Monday, October 14, 2019

Is Courage the Key to Entrepreneurship?

At my two recent posts on the nature of entrepreneurship (see: Why Israel Kirzner Should Be Awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics and A Couple of Notes on Kirznerian Entrepreneurship), I see a commenter pointing to a person he considers an expert on entrepreneurship.

It is, in fact, a person who promotes the idea that courage is the key to entrepreneurship.

It may be the case that some people need more courage to act on their alertness but that is far from the bedrock of entrepreneurship.

I have given plenty of eager people the opportunity in certain situations to be alert and come back with profitable solutions. Some were successful, others failed. None lacked courage. The ones who failes lacked entrepreneurial vision.

I suspect an awful lot of people are driven in the wrong direction by others telling them they just "have to have the courage."

Somethings about entrepreneurship can be taught (and it's not about courage) and some are instinctive, but just thinking it is about courage almost always is just going to set a person up for big losses.

Most people are better off being workers rather than high-level entrepreneurs.

You can do very well for yourself in a highly civilized complex capitalistic society as a laborer if there isn't too much government interference.



  1. "...entrepreneurial vision." Maybe. But I've seen a lot of people with "entrepreneurial vision" and "alertness to opportunities" who were unable to turn their vision into reality. The reasons for their failure were numerous and varied and sometimes the courage to persist could have made the difference. However, I do agree that "just thinking it is about courage almost always is just going to set a person up for big losses." One must have the vision and take action, and if that doesn't work do it again. Think and do in a never ending cycle with the intensity of a man with a "wild tiger chained to his hip."

    There is a scene in the movie Apocalypto (directed by Mel Gibson) where the hero is being chased through the jungle by a Panther while trying to escape from 5 or 6 enemy natives in an effort to rescue his wife and child from a perilous situation. At one point the look captured on his face is the kind of intensity I'm trying to describe. A look captured by Mel Gibson who is himself a great entrepreneur. If you watch the movie and see what I am trying to describe, imagine sustaining that kind of intensity for months and years. That's a great entrepreneur. Entrepreneurism isn't easy and isn't for everyone. The essence of it isn't easy to describe and certainly isn't teachable but those who possess it can be beautifully ferocious and sometime suffer big losses.

  2. If we put the risk/reward calculation with government's thumb on the scales aside I would say success in entrepreneurship has to do with skill set and personality. For this I use Apple computer and the two Steves. Jobs and Woz with separate skill sets (and personalities) made it work. Neither could have done it alone regardless of the level of courage. Having everything all in the same person is rare.

    Government's thumb on the scales means if you don't have its favor you better have a lot of courage because government will likely work against you and if you're caught working around it the penalties can be severe. If you have government's favor then little courage is needed.

  3. Successful entrepreneurship requires people with a strong desire to be successful, a strong ability to psychologically deal with the associated risks. Planning and execution of the plan. A strong ability to react when the plan and or execution do not go as planned. On top of a viable product and funding. Does any of this take courage?

    Not the way I define courage: Taking action that could be harmful to yourself in order to help or do the least harm to others. Or taking action that could be harmful to yourself for moral/ethical reasons.

  4. The alertness to an opportunity is key. Courage all depends on the entrepreneur's situation. It can take courage to leave a cushy and relatively lucrative corporate job and risk yours or investors' money. On the other hand, if you're already a multimillionaire and you're opening an Arby's, then courage would only be reserved for when you explain to friends and family what you do with your time. Both of these situations are entrepreneurial, but only one really needed courage.