I’ve been seeing a lot more lemonade stands than usual in my midwestern town, probably due to a combination of the economic and meteorological climate.
At first I thought this flurry of business activity among the pint-sized set might mark the emergence of a new and particularly entrepreneurial generation.
But then I realized I wasn’t really understanding what it means to be an entrepreneur.
Too often, it seems, we label any enterprising activity and can-do attitude “entrepreneurial” when it really isn’t, technically speaking.
Interestingly enough, this bit of linguistic confusion might actually hamper the hard-working among us.
Certainly it takes gumption, initiative and a certain amount of business sense to get out there and sell lemonade when you still might not be allowed to cross certain streets by yourself.
While these are all qualities which can help you build a career at any age, they’re not exactly the defining characteristics of an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs do things which have never been done before, or find new and better ways to do what we already know. They make things from scratch, but they usually don’t follow recipes.
And they’re also kind of rare, almost by definition. If everyone is breaking the mold, then there’s really not a mold out there any more, is there?
Being an entrepreneur is almost a lifestyle choice, if indeed, it is a choice at all. In many ways, it represents the extreme end of what it means to work in today’s economy, with all the commitment, energy, focus, courage, adaptability and innovation that requires.
But you don’t have to be an “entrepreneur,” making something from nothing and changing the rules of the game, to be a fantastic worker and have a great career.
So I think it’s time we stop describing a whole range of behavior in terms of its most hard-core manifestation. That would be like calling a casual cycler the next Lance Armstrong, and who wants to face up to those kinds of expectations?
Let’s start respecting those who work their butts off, who take a pro-active approach to their work and life, who focus like lasers and bend like Gumby when they have to and who aren’t entrepreneurs.
The only problem is, what do we call them? Send your suggestions my way. And meanwhile, the next chance you get, stop by and enjoy a refreshing lemonade from a youngster who might or might not be an entrepreneur, but who’s certainly learning something about the world.
by Danielle Dresden