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How to Think Like an Entrepreneur, According to Reid Hoffman

LinkedIn cofounder and Masters of Scale host Reid Hoffman says entrepreneurship is a mindset. Here's how to find it

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I often say that starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down. It’s a vivid metaphor that contains a lot of truths. First, you’ll need courage and optimism. You have to believe you can pull it off. Next, you’ll need ingenuity. Assembling a plane takes talent and skill, even under calm circumstances. In the chaotic rush of a death-­defying plunge, you need agility. You need to react quickly. You need to be calm under pressure. You need to find the plunge exhilarating.

And then there are the stakes. If you don’t assemble the plane in time, you crash. In real-world terms, you run out of money. This is why speed matters. Once you jump off the cliff, the ground comes at you fast. It’s why, in almost every case, a slow-moving startup is dead. That’s part of what makes entrepreneurship so grueling — because the default outcome, until you get the whole plane running, is death. Not just for you but also everyone you persuaded to jump with you.

Related: Why Mindset Matters for Success

So what does it take to succeed in these entrepreneurial leaps of faith? The answer is at once simple and infinitely complex: You need an entrepreneurial mindset.

And yes, it can be cultivated.

This is the one universal thing I’ve learned as a cofounder of LinkedIn, a key early hire at PayPal, as an investor, and in four years of interviews for the podcast Masters of Scale. In all these years, I can assure you: No two founders are the same. There’s no Silicon Valley factory where entrepreneurs are issued a hoodie, a can of Monster Energy, and a CS degree from Stanford, and are told, “Go forth and found.” Not every founder is young, not every founder comes from tech, not every founder graduates from an impressive university. (Some, like Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates, never graduate at all.) Also, not every founder has the same skills, experiences, or talents.

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