Why ‘Knowing Yourself’ is Arguably the Most Important Quality in an Entrepreneur

I think I enjoy presenting to University students more than any other segment of the population because these individuals are at such a unique place in their life.   Just about to graduate with new knowledge that has helped define their interests, cultivate their passion, they are at a critical point between mold and fabrication.   What I mean is that their engines are firing at almost all cylinders, but they retain the sponginess for more data.  They remain open.

I have always believed transparency with oneself is the true secret to happiness.  After all, if you can’t be honest with yourself, you’re bound to live a false life to one degree or another.  Seems pretty challenging to me? Whatever success or achievement you gain under this guise is quite empty.  It would be better to live a very quiet unassuming life with honesty and self-awareness than a tremendous life based on delusion.
This is a philosophical point that if applied to entrepreneurship can make the difference between achieving your goals and spinning your wheels.

I recently had the opportunity to address this important point among others at Professor John Greathouse’s entrepreneur course at the University of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Here are some of the main points.  (If you prefer to watch and listen vs. read, I’ve attached the video of the presentation below)


1. Capacity is kind of important :)

Knowing yourself is like knowing the fuel in your car
Would you ever take a road trip with a car without a functional fuel gauge?  Probably not.  That’s how capacity works in life and entrepreneurship.   An entrepreneur who clearly knows their capacity makes better decisions with everything from time management to making promises.   In the beginning, your word is all you have – so make sure you follow through on your capacity commitments.   If you don’t know your own capacity for certain activities, you may run out of fuel.  You’ll find yourself ‘stranded on the side of the road’ of life.  Instead, it’s important to develop your own gauges and metrics so you can fully understand what you are ‘capable’ of.  Trust me, it makes for a more interesting ‘road trip’ through life.


2. When you know yourself, you know what you’re not – and that’s perhaps more important.

One of the critical aspects of any entrepreneurial endeavor is to know your own capacity, skills, and weaknesses so that you may better know what pieces to fit around you for success.   The individuals in a startup always wear many hats – the key is to know which hat you wear well and which you should pass on to a fellow team member.   Step 1 – discovering yourself.   Step 2 – identifying those characteristics you lack and you need to find in others so you can build out the best management team possible.




Sleeping soundly and synchronicity go hand in hand3. Synchronicity is critical to good sleep and overall happiness

Do you ever find yourself laying in bed unable to fall asleep?  What about awakening and feeling groggy because your mind was spinning.   Synchronicity is about aligning your thoughts, words, and actions.  If you achieve synchronicity in life and business, chances are you’ll sleep soundly knowing that your every thought, word, and action conveyed a singular, constant purpose.  This exercise requires practice.   For the entrepreneur dealing with dozens of simultaneous events at once, it requires planning and intention.
The entrepreneur has to envision a meeting and set an intention.  From there, you simply say what you’re thinking, and do what you’re saying.   A simple concept rarely perfected.  But then again, so is sleeping soundly.


True confidence means saying "I don't know"4. Real confidence requires the knowledge and ability to say “I don’t know”

All things being equal, I find that people that really have a good grasp of themselves in terms of capacity, self-awareness, and synchronicity also demonstrate tremendous self-confidence.  The self-confidence comes from all of these best practices, but often manifests itself in demonstrating the skill of openly acknowledging a lack of knowledge.  This is when you know you’re dealing with someone of tremendous depth – when someone openly demonstrates their lack of knowledge, you begin to believe what they do know is truly an expertise.  In my experience, saying “I don’t know” signifies greater confidence than talking over or through a subject you know nothing about.
Try it some time – you should see instant results.

Knowing yourself is about being true5. Reflect in your failures and you will be true

The nature of the entrepreneur is to try and to often fail.  Entrepreneurship is an iterative process – striking a balance between knowing yourself and discovering the right opportunity. The reality is that as an entrepreneur, you are constantly putting yourself out there and, if you’re lucky, receiving constructive criticism.  It’s important to have the courage to look yourself in the eye before you look others in the eye. Take every opportunity to reflect yourself in others, in your choices, in your investments.  Learn from your failures and see yourself for who you are – a mirror is always true when accompanied by honest self-assessment.

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