The myth (and lucrative business) of “entrepreneurship”

English: Cedar Rapids, IA, June 26, 2008 -- Th...

Photo by Greg Henshall / FEMA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve learned a couple of pretty important lessons in my life:

  1. If everyone is zigging, you should zag. (AKA. Don’t buy the stock that the professors are buying.)
  2. Selling false hope is a common trick used to scam people out of money. (Self-help books are a common method.)

Number one is fairly obvious – in a soccer game, you don’t want to be where the ball is, you want to be where the ball is going. If you ever watch a young soccer league though, you’ll know what most people do in business. A small crowd of kids chasing after a ball – Brownian motion.

Number two is what “entrepreneurship” has become in the last 15 years. Before I was in university (in the 90s), it was “consulting,” but it’s the same basic idea. Various gurus (false prophets?) are going around North America telling us all “If you just quit your job and do this vague undefined task that you love to do, you’ll become insanely rich and not have to worry about work ever again.”
All you have to do is buy this book, pay to attend this founders roundtable, join this MBA class, pay to pitch to these VCs, buy from these financial consulting, etc. Do you notice the trend here? All you have to do is pay for it.

Note, you don’t always have to pay though, there are tons of well sponsored events with many large businesses presenting that would just love to have you attend and listen to how they are going to disrupt the world with technology x or idea y. The more people that attend these ones, the better. The money to be made isn’t from your ticket, but from your attendance. Ie. the new Facebook model of business, sell your users to your customers. This works especially well because the users are self-chosen. People who are interested in the new magic tech that will help them break through to the other side with their idea.

Yes, if you pay to attend the talk with the one founder who did break through the brick ceiling and come out reasonably unscathed on the other side, you might learn that one trick they did to become rich.

Yes, if you attend the found round table with Facebook’s lead engineer presenting how their updates to the API will change everything and that you should build apps on it right away if you want to be taken seriously as a business, you may just have that breakthrough moment.

However, I’m sorry to be blunt, but statistically you won’t.

Worse off, you’ll be falling for the Texas sharpshooter fallacy in the worst way possible. You will only see people who were successful and miss all of those who wasted their savings, ruined their marriages, hurt their friends and destroyed their career in the vague hope that their idea would be worth a billion dollars some day.

You’ll have fallen for the false prophets in the hopes of false profits.

My advice, which I give for free and you can take it if you want is: Enjoy your friends, build a beautiful family, find hope, joy and peace where you can, and when they all zig, you zag.

Only then can you get ahead of the ball.

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