At the beginning of our book club meeting on Outliers, Stephen Daze asked us a question: If we are to believe the theories stipulated by Gladwell in Outliers, what are the skills or opportunities needed to become an outlier entrepreneur?

Well that’s an interesting question. Because it makes you have to think long and hard about what an entrepreneur is. According to Wikipedia – an entrepreneur is “an ambitious leader who combines land, labour, and capital to create and market goods or services. They are the type of personalities who are willing to take upon themselves a new venture/enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome.”
How do you acquire ambition? Or risk? Or street smarts? Are these things you can learn, or are you born with them? I was debating with Manu Sharma, and he said if you had to spend 10,000 hours doing something to become an expert entrepreneur, it would be spending 10,000 hours amongst smart people. I agree to some extent. But I think it’s more than that. Researchers for example spend hours and hours amongst other smart people (or at least reading other smart people’s work), but they’re not necessarily entrepreneurial. But yes I agree, spending that many hours engaged with other smart people is defiantly a step in the right direction.

Then I’m lead to another question – what is it about where we come from that makes us entrepreneurial? I’m going to make a very general comparison here. My family origins are Tunisian. Tunisians in general (and yes I’m using stereotypes) like stability. Tunisian immigrants tend to want to be employed rather than be the employer. Now compare them to the Lebanese. Both Arabs, both Mediterranean countries, both have Phoenician heritage, both have been colonized at some point. The list of similarities goes on and on. Lebanese immigrants on the other hand are known to be businessmen and entrepreneurs. Why the difference? Well, it could be due to the fact that there was a civil war in Lebanon that caused a huge number of immigrants to be spread out all over the world, while Tunisians have had a relatively stable history. Maybe. I really have no idea. But does that mean (again generalizing) if you come from an environment with some sort of instability in its history, you are more likely to be a risk taker? I definitely don’t know, but it’s an interesting thought.

As for trends that we can identify now so that when the revolution peaks we’ll be atop that wave and ready for that opportunity….well if I knew that, I’d be busy getting my 10,000 hours of expertise in that field. The problem with revolutionary trends is that by the time you notice it, you’ve already missed the boat. Like nanotechnology, DNA, haptics etc. We’ve missed that boat to be the next Bill Gates of those fields. Maybe we should be focusing on picotechnology? Or ways to revolutionarize nuclear energy to make it more efficient? I don’t know. But if you do, please let me know :0)

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