, and she knew that “I just never wanted to go to an office again for 10 hours a day.” But a couple years in, something changed.
She goes on to say that, “Too many aspiring founders think entrepreneurship is about ‘diving in and the problematic notion that starting a business is all about taking risks”.

“There’s something a little bit inherent in a lot of founders’ psyches of, ‘You’ve just got to dive in,’ that it’s the type of thing that you can’t go and learn about before you do it,” said Noam Wasserman., a director in the Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. He said, “the common misconception is that “you have to fail, learn from that, pick yourself back up.” He is however, of the view that you need to learn how a business runs before you go and dive in.

A University of Wisconsin study found that contrary to the popular belief, most successful entrepreneurs, don’t quit their day jobs to start a company. The study found that entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs were 33% less likely to fail than those who did not.
Recent research also reveals just how important it is to wait until you have enough experience before building a company.

An MIT study found the average age of a successful startup founder is 45. The study authors found that work experience explains much of the age advantage. They write in the Harvard Business Review, “Relative to founders with no relevant experience, those with at least three years of prior work experience in the same narrow industry as their startup were 85% more likely to launch a highly successful startup.”

It is pertinent to note says Chamorro-Premuzic , that technical expertise in the area where you’re founding a company is one of the most “underrated” attributes of a successful entrepreneur.

To succeed, entrepreneurs need to know that it is harder to do your own business, it’s an all-consuming exercise with never a day off. It’s your sole responsibility, always something you need to get done which must be done.

We also need to know that passion, exhilaration and zeal can become our peril. We need to consider the importance of people, financing and the diligence you need to continue when the first burst of passion wears off. As in all things in life, even becoming an entrepreneur becomes a grind. It is usually only experience and deeper knowledge learnt in a structured environment before becoming an entrepreneur that will greatly enhance your chances of success.