Entrepreneurial Elite

When I was a kid in school, the nerds were generally underdogs. The popular, charismatic personalities not only had more friends, but generally all achieved the same academic success.

My academic success always felt accidental. My conscientiousness and attention to detail always pulled me through, but I always felt like I was working extra hard for that good grade. I flubbed names, dates and details constantly. I tackled each assignment and test in completely different ways, so my academic performance, although generally good, was very inconsistent. The other students, many who fit the popular, charismatic model, often got the same perfect score on every test, regardless of the topic, or the test style. I saw them as robots. These kids also probably had a more structured home life, and their parents were usually working in high tech (mine were teachers). Many of them got into good schools. I had just enough money to attend Junior College. I'm not saying I deserved it more, or that they had an unfair advantage, but I am saying that the whole of their circumstances, including a more structured and disciplined mindset, certainly contributed to their success.

I don't know what happened to a lot of these academic success stories, but it seems clear that the usefulness of their academic prowess only took them so far once school ended.  

Our current entrepreneurial boom - similar to one that took place ten years ago here in the valley - demands that the people who lead innovate must possess two concurrent qualities:

1. To get in the game, they need to be super, super smart. They ace tests. They get to step twenty as you're chewing on your pencil over step one. They're focused, disciplined and determined.

2. To lead, however, they must be very creative. They must have the commercial / artistic vision of Warhol and the dogged vision of someone like Steve Jobs.

People who possess both are phenomenally rare. Not coincidentally, truly successful entrepreneurs are also extremely rare. There are a huge number of laser focused wunderkinds out there, but the leaders among them are also in touch with their creative side.

I watch as some of my more successful friends and colleagues, in spite of their successes, can only tackle problems analytically. I've seen how this limits their decision-making process, sours their team dynamic and often alienates colleagues. Possessing intellectual and academic strength, along with creativity to match, is the holy grail of personal attributes. The entrepreneurial elite who wander this valley and others like it in Austin and New York and other technology hubs have been blessed with both.

I was one of the unlucky ones. I was given a tiny amount of each. I grasp concepts firmly but only after long periods of confused floundering. As for creativity, mine lacks long term vision. I have enough of each to see how powerful amounts of both can lead to amazing things, but not enough to get there myself.


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