The primordial image, or archetype, is a figure--be it a daemon, a human being, or a process--that constantly recurs in the course of history and appears wherever creative fantasy is freely expressed. Essentially, therefore, it is a mythological figure. . . . In each of these images there is a little piece of human psychology and human fate, a remnant of the joys and sorrows that have been repeated countless times in our ancestral history. - Carl Jung
This blog's theme is about building and dreaming. There's not a single figure I come across that embodies these two themes more than the entrepreneur. I've been reading Carl Jung's "The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious" lately and I've begun to think of the figure of the entrepreneur as one of Jung's mythic archetypes. So how is the entrepreneur a mythological figure? One could argue, as I do, that the tech entrepreneur is the 21st century's extrapolation of the rags to riches, work your way to the top, American dream story. In fact, Wired recently declared the new coding boom as the start of the next American blue collar job.
What part of human psychology and fate does the entrepreneur expose as something that gets repeated time and time again in our society. The entrepreneur exposes the inventive trait in the human spirit where we've been able to demonstrate time and time again that we can create most of what we put our mind to. Our resourcefulness is something that has allowed us to survive as a dominant species on this planet. I think entrepreneurs embody inventiveness and live it out daily. The entrepreneur starts with a dream and then figure out how to do it and this is the biggest difference between true entrepreneurs and "wantrepreneurs." Anybody can have an idea. Very few people can execute on an idea.
This inventiveness plays itself out in a lot of ways in the entrepreneurial journey. Entrepreneurs first have to invent a hypothesis about a solution to a problem in the market. They then have to go test this hypothesis against many constraints. These constraints are often time, money, people, etc. The theory of constraints can help a startup and entrepreneur understand how to turn a constraint to an advantage. This shows how entrepreneurs can invent solutions to these constraints to continue to grow their business. One of my favorite stories is how an early stage on-demand grocery startup initially did the menu creation, sales, grocery pickups, bagging and delivery for their first 50 customers before it became unscalable. They then found out how to automate the process and win in their industry! This ability to do things that don't scale and then turn it into a big idea is just one way in which entrepreneurs display inventiveness. They repeat these inventive moments time and time again until they've built a successful business. This can seem like it happens over night but it's often a much less glamorous story that involves years of toil and hard work. Because let it be known, this inventiveness is not easy.
However, less anyone think that I want to share a wholly glamorous view of the entrepreneur and their mythic qualities, I think it's important to note that most myths are tragedies. Another quote from Jung about archetypes that I think is especially relevant to entrepreneurs is "It is also possible for the unconscious or an archetype to take complete possession of a man and to determine his fate down to the smallest detail." Entrepreneurs often become self-obsessed with being entrepreneurs and often leads to the backlash of a lot of the tech entrepreneur culture we see today. It's in this obsession that stories like The Circle can become prophetic. They also can become obsessed in their idea and invoke a reality distortion field in both positive and negative ways. Depression is often common in entrepreneurs because of the effort, time and passion they put into these ventures at the expense of life, family, and friends.
All in all, entrepreneurs are who I spend my days with and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. They are the dream builders, the inventors, the rebels, etc. They create worlds and cause them to come to be. However, I think it's important to analyze the entrepreneur as a tragic mythical figure. This way we have a balanced view and the stories we tell about the entrepreneur and growing startups can be productive. Because if the myths aren't tempered then we will see many shattered dreams. For inventiveness is an entrepreneur's defining trait, but it's an inventiveness backed by the ability to execute a vision and the hard work that entails!