Call Me Crazy: The Secret to Becoming an Entrepreneur

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There's one booth you won't find at the local job fair, and that's because there's no one path to becoming an entrepreneur.

But Linda Rottenberg, the CEO and co-founder of the global-non profit Endeavor, says that many entrepreneurs have a certain set of traits. She says that when it comes to dreaming up earthshaking ideas, entrepreneurs must give themselves permission to really go crazy.

In her new book "Crazy is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging when Everyone Else Zags," Rottenberg throws out the buzzy entrepreneurial lingo in favor of the risks and personal initiative that define success.

“The problem isn’t about coming up with the idea, it’s about giving yourself permission to pursue your dream—that’s where people get stuck,” says Rottenberg. “It’s not an absence of ideas or business techniques, it’s the absences of courage to actually be willing to put yourself on the line and maybe even be called crazy.”

Rottenberg has worked with over 1,000 entrepreneurs in over 20 countries around the globe. She says that for many of these individuals, the main obstacles to success aren’t financial, but psychological and emotional.

“What I tell people is they over think and over plan sometimes,” she says. “People sometimes hide between the PowerPoint and the ‘perfect’ plans. Really what they need to do is get out there, take the leap of faith, and give themselves permission to pursue something that might even be called outlandish.”

There is no one “right way” to be an entrepreneur, but Rottenberg says that in her eyes, the profession is more about taking a risk.

“There are always some things that are going to be out of your control, but chaos is the friend of the entrepreneur,” she says. “Stability favors the status quo. The times of disruption and the times of economic upheaval are actually some of the best times to start new companies.”

Rottenberg says that entrepreneurs shouldn’t wait for venture capital funding to start their businesses, adding that financial restrictions can discourages innovation.

“Most of the companies I’ve worked with—1,000 of them—about 80 percent didn’t have business plans,” she says. “They just see a pain point, they start solving the problem, they start getting real-life customers and getting that feedback. That’s what propels them forward.”

Entrepreneurship is always changing, and Rottenberg says the market now spans far beyond the young, Silicon Valley techie in a hoodie.

“I’ve worked with two women in Rio that started a hair care company out of their basement,” she says. “Today, that business, Beleza Natural, has $80 million in revenue and serves 100,000 clients.”

Rottenberg says that entrepreneurs don’t have to “go all in” during the early stages of their business—often entrepreneurs keep their day jobs for a period of time while they’re testing their business models and they take “baby steps” before they commit to it full time.

“Every dreamer I know has been called crazy at some point—whether it was Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, Sara Blakely of Spanx, or Jack Ma who took Alibaba, the Chinese company, public,” she says. “So to me, yes, crazy is a compliment.”