Are Entrepreneurs Made or Born?

One of the most common debates you hear about online, in books, videos, and newspapers are, “are entrepreneurs made or born?” It’s a heated debate, and in today’s video and article we get into who’s right.

We had friends and family over for Thanksgiving. One of the topics that came up was love. Someone asked, “Pat, what does it take to run a nonprofit organization where you’re not paying anybody salaries? For instance, how do you get a volunteer army to be excited about it?” For this to work it requires love. But first, you have to answer the question, “what is love?”.

I asked everybody one by one to give their definition of love. There were 12 people around the table. Do you know how many different definitions we got? Eight. Almost everyone said something different. Words like, unconditional, sacrifice, and quality time came up.

Those different definitions are why relationships sometimes don’t work out. My meaning of love is different than your meaning of love. Then we clash. So you say, “You don’t love me anymore.”

What it Means to Become an Entrepreneur

So today we're going to start off by first defining what it means to become an entrepreneur. You see, there are a lot of different definitions, but I wanted to go to the top two dictionaries, Oxford and Cambridge. Let's see how they define what it is to become an entrepreneur.

Cambridge: A person who attempts to make a profit by starting a company or by operating alone in the business world, especially when it involves taking risks.

Now let's look at Oxford. A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

Let’s look at what they’re saying. The words profit and risk are used in both definitions.

What You Hear About Entrepreneurship

Here are a few of the ways that people describe entrepreneurs:

  • Creative
  • Problem solvers
  • Visionaries
  • Want to find ways to do things better
  • Leaders
  • Great sales people
  • Energetic
  • Charismatic
  • Bounce all over the place
  • Can’t stay on one thing
  • Get bored quickly
  • Hypomanic
  • Artists
  • Calm during pressure
  • Resourceful

So we hear all these things about entrepreneurs, but does that that mean they are made or born?

Why People Believe Entrepreneurs are Born

So first let’s get into why people believe entrepreneurs are born.

This argument is typically made by two different types of people.

First, it’s made by those who tried entrepreneurship and miserably failed. They lost everything. So they use the argument to say, “I failed because I wasn’t born to be an entrepreneur.”

Second, you have somebody who became successful and they fully believe they’re smarter, stronger, faster, and better than everybody else in the way they think. It’s almost become an elitist feeling to think that I’m better than you, therefore I was born to become an entrepreneur, and you were not.

When People Tell You How Amazing You Are

Here’s another reason some people feel they were born to be entrepreneurs. Sometimes when entrepreneurs become wealthy and go from having no money at all to being worth $100 million, $200 million, or a billion dollars is that everybody starts telling them how amazing they are. This is a very, very dangerous thing.

Imagine if every magazine said that you’re the hottest guy or girl in the world. Do you think it would mess with your head a little bit? How would you walk? Think about it right now. If millions of people around the world tell you that you’re amazing, what would happen to you? Would you develop an attitude?

So sometimes when these entrepreneurs become very wealthy and powerful, with a big house, big car, and a lot of influence on social media, they constantly hear how amazing they are. They can then think, “I am so amazing. Therefore, I am better than you.”

So the thought becomes that entrepreneurs are special because they were born that way.

Why People Believe Entrepreneurs Are Made

Now let’s look at the other argument that says, anybody can be an entrepreneur.

You know, it's good for the economy to believe that anybody can become an entrepreneur. And social media and technology has made it so much easier to start a business online, even if you’re an introvert and don’t have the personality of a salesperson. You can be a Mark Zuckerberg introvert that doesn’t want all the limelight and design a website worth $60 billion. Before you had to be a salesperson, but nowadays you don’t even have to talk to people to make a product. So anybody can become an entrepreneur.

Today if you go into YouTube and type “entrepreneur” into search, there are so many videos about entrepreneurship. If you do the search in Google, billions of results come up. What does that tell you? That entrepreneurship is thought about today more than it was years ago. That means that you can make an argument  anybody can become an entrepreneur.

What’s Attractive Today

There was a time in the past when bigger women were considered attractive. Why? Because a person of stature liked larger women. People said, “If someone of stature likes bigger women, I’m to like bigger women.” Then it changed and media started telling us that the most attractive women are extremely skinny. Now today, voluptuous women are considered sexy.

Steve Reeves was the first Hercules. Then everyone wanted to become a bodybuilder. Then Arnold went into the movies and everyone wanted to have an amazing body, which started a bodybuilder epidemic.

Today, Steve Jobs, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Wozniak, Michael Dell, and Elon Musk are so big, that everyone wants to become an entrepreneur.

A Trend of Entrepreneurship

The more examples there are of people winning, the more people believe anyone can become an entrepreneur. I can’t tell you whether or not they are right, but I can tell you that there’s a trend today of entrepreneurship.

Maybe this wasn’t the case 30 or 40 years ago because back then pension plans were common and everyone want to land a job at a Big 4. If they did and worked there 30 years, they’d have a pension plan, be all set, and not need to start a business.

Then boom! Ten years ago, many pension plans were cancelled. For instance, United Airlines defaulted on a big pension plan.

Like Father Like Son

A man named Archie Manning has three kids. He used to be a quarterback. His oldest son is Peyton Manning. Guess what he ended up doing? He became a quarterback. And he won two Super Bowl championships. Was he born to become a quarterback? Or was it accidental?

Archie’s second kid is named Eli. Guess what he became. A quarterback. And guess what he did? He won two Super Bowl championships. And there was a third son who also became a quarterback.

Accidental? No. There’s a reason they become quarterbacks. Their father was the most ridiculous teacher who taught them to become quarterbacks.

Joseph Kennedy Sr. had political aspirations, so his kids ended up in politics. He named his first son Joe, and the plan was for Joe to become president, but he was killed in action in in World War II. So the underdog, the one no one expected to be president, John F. Kennedy became president and was one of the most-loved presidents. The entire Kennedy family went into politics.

Were those kids born to go into politics? I don’t think so, but something happened in that family.

Let’s Talk Sports

If I’m 14 years old and 6’ 8” tall, who do you think’s going to come talk to me? The music teacher? No. Who would spot me? The basketball coach. A conversation could go like this:

Hey kid, what's your name?


Have you ever play basketball before, John?


Do you like basketball?

It's okay.

Well, we're going to teach you how to play basketball, kid.


Do you want to play for the team? And have girls like cheerleaders like you?

Yeah, I'll play. 

Great. Come on, we're going to show you.

They give him a ball and tell him to shoot. This kid cannot shoot a basketball. He has no clue what he's doing. Then they work on him, and they put somebody to work on his footwork, practice, with him, and teach him defense.

The next thing  you know, they have a center that's 6' 8" at 14 years old. Two years later he's 7' 1". Two years later he's playing for a college team for one year. Two years later he gets a $100 million contract to play for some team.

There he is. Was he born to become a basketball player? No, he was targeted because he’s 6’ 8”.

God-Given Ability

You know kids want to compete about anything. Who can do a handstand? Throw a ball? Punch the hardest?

Let’s see who can jump the longest. And then this one kid jumps. He can't jump. The other one can't jump. Then one guy comes and jumps. Oh my gosh, this guy flew! He's flying! This guy is a bird! This is insane! What happened here? His great grandpa was a bird or something.

All of a sudden, he had a reputation. People called him, “Jumpin’ Johnny.” Who finds out about Jumpin’ Johnny? The track and field coach.

Hey Johnny. Show us how high you jump.

Okay, boom.

Holy moly; 40”.

That guy’s got a God-given ability, right?

What it Takes to Be a Horse Jockey

I want you to think about what it takes to be a jockey. What if I want to become a horse jockey? So the argument is that anyone can become an entrepreneur. Can I become a horse jockey? What do you think? Can I? I'm 6' 5', 240.

You know what would happen to that poor horse? That horse would be like, I can't do this any more. I give up. You know what's the ideal height for a jockey? 4' 8” to 5' 6". You know what the weight is? 108- 118 pounds. Can you imagine that? So if you weigh 149 pounds, you can't be a jockey. You can't play at that level.

Imagine Shaq, at 7’ 2”, 400 pounds. Can he be the jockey? He is the horse. The horse gets on his back. So try to visualize this, right.

Good Arguments on Both Sides

So there are very good arguments on the born side and very good arguments on the built side. So which argument is right?

Why Do People Become Entrepreneurs?

“Why do people become entrepreneurs?” is a very important question to ask.

#1: Family

So why does somebody become an entrepreneur? Because his or her family were filled with entrepreneurs. Donald Trump went into real estate. His father, Fred Trump, was in real estate.

You see a lot of these examples; Kennedy’s politics, Manning’s football.

So one reason people become entrepreneurs is because their family is entrepreneurial. So someone may say, I think you have to be born. Well, you were born in a family with a father that was an entrepreneur, so you think everybody has to have a father that's an entrepreneur to become an entrepreneur.

So the number one reason is family. I know a guy, Pastor Dudley, whose entire family is filled with pastors. Brothers, uncle, father, grandpa -- everyone’s a pastor. And they’re incredible pastors. Were they born to become a pastor?

No, it’s because of family.

My Father Wasn’t an Entrepreneur

By the way, my father wasn't an entrepreneur. And quite frankly, I was born in a Middle Eastern family, where the first time my dad told me he loved me, I was 21 years old.

Listen in here for the story of the first time my dad told me he loved me.

#2. Someone They Looked Up To

Sometimes someone becomes an entrepreneur because an uncle, friend, relative, next door neighbor or someone else they looked up to was an entrepreneur. They said, “I want to be like him.” Or they read a magazine and said, “I want to be like Rockefeller.”

So they see someone that’s a successful entrepreneur and they want to be like him or her.

#3: It’s the Only Way Out

What do I mean by it’s the only way out? If you read  2Pac’s song, Brenda’s Got a Baby, it’s so painful. He tells you a real story of what happens in that community with a 12-year-old girl that gets pregnant. That’s not a myth. That happens. To you maybe never in a million years, but it happens. So what is desperation to become an entrepreneur? When the only way out is to start a business.

Every time I go to Mexico, little kids ask, “Hey, do you want to buy gum? Chiclet. Chiclet. Chiclet. Do you want to buy gum?” Why are those six year olds selling gum? Desperation. It’s their only way out. They have to make money. The parents have three kids and they’re all selling gum.

There’s a level of desperation in entrepreneurship.

#4: The Person Has a Dream

Listen in here for my dream for becoming an entrepreneur.

#5: Find the Right Team to Run With

I was at Texas A&M university speaking to the entrepreneurship society. The last question asked was, “Pat, if you could tell us anything right now before leaving, what would be the one thing you could tell us?”

I said, look, just look at Hollywood. If you get into a clique of four actors that do very well getting into movies, you’ll keep doing movies with them. Just looks at groups of people and you’ll see they’ve done five movies together. It’s not accidental. It’s intentional. They’re a team.

Some kid named Daniels found a guy named Mark, and Mark started a website called The Facebook. Mark needed Money. Daniel gets 18 grand and gives it to him. They start the company. Today Daniel is worth a couple billion dollars. Daniel's considered a multi-billionaire entrepreneur. How did he do it? Was he born to become an entrepreneur? No. It's friends. It's a group of people. It's a team of people that we're part of. Accidentally they became an entrepreneur.

#6: Environment

The last one is environment. This has to do with finding the right team, but it’s kind of a different environment. If you're around other entrepreneurs, you're going to become an entrepreneur. If you're around anybody else that plays football, soccer, basketball, music, guitar, you're going to pick up some of that. Generally, there will be an influence there for you to be a part of.

I agree with both sides; entrepreneurs are both born and made. Let me give you a completely different argument.

The Wrong Question

I do believe when people say entrepreneurs are born. They're right. I also do believe when people say entrepreneurs are made. They're also right.

Here's the kicker. The question isn't about are they born or made.

Different Levels of Entrepreneurs

The question is, what level, what capacity, and how big of an entrepreneur can they be? So there are three levels.

The Greatest

The first one is becoming the greatest.

Somebody asked, “Can I become like Elon Musk?” It’s very simple. No. This kid’s entire family were all rocket scientists and when he was a kid, he thought like that. He devoured books as a nine and ten-year-old. No, you can’t be Elon Musk. He’s the greatest.

“Can I be Michael Jordan?” No. Michael Jordan's hands can go around a ball. He can jump 48 or 49 inches. He’s 6’ 7”. He had an older brother who was better than him and bullied him. So his dad took a liking to his older brother. So Mike had a chip on his shoulder and said, “You know what, Dad? You believe in him more than me? Watch what I’m going to do.” You can’t be Michael Jordan. He has some God-given abilities.

Can you become Johnny Depp? No way in the world. There's only one Johnny Depp. There's only one of him in seven billion people around the world. It’s very difficult to become a Johnny Depp.


But here's the good news. You can become a pro. You can build a business and make millions of dollars.

Just like in basketball, Muggys Bogues was 5’ 3” and weighed 160 pounds, and played in the MBA. He wasn’t the greatest, but he was a pro. Warrick Dunn was 5’ 8” and 170 pounds and was a running back. He’s never going to be the greatest, but he was a pro.

You can become an actor and be in movies. Will you be the greatest? No, but you can be a pro and enjoy it.

You can become an entrepreneur, make a half a million a year, or a million a year, or 10 million dollars a year. You just may not be the greatest. Who cares? Your purpose was different when you chose to become an entrepreneur.


And the last one is this. You can have fun.

Can I play basketball? Yes. Am I any good at it? No. Can I learn to have some fun with basketball? Yes. Can I be a decent actor and do videos on YouTube and put it up there and get a few laughs? Yes. Of course.

Can I go out there and start a business for fun and just say, “Everyone likes my barbecue. For fun, I’m going to start doing a barbecue on the weekends and see what happens.” You pass out 200 flyers, letting people know you’re doing a barbecue on Sunday from 1:00 - 5:00. You sell chicken for $5 a pop. Fifty people show up, and you make $250 on something that cost $30 to make. So that’s for fun, which is another level of entrepreneurship.

The Next Time Someone Asks are Entrepreneurs Made or Born

The next time someone asks you if entrepreneurs are born or made, and if they go either way, you have an argument on what to do with it. You have to redefine it.

  • First, ask them the question of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
  • Next, ask them why they believe the way they do.
  • Third, ask them what level of entrepreneur they want to be.

With that being said, whether you agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter. Comment on the bottom with your thoughts on if you believe entrepreneurs are born or made. And if you haven't yet subscribed to my YouTube channel, click on the button below to subscribe. 


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