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Rob Wolfe

Do you agree that as a general rule entrepreneurs must be a little "irrational" in believing in themselves in order to be successful?

Asked November 19, 2012 by in Business Fundamentals

In his Inc.com article, Jeff Haden points out there’s one essential trait every successful entrepreneur possesses: Irrational Optimism.

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32 Answers

7

Gary Chomiak

Gary Chomiak November 19, 2012

I most certainly do. The reality of running a business has the ability to produce negative emotions in the entrepreneur's mind, so a healthy dose of irrational optimism can help the entrepreneur make the necessary actions to succeed.

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6

Sumner M. Davenport

Sumner M. Davenport November 19, 2012

"Irrational" by whose definition?

"Those who say something can't be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it."

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4

Carlos Ponce

Carlos Ponce November 19, 2012

I believe that entrepreneurs, as a whole, could benefit from being a bit 'irrational' in believing in themselves as human beings with great potential and capacities, but should balance it with being 'rational', feet-on-ground when it comes to the very nature and commercial feasibility of their endeavors. That's the trick.

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4

Willard Rogers

Willard Rogers November 19, 2012

Absolutely agree, being an entrepreneur is the most challenging profession an individual will ever undertake and it requires fortitude that the "rational" person does not care to engage. The biggest challenge is that you have a vision and rarely does anyone else share or understand that vision - that is until you begin making money - and then everyone wants a piece of the action. Irrational? - Absolutely.

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2

Kenneth Manesse Sr.

Kenneth Manesse Sr. November 19, 2012

For me I like being identified as irrational, because the definition of "Entrepreneur" is to be a risk taker... So, I would say you have to be a little irrational if your going to take a risk.

As a "older" entrepreneur I can say that I take a lot more calculated risk now, LOL. (maybe not as irrational, age and wisdom, has taught me a few thing)
:-)

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1

Daniel Sexton

Daniel Sexton November 21, 2012

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - George Bernard Shaw

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1

Luis Heimpel

Luis Heimpel November 19, 2012

Definately! If you don't believe in yourself who else is going to???

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1

Michael Pfeffer

Michael Pfeffer November 19, 2012

A little irrational inasmuch as they are betting on an unknown future. The optimism comes from their belief that they can mitigate the risk or at least overcome it.

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1

Rich Grehalva

Rich Grehalva November 19, 2012, Edited November 19, 2012

Hi Rob,
I do NOT believe I'm irrational in believing myself to be successful...just the opposite. It is rational thought and actions that create my success.
BTW here is the definition:
ir·ra·tion·al
1. without the faculty of reason; deprived of reason.
2.without or deprived of normal mental clarity or sound judgment.
3.not in accordance with reason; utterly illogical: irrational arguments.
I do not relate to any of the 3 definitions given.
I do believe it is rational to think I can succeed even if others don't.
I do think it is rational to believe I can make a difference for my clients .
I do believe it is rational to create something that is not there because it is needed. Henry Ford said "If I had asked my customers what they needed...they would have said a faster horse"
Best,
Rich

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Willard Rogers Willard Rogers November 19, 2012 Hello Rich, technically you are correct in order to succeed we must possess every characteristic you point out. As risk takers we are the irrational few that know we are better off creating our own destiny, against all odds. The irrational point is that we face the unknown with inspired zeal day after day, with energy and internal motivation, some days I feel like I am out of my mind, but then I look at the name on the company logo and I am inspired again - the rational essence of my irrational optimism.

1

Amara Rose

Amara Rose November 19, 2012

Hi Rob ~

Interesting dialogue around terminology. While I agree with Floyd and Rich that rationality can propel an entrepreneur towards success, a sense of wonder and an inventive mind make the difference between just 'having a business' and building something stupendous. Two of my favorite quotes that speak to this essential left/right brain fusion are:

1) "You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you." ~ Isadora Duncan
2) "The rest of creation is waiting, breathless, for you to take your place." ~ David Whyte

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0

Simon Berenyi

Simon Berenyi November 20, 2012

As an entrepreneur, I find it irrational to be rational about what is possible. I think you are either a rational person or a possibility person. I believe in what's possible, because it has no limits, or boundaries - just like my imagination.

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0

Mark Cohen  800-213-3392 ext. 10...

Mark Cohen 800-213-3392 ext. 10... January 9, 2013

This question assumes a finite definition of 'irrational' in the context of the question. perhaps that provided in the writer's referenced article, but the question alone is 'irrational.'

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0

Ms Ra

Ms Ra February 12, 2013

Good question, I was thinking about this very thing the other day. It seems in order for an entrepreneur to be successful they must not care about others. I know this sounds against the often cited "team collaboration, work hard play hard mentality" but think about it. For example, facebook, zuckerberg did whatever he wanted at the cost of others in order to make it mainstream. He didn't care. He gives away money now to non-profits but that is after the fact. Yes, I believe one would have to be a self serving ego maniac to stay extremely focused on getting where they want to go. :)

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0

Patrick Alff

Patrick Alff November 21, 2012

Agreed, if you're not overly optimistic about your own project, nobody else will be! But don't lose touch with reality though...

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0

Lidia Paly

Lidia Paly January 11, 2013

Yes, most definitely. Especially if you're an entrepreneur who is a salesman at the same time. Copius amounts of optimism, confidence in oneself and the belief that sometimes the impossible can be achieved is greatly important.

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0

Jason Palmer

Jason Palmer December 14, 2012

yes, they are all nuts, the only way to compensate is to surround yourself with sane people and business advisors

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0

Joseph  P. Lanham

Joseph P. Lanham February 15, 2013

Overly enthusiastic, perhaps - irrational, no.

Irrational attracts the same - employees, investors, etc.

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0

Julie Ashton

Julie Ashton November 22, 2012

Absolutely! Entrepreneurs often have creative out of the box ideas and will appear irrational to others as a result. They need to ensure they have people in their support environment such as a business coach (me for instance!) who will believe in the potential without judgement and that can also gently bring the idea down to earth with feasibility checks etc before embarkling on launching it.

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0

Roland Catellier

Roland Catellier November 22, 2012

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people. G.B. Shaw

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0

Andrew Whitfield

Andrew Whitfield November 24, 2012

No, calculated risk to try to achieve a better solution is a very sane and very rational self-preservation mechanism. I don't believe Jeff Haden has a good handle on the skills possessed by entrepreneurs. Being irrational is counter-productive and blocks your ability to make careful and calculated risks. Being successful is hard work, and if you're successful it's often not because you believe in yourself, but because you believe in an ideal and want to see it realised. You may surround yourself in people in whom you believe, but ultimately you're driven by a vision for something better than what you have. That's entirely rational. What's irrational is people consuming their available living time doing pointless things and claiming to be successful. Curious question.

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0

Dan Seligson

Dan Seligson January 16, 2013

No! I dont agree. Be conservative, and have a ton of cushion in the bank. Plan, adapt and work. But be realistic that business fail all the time, and do everything you need to do to manage the risk.

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0

Joseph Bernard

Joseph Bernard November 19, 2012

I think an entrepreneur should have a deep level of confidence and understanding on the niche that they are trying to exploit. If others think that irrational so be it.

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0

Jane Tepper

Jane Tepper November 19, 2012

Irrational, Passionate, Dedicated, Forward thinking and maybe highly motivated as there is no one else to sound your own trumpet as well as yourself!

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0

George Bohlender

George Bohlender November 19, 2012, Edited November 19, 2012

What's irrational about believing in oneself in order to achieve success? After all, if you don't have faith in yourself, then why should anyone else...? Irrational optimism? Sounds like an oxymoron to me. Optimism comes from an extremely rational mind that goes to sleep believing that there will be a tomorrow, as opposed to ending it all and ensuring that there definitely won't be.

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0

Mick Young

Mick Young November 19, 2012

Absolutely! Like anything else in business and in life - you're only going to get out of it (your business) the effort you put into it. Any entrepreneur worth his (or her) salt and who is truly passionate about what it is they are doing will ALWAYS have "irrational optimism!"

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0

Floyd Talbot

Floyd Talbot November 19, 2012

NO. If fact entrepreneurs must possess a higher degree of rationality than most other people. If they don't they will end up going bankrupt. Level-headedness keeps business owners from going over a cliff or keeping their heads in the clouds (wishful thinking).

If they are not thinking and show a steady hand by employing sound business tools and practices, such as for budgeting, planning, and strategy, they will be just another statistic among business failures.

I think, a lot of time those who write on a topic like this get irrationality, optimism, and a conservative approach to doing business confused. It is not irrational to be aggressive in pursuit in the market. However, aggressiveness must be tempered by reality planning. If it isn't business owners will hit the fizzle factor and either consume all their resouces prior to reaching the market successfully or allocate those resources ineffectively. This approach takes every bit of rationality available.

Apart from this, define "irrationality." I am using it in its normal usage.

For those of you interested in a more in depth answer, I have a new book due for release December 15, 2012 that discusses the issues I address here called "Customer-Driven Budgeting: Prepare, Engage, Execute, A Small Business Guide, by Business Expert Press, New York.

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0

Barbara Goldberg

Barbara Goldberg November 19, 2012

I believe that is part of the definition of being an entrepreneur.

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0

Gerald Grinter

Gerald Grinter November 19, 2012, Edited November 19, 2012

ALL Entrepreneurs believe in the impossible! All of us!

That's half the fun!

Some us don't dream big enough though!

Gerald

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0

Peter Crosby

Peter Crosby November 20, 2012

No. Entrepreneurs need to have a cold blooded rational understanding of the risks, and then proceed despite the risks. Irrational belief in oneself without understanding is folly.

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0

Rob Wolfe

Rob Wolfe November 20, 2012, Edited January 9, 2013

I agree with Amara that my question has sparked some interesting discussion and debate. I enjoy stirring the pot and drawing out differing viewpoints. Thanks to all who have responded and contributed so far--keep the comments and opinions coming.

Update: Thanks, all, for the insightful discussion. A lot of good points were made.

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0

Jamie Dobay

Jamie Dobay November 28, 2012

Absolutely. Entrepreneurs are "box cutters" as I like to say. Our society is full of people that are taught to go to school, get good grades, so you can get a job and work the 40x40x40 plan. While I agree education, personal development, and other things come into play, its about being consistent, persistent, helping others, and following through on your dreams. We are seen as irrational because we are 2% ers. I am irrational and crazy, but I wouldnt change who I am today or where I am going for anyone.

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0

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer November 20, 2012

Irrational? No! Confident? Committed? Absolutely!

An Entrepreneur must acknowledge the possibility of failure but believe it won't happen to them. Once an Entrepreneur believes they might fail, they already have. That's not irrational. It's a success driven mind set.

Success requires confidence and commitment. Why commit if you are not confident and how can you be confident if you are not committed? There is nothing irrational about expecting success if you are confident and committed. It doesn't guarantee success but it does minimize the potential for failure.

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