This is the second installment of my interview with psychologist Steve Courmanopoulos, PhD, of Medius International, on what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. This time, we dig deeper into the concept of purpose for an entrepreneur.
SA: Last time, you talked about the need for purpose that transcends making money. How is that sense of purpose lived and expressed by successful entrepreneurs?
SC: I have yet to meet a successful entrepreneur who said that their journey had been simple and easy. It’s always tough. It’s often frustrating and, at times, discouraging when you try to shake up the status quo with a new idea or product. You need the determination that comes from faith in your purpose, and persistence to overcome barriers or find alternative ways around them.
There is a danger in all this that few talk about. People with purpose are often driven by self-evident truth that does not invite questioning. Add passion to that mix and you have an explosive blend. Ask any failed entrepreneur why they made mistakes and they may well say, “It seemed like a good idea at the time”.
The key to avoiding this pitfall is to maintain what we call therapeutic distance - the ability to detach yourself emotionally from what’s going on and to ask yourself a slew of tough questions. This isn’t easy because once the ego is involved, motivated reasoning kicks in and you only seek out information that supports your existing ideas. It’s the mother of all defense mechanisms. It’s defense mechanisms on steroids. That’s why it’s important to have trusted allies on whom you can rely for perspective and advice, even if you don’t take it.
My ancestor, Socrates (how’s that for a humble brag?) said that “the unexamined life is hardly worth living”. Truer words, as they say, have never been spoken.
Examine your determination: Is it clouded or fuelled by your desire to see things a certain way? Are you ignoring advice from people who’ve been there before, or people who genuinely have your best interests in mind? How much of your ego is involved in your determination, and how can you separate the two from each other?
The key to riding the wild horse of entrepreneurial purpose and passion is to recognize the difference between determination, passion, and stupidity!
Dr. Courmanopoulos is the Senior Partner and CEO of Medius International Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to leveraging the latest in evidence-based psychology to help clients solve their biggest challenges and grow their businesses. His background includes clinical, corporate, and entrepreneurial career phases.