August 10, 2012

11:30 am

Over the course of the last couple years, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to peek inside the minds of hundreds of brilliant entrepreneurs.  Like snowflakes, I’ve come to learn that no two business leaders are alike; there are far fewer commonalities among the breed than I once imagined.  Many are biz dev, some are technical, some are both.  Some shine on camera, others prefer to operate from the shadows.  Some have MBA’s from prestigious business schools, others are college dropouts.

But in the process of getting to know many of these entrepreneurs, there is one overarching trait that does seem to predict success.  That intangible quality – a look in an entrepreneur’s eye – that makes you believe wholeheartedly in the mission that he or she is pursuing.

And there’s a one-word test you can offer them to gauge the strength of this trait.


Why are you doing what you’re doing?  

This simple question grants a view into the window of an entrepreneur’s purpose.

The answer’s content is important, but secondary.  Oftentimes, it’s more about how they say it versus what they’re saying.  When probed, the right response is compelling – and the polygraph’s needle remains steady.

They’re doing what they’re doing, because simply, there is no other choice.  Entrepreneurship for these individuals isn’t a choice, it’s a calling.

They’re out to create a new normal and don’t seek others’ validation in the process.

If they stay in the game long enough, it’s all but guaranteed that their course will change.  It is the strength of this purpose that dictates the level of confidence upon each turn.

It is a simple question, yet in my opinion, a profound indicator of what’s to come.

So if you haven’t already, take a second to ask yourself, “Why?”  Is your answer authentic?  Is your answer resolute?  Is your answer a conviction?

If not, it may be time to look in the mirror and ask, “Why not?

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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