Friday, June 11, 2010

Father's Day musing: Is entrepreneurship genetic?

Is entrepreneurship genetic? As the freelancer son of a self-employed dad, it didn't surprise me to learn that a study from Case Western Reserve University discovered a hereditary component: roughly one third to 40 percent of the tendency to be an entrepreneur is innate rather than taught. Independence, tolerance for risk, ability to recognize opportunity, and leadership are all affected by your genes. The study's author, Scott Shane, published "Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders: How Your Genes Affect Your Worklife" this spring.

My dad died a few weeks before Father's Day in 2000. (Far too young, five months shy of his 60th birthday.) Like me, he had spent his early career in corporate jobs — in sales rather than editorial — before becoming self-employed. A few months into my first "real world" job after college, I was whining to him on the phone about some office injustice or another, and he came right out and said, "You know, you're eventually going to work for yourself."

As is the case for many hereditary traits, it took an environmental trigger to actualize my entrepreneurial gene as a freelancer not quite a decade later. In fact, I made the freelance leap just a few months before my dad passed away, but I sensed that among all the people who were worried as hell about me and my family surviving (me included), he wasn't concerned in the slightest — he was proud I had the cojones to do it and knew that I'd succeed.

I'd also like to think he knew he had set a business example I could follow:
  • He worked hard in bursts (and took plenty of time off, even random weekdays)
  • He saved enough money during good times that we could squeeze through the occasional rough patch
  • He celebrated success when he made a big sale (I can still taste the sicky-sweet AndrĂ© Cold Duck on my mind's tongue)
  • He was a bullheaded optimist (even during the gawdawful Carter years, when he netted $0.00 a couple of times)
  • He pretty much didn't give a crap about what other people thought 
The time-worn saying is that "the older I get, the smarter my old man was." I don't know if he gave me a freelance gene or sales DNA...and ultimately, it doesn't matter. Regardless of my nature, I value and appreciate my nurture more. Thanks, Dad.

UPDATE: More fatherly wisdom in my new Dr. Freelance post: "Why you need a go to hell fund."

The photo at the top is from '84, when I caddied for my dad in the finals of the golf club championship at our home course south of Boston. He didn't win, but played a gritty, grinding match in his typical style.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Social media for freelancers EFA teleconference

Some exciting news: I'm one of two guest panelists for an Editorial Freelancers Association teleconference on June 8 at 7 p.m. Eastern. The topic is using popular social media platforms (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) to increase professional visibility and make connections with clients and colleagues. My co-guest will be social media strategist Greg Pincus of You have to be an EFA member to attend (and if you're an editorial freelancer, you should definitely look into joining!), but I'll be sure to share applicable insights here as well as at my Dr. Freelance blog.