Entrepreneurs Are Made, Not Born

Solving problems and learning from failures are two key ways to prepare for success.
October 15, 2012

As the child and grandchild of entrepreneurs, I felt my genes predisposed me to start a business. But real estate guru and author Cliff Michaels says it’s a myth that someone is a born entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship can be taught, he says—and more important, it should be taught.

“Entrepreneurial thinking is for everyone,” Michaels says, because it’s all about problem-solving, people skills, critical thinking, passion and gratitude—the skills and motivations of successful people.

At age 18, when he began dabbling in real estate, what he learned from mentors on the streets was a lot different from what was taught in his college classrooms. “Why aren’t colleges teaching this stuff?” he asked himself. His on-the-job learning groomed him—and, of course, many others—for success, Michaels believes. Those same at-work experiences also inspired him to write his book, The 4 Essentials of Entrepreneurial Thinking: What Successful People Didn't Learn in School.

Michaels says the purpose behind the book, which presents life skills, action strategies, core values and purpose, is to help readers achieve the equivalent of a real-world master’s degree in business administration.

Since his college days, Michaels has seen a curriculum shift—courses cover some of his book’s concepts—emotional intelligence, how to learn from failure and following your passion, for example. But he’d like to see more teaching in the area of entrepreneurial thinking.

“All the things that make a Mozart or a Tiger Woods are not innate,” he says. “They are learned over 10 to 15 years. The willingness to fail and learn from it is what entrepreneurs do really well.”


Evangelist for Entrepreneurship

In spreading the word that anyone can think like an entrepreneur, Cliff Michaels so far has donated 10,000 copies of his 4 Essentials book to underprivileged students and young professionals. He often donates through the University of California-Berkley’s SAGE (Student Achievement Guided by Experience) Scholars or similar programs.

“Whatever topic you teach, whether it’s Business 101 or science, integrate the four essentials,” Michaels says. “Practice problem-solving. It’s a good way to learn more about whatever you’re teaching.”

And if you think core values such as passion, gratitude, humility, integrity and tolerance—values that all successful entrepreneurs share—can’t be taught, then think again.

“You can teach values. Really good businesspeople delegate and collaborate and have the humility to learn and get things done,” Michaels insists.


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