‘Everyone Should Be an Entrepreneur’ – the Absurdity of Uniformity

One day, at the age of forty-five, you wake up to the realisation that you have ‘climbed the wrong ladder’ in your corporate career. For the last twenty years, you have worked tirelessly to ascend the ranks from Sales Intern to Chief Executive of Widget Incorporated, and now that you have finally made it – now that you’ve got your employee share plan, Christmas bonus, and corporate jet allowance – it suddenly dawns on you that you feel completely empty inside, and derive no real satisfaction or fulfilment from your work. What ever will you do?

Become an entrepreneur. Everyone should be an entrepreneur!

You are no longer a middle-aged CEO who looks like D. B. Cooper. You are a young stevedore at the local port, growing a little weary of loading and unloading ships all day. You’ve been in the job for a few years now, and it’s hard, physical, repetitive work, man. When you get home at the end of a long day’s labour, all you have to look forward to is a bill for your union dues. And the union hasn’t negotiated a decent pay rise for the longshoremen in years. You’re ready to quit. But what will you do next?

Become an entrepreneur. Everyone should be an entrepreneur!

Now you are the most reputable neurosurgeon in the country. For thirty years you’ve saved lives by fiddling with brains, but although you were always talented at it, you never really loved it, and now – at the tender age of fifty-nine – you begin to ideate about laying down the scalpel and walking away from your career. The trouble is, it’s been so long since you’ve thought about doing anything else. What should you do with yourself now?

…Become an entrepreneur. Everyone should be an entrepreneur!

Entrepreneurial proliferation

Entrepreneurs have never been more in. Make one utterance of discontent about your employer, career, or life in general, and someone who ostensibly makes $40,000 a month running a cryptocurrency advice business from a spa pool in Gibraltar will pipe up on an internet forum and tell you that the solution to all your woes is to become an entrepreneur. ‘Quit your 9 to 5 and become your own boss!’ they will say. In the inspiring words of American businessman and author Robert Kiyosaki, ‘getting a job is for losers.’ Career satisfaction aside, financial success is paramount, and to achieve it, the only real path is to become a businessman or investor.

Indeed, career discontent and financial lack seem to be the two main sources of fire for the entrepreneurship message. If you are discontent in your career, it is because you can never be truly fulfilled working for ‘the man’. Employees are losers. Instead you should become the man. Similarly, if you want more money, you shouldn’t strive for a higher salary – you should become a business owner so that you can grow capital.

As important as it is to dismantle each of these obnoxious declarations individually, the more pressing task is to shut down the idea underpinning both messages: that everyone should become an entrepreneur. This is a truly indefensible assertion, and the very existence of it is an embarrassment to human cognition.

Let’s take a step back and examine the idea more closely.

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? Under a common definition, it means starting and running a business which you yourself own – an ‘innovative’ one, preferably. Perhaps I am bothered by the fact that the white lines on pedestrian crossings get slippery in the rain and present a fall hazard for unwary inner city office workers, so I start up a business specialising in high- traction dress shoes. I do market research, draw up a concept, make a business plan, yada yada. Then what? Well, unless I plan on designing, manufacturing and distributing the frictionful footwear all by myself – as well as find all new clients, handle all product marketing, sales, regulatory compliance, taxes and financial statements – I am likely going to want to hire some people to help me.

OK, so what will be the nature of the arrangement between me – the entrepreneur – and my hired help? Will I be employing my designers, manufacturers, distributors, marketing reps, lawyers, and accountants? Or will I be contracting their services? I certainly doubt I’ll be treating them as fellow entrepreneurs, and I doubt they’ll be regarding themselves as such. I don’t think my lawyer, whom I pay by the hour to negotiate the various regulations I’m subject to, will be thinking of herself as a co-founder of my innovative shoe venture, any more than the factory worker producing the shoes will be thinking of himself as my partner in crime because his employer has a contract with me. No, I am getting these people to do work for me. They are not co-architects – or even shareholders – of my innovative endeavour.

So, before I know it, I – the entrepreneur – have assembled a team of people to help me grow my business, and have either employed or contracted all of them. I need them – I can’t hope to do it all myself. Even if I had the skills, I wouldn’t have the time. But…these people in my team all ‘got jobs’, working for me. So I guess they’re losers.

This is the logical conclusion of the entrepreneur-or-die mantra. The entrepreneur, who insists it’s a waste of life to work for the man 9 to 5 for a paycheck, hires fifteen people to work for him 9 to 5 for a paycheck.

At this point, invariably, a caveat gets wheeled out. ‘Everyone should be an entrepreneur, but most people don’t have what it takes. In essence, being an entrepreneur is the way to become a fully self-actualised human, but ’99 per cent of people’ – or some other arbitrarily chosen number – simply aren’t up to it. They’re not driven enough, creative enough, or risk-taking enough to run their own business. So not everyone will be an entrepreneur.

Well, how convenient it is for entrepreneurs to constitute only a small subset of the population, so that the majority of people are available to ‘get a job’ and do all the work that supports either entrepreneurs or society generally. ‘That accountant of mine really should become an entrepreneur, but I know he doesn’t have it in him, so I guess I’ll just have to settle for him handling all my taxes and financial statements for me.’

Herein lies the fundamental absurdity of the notion that everyone should be an entrepreneur. If, tomorrow, the world called the entrepreneur’s bluff, and all seven billion of us became ‘business owners’ in our own right, what would happen to society? It would collapse, and everybody would starve and die. It is all well and good for us to found new ventures and contribute ideas for driving technology forward, but who is going to harvest the wheat and maintain the water supply?

When entrepreneurs say everyone should be an entrepreneur, we should take their sentiment at face value. We should ignore the cop-out excuse that ‘most people don’t have what it takes’ and explore what would happen if their desired state of affairs were realised. Since the result would be the rapid extinction of the human race, due to the cessation of essential labour, those of us with an interest in the continuation of the human race should conclude that entrepreneurial universalism is an asinine doctrine.

The absurdity of uniformity

Up to now I have focused my attack on entrepreneurs, since they are so venerated in the contemporary culture, and are so quick to tell everyone to adopt their lifestyles. But it should be obvious that the same critique can be equally applied to any variety of career universalism.

It would be just as absurd to proclaim that everyone should become an accountant. To be sure, we need some accountants in the world if we are going to have commerce and taxes, because someone needs to count how many beans a business has at any given point in time. But if everyone was an accountant, what would there be to count?

The fatal flaw in this kind of thinking is the notion that everyone should be like you.

It is easy to say that everyone should live as you do when not everyone lives as you do. In a society propped up by a wide range of people performing a wide range of roles, you have the luxury of making pronouncements to the effect that your role is the best and everyone should strive to have it. It is much more difficult to commit to that sentiment when the farmers go on strike, the hospitals close, and there is no one to repair the water pipes.

We have evolved to be different from each other in our interests, talents and aspirations, and it’s just as well, because our society wouldn’t survive very long if we hadn’t. We all have our particular role to play. A few of us will become entrepreneurs, because we’re enterprising by nature and want to bring some new, revolutionary product or service to the world. Others of us will go into a trade, because we’re practical and like working with our hands. Still others of us will become philosophers or scientists, because we are thinkers and have a need to understand how things really are.

The cultural mistake is to become fixated on a certain role because it seems glamorous, and indulge in the fantasy that everybody could inhabit that role and the world would be a utopia. This kind of absurd reductionism is an unhelpful and harmful sentiment to propagate in society. The message should be for everyone to find something they are uniquely equipped to do that needs doing, and do that. If the thing happens to be entrepreneurship, fantastic. If it is something other than entrepreneurship, that’s fantastic too. Let us all play our parts, and continue to enhance the rich society we live in.


You will be wanting to know what happened to the characters at the beginning of this article.

The Chief Executive of Widget Incorporated quit his corporate career and became a mathematics teacher. He realised that in his twenty years working for the corporation, he would look for any excuse to do algebra – even when it was completely unnecessary – and as a maths professor he could do that all day long.

The young stevedore quit his job at the port and in a flash of inspiration decided to apply for aviation school. On reflection, he had always loved planes and hated ships, so it made perfect sense for him to become a pilot and never set foot in a shipping container again.

Finally, the most reputable neurosurgeon in the country became an entrepreneur! While he had spent his career prodding at the physical brain, he’d always been fascinated by the mind. Thus, he decided to found an innovative company (pyramid scheme) to sell dubious personality test products developed on the backs of napkins at ski resort restaurants.

And they all lived heterogeneously ever after.

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