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  • Diana Schneidman

Yes, you do have what it takes to be an entrepreneur!

Self-administered aptitude quizzes are all over the internet. Today I’d like to direct your attention to one that I’ve seen recommended more than once.

The U.S. Small Business Administration website lists the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs on its website.

Actually, it’s not quite a quiz. The writer was a little too lazy to include all the elements of a quiz. For instance, there are no buttons to click and no scoring criteria. And it doesn’t exactly invite you to evaluate yourself.

Still, it’s obvious how to self-administer it.

I believe that self-administered attitudinal quizzes are more a measure of self-esteem than of the qualities ostensibly measured.

My life of quizzes

Years ago when I studied young women’s magazines, especially Cosmo, for wisdom on how to live my life, I always took these quizzes. I’d learn if I have what it takes to get promoted or if I bewitch him into calling me again.

I found I had the same honest answer to all the questions: sometimes. Sometimes I would handle a situation with confidence, sensitivity, compassion, decisiveness or whatever. Sometimes I would not.

However, these exercises would never allow “sometimes” as the choice. You had to choose one.

As I went through years of psychotherapy—I was lucky to undertake this in the seventies when health insurance was a lot more generous—I saw that my answers changed over time.

Forced to choose between two extremes, I would tend towards the negative choice in the beginning. Later I would gravitate towards the positive one. I never achieved absolute consistency in real life, but as my mental health improved, I was more likely to slant my answers towards my better inclinations than to dwell on my weaknesses.

Now back to the quiz

The SBA page kicks off with “Fiction: To be an entrepreneur, you must be born that way,” followed by “FACT: Anyone can learn to operate like an entrepreneur.”

Then there’s one simple question, “What are the similarities of successful entrepreneurs?”

This is followed by a checklist of 26 traits against which you can assess yourself. Number 26 is “luck.” How’s that for scientific!

Directly after the list, it adds, “Many entrepreneurs also had a role model to influence them early on and parents who were entrepreneurs. Two traits necessary for successful entrepreneurs are creativity and innovation.” Then there’s a little—very little—text defining creativity and suggesting how to become more creative.

To sum it up, this is one of the all-time lamest things I’ve ever read on the internet, and I must confess, I’ve wasted a lot of time reading a lot of lame stuff. This is especially sad because I would expect the SBA to be a highly credible resource.

My results

I awarded myself a checkmark for every single entrepreneurial trait on the SBA list. I’m not saying this to brag because I suspect you will do the same unless you are burdened by false modesty. Most people I know feel they were underutilized at past jobs and could have contributed much more if the corporate culture invited more than cheerful obedience.

What if you flunk?

I would love for the article to also discuss what people who do not have all these traits should do.

It implies that those who lack “persistence, desire for immediate feedback” and so on should stay in their corporate jobs. But wait, many of these people don’t have jobs to stay in.

Or maybe we are to conclude that people who lack these traits should acquire them. The SBA asserts that anyone can learn them. Easier said than done. If you are going this route, I’d suggest focusing on one at a time.

The third choice is to simply decide you will succeed. Don’t let silly quizzes deter you. Whether you are freelancing / consulting because it is your lifelong dream or because you have not been able to land the right payroll job, you can do this!

Originally posted 2-16-10

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