Can It Be Taught?

Entrepreneurship is a fancy concept, a feel good bold expression, that many colleges and universities claim an ability to teach to emerging adults. It sounds good and looks good in print and media but can this concept be taught is the unanswered question.

Let’s look at possibly the major character trait of an entrepreneur – Failure.

Success or failure is a concept that is deeply internalized and there is no single answer that determines the outcome of either. Success or failure is always in the mind of the beholder, but is commented on by others who claim an ability to unilaterally determine the success or failure of another. Generalizing I feel one is safe in declaring the only true sign of failure is the inability to try.

Success and failure are not monetized goals, but are goals that have the investment of time by the person undertaking a task. The judgment of success by many is “how much money did you make”? If not equal to the same time period at minimum wage standards then deemed unsuccessful by many. What is forgotten is the learning experience of undertaking a project and how well it prepares one for the next project.

The major distinction of entrepreneurship is the ability to “fail” and use that experience to try again. The vast preponderance of people always fail because of the fear of failing. They prefer to play it safe and never try due to that fear of being accused of failure. Rather than suffer the disapproval of peers exclaiming the “I told you so” observations, the true entrepreneur accepts failing is the process of learning to succeed.

The difference is the entrepreneurial spirit is manifested by the willingness to try, to learn, and to try again knowing each experience is a building block to success. It is a brutal process that requires a sense of high self worth and self esteem. The process is built upon failing, getting knocked down, being embarrassed, yet being self reliant enough to get back up and do it all over again.

Can that be taught? Is there any formal training that educates one unwilling to try, to try?

Many colleges and universities claim an ability to teach failure but what courses could possibly do that is a central question. The process a college uses to decide whom to admit to the college may be a more important factor than what is taught while the student attends the college.

If the child has been subject to reward and punishment in their backgrounds and has learned by teaching and example from their parents and peers then that may be the bigger factor in developing entrepreneurs. The college curriculum can extend the teachings to a willing entrepreneur of the pitfalls of failure to analyzed risk and reward, but it’s doubtful the teachings can change the perspective of the student. The choice of students to attend the training is probably the more important consideration.

To fall down repeatedly, and to get back up over and over, is a mark of entrepreneurs. Teaching that confidence is difficult, whether institution or parent.

Bob Johnson is owner/founder of The Cotton Company located in Wake Forest, N.C. The Cotton Company is an 11 y.o. incubator start up retail business concept located in a historic building converted for entrepreneurship.