3 Ways You Can Work Like an Entrepreneur

 Young female executive standing and looking at camera.

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Increase happiness and avoid burnout by converting anger into energy.

If you aren’t familiar with entrepreneurs, you might assume that they lead the lonely life: You have the image of them toiling in a garage (Hewlett and Packard, Jobs and Wozniack) or going it alone to keep a struggling business in the black.

If that’s what you believe, have I got news for you: When entrepreneurs are “doing their thing” they are so driven (in a healthy way), so focused (as in the precursor to flow) and riding cloud nine. Entrepreneurs awake each day yearning to get to work. Often, they don’t stop working until someone prompts them to take a break so they can have a meal.

The good news is even if you’re not an entrepreneur, you can be entrepreneurial. The ABCs of doing so are described below:

Make It Better

The entrepreneur has no need to invent anything at all to be happy! One of the most respected scholars in the field of entrepreneurship, Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter, said that entrepreneurs engage in “creative destruction”—replacing old ways of doing things with new and improved methodologies. If you have “a better idea” regarding how something is done, you have most of what it takes to be entrepreneurial.

All you must do is improve upon the status quo in a particular business arena or market. Your “better idea” doesn’t even need to be terribly novel. Consider how Amazon handles returns: If you ask for a refund on an item and it is within a reasonable period of time, a few keystrokes on your computer gets the job done. You do have to ship the item, but contrast returns to Mr. Bezos’ shop with most other vendors. Part of his genius is realizing that standing in line to return an item that’s wrong adds insult to injury. Yes, Amazon is much more that easy returns, but that alone is a game-changing idea.

Passion Project

You must be impassioned to be entrepreneurial and make yourself happy at work. In fact, you must see no impediments at all to actualizing your dream.

The worst thing that can happen to an adult is to lose a child, particularly to a murderer. It happened to the woman who founded MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) and the man who founded America’s Most Wanted. Instead of seeking revenge for their losses, these people converted their rage into pro-social endeavors: MADD, to “get” all drunk drivers off the road, and America’s Most Wanted to bring all criminals to justice.

The entrepreneurs behind these endeavors never flagged in the work it took to develop them. You needn’t suffer a major tragedy to get angry and “get them” in a pro-social manner. Does homelessness enrage you? Fight to help build it in a manner akin to Habitat for Humanity. Take any societal “wrong” and solve it creatively, and you’re guaranteed passion and entrepreneurial energy for life.

Avoid the Burn

Why is anger that is not converted into entrepreneurial energy the No. 1 predictor of job burnout? Burnout is born of Sisyphean work—rolling a rock up a hill only to have it roll down again, over and over, for eternity. Or, “the same old, same old.” If you feel that this sort of work is wasting your mind—your potential to do creative things—how can you feel anything but anger? The problem is, virtually all of us must work to pay bills, so it’s not guaranteed that we can march into a boss’s office and scream, “Take this job and shove it.”

If you realize that you are angry but need to work, be entrepreneurial on the job. Take the worst aspect of your job or your company and improve upon it. The paradox of adding entrepreneurial work to your life is that it is energizing! It gives you a “runner’s high” because the feeling of doing something good—what psychologists call “self-efficacy”—taps into all the reward centers of your brain and spews “mood elevating” chemicals into your body.

STEVEN BERGLAS, Ph.D., has spent more than 25 years as a faculty member of Harvard Business School’s Department of Psychiatry. He has published more the 70 articles and journal reports on psychological burnout and self-defeating behavior. He is also author four books, including his latest Stay Hungry & Kick Burnout in the Butt.

 

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