Some people may be born to be entrepreneurs, but even they have to be made.

My dad was an entrepreneur. He got his PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford, discovered a new way to measure the output of lasers, created a company, and (after many years of struggling, during which we kids thought McDonalds was a sit-down restaurant, and Sizzler was a once-a-year glimpse of the high life), made it big enough to sell for a couple million dollars.

Now he's "retired"...and working harder than ever with his non-profit, helping Hispanic kids catch and follow a larger vision for their lives. Definitely an entrepreneur.

My eldest brother is an entrepreneur. He's a lawyer, owns a title insurance company, and has his hands in a bunch of other businesses -- more than I even know about.

The next elder brother hasn't made it quite so big, but definitely has the bug. Among other things, he's the self-published author of several books -- some that aren't really my type, and others that I like, love, and can't wait to read.

Then there's me. Since graduating in 1994, I've worked for "the Man" for a total of about 4 years.

Something Seth Godin published today got me thinking about how I got to this point:

[Some] jobs require a different sort of hard work: the guts to be wrong, a confrontation with the risk of being stupid.


More and more people now have jobs that require them to confront the risk of appearing stupid on a regular basis.

As I kid, I was painfully shy.

I lasted one day in pre-school.

In kindergarten, there was some sort of playhouse in the classroom. I barely ever went into it because I felt like it belonged to the other kids. I wasn't part of the group.

In scouts, I made it to Life just fine, but never got my Eagle. Why? I was too chicken to get my Citizenship in the Community merit badge and do an Eagle project.

I may have been born with some entrepreneurial tendencies, but guts weren't one of my natural gifts.

So how did I make the transition?

When I was 23, I got the feeling I should move away from home to finish school. So I did. With $500 to my name, no job, and only temporary housing arrangements, I moved to San Francisco. I had no idea that what I was attempting was impossible.

And yet, it worked out. A week later, I had a job that I stayed with for the next 4 years. My "temporary" housing lasted for the next 13 months, and I didn't have to pay rent till the end of each month.

So yeah, there was some "luck" involved. But the experience gave me more confidence.

I had a good friend during that period who was a great listener. I pushed myself a little to open up and talk more about personal things.

The experience gave me more confidence.

After graduation, I got a job as a software test engineer for an Apple subsidiary. I went into my 6 month performance review expecting a stereotypical smack down, and came out with a raise. And at that job, I successfully completed a lot of assignments that took me into completely unfamiliar territory.

That experience was the capstone. Since then, I've felt that I can handle pretty much any challenge I care to take on.

So after 3 1/2 years, with the prospects for interesting work at that company diminishing (they had a major layoff and cancelled a bunch of product lines shortly after I left), I was ready to make the leap.

It hasn't been easy. And there are still areas where "the risk of appearing stupid" has slowed me down. It shouldn't.

If you want to succeed in a business where you're more than just a cog in the machine, you've got to face down your fears.

Do that, and you'll stop leaving undone the things that separate the winners from the losers.

Do that, and you'll stand out. Because for every person who does, there are 99 who don't -- who stick to "safe" options like buying another eBook, trying out an "easy button" done-for-you biz op, or just continuing to do the same things that have failed before, hoping that next week will be different.

Do that, and you'll gain experiences that will teach you that you can.