First and foremost, it wasn’t until recently that I started thinking of myself as an entrepreneur, and even now I feel a little uncomfortable with the term. I wasn’t an enterprising little girl – I didn’t sell lemonade to my neighbors. I didn’t dream about being my own boss. I had zero aspirations to run a Fortune 500 company. In short, I don’t identify with the ambitious, self-starter types who wear the label “entrepreneur” with ease.
Don’t get me wrong, I had (and have) dreams and ambitions, but historically they never included running a company. They were (and are) more along the lines of “travel the world” and “write a bestselling book.” Disrupting the health industry? Writing an app? Yeah, not really on my mind. But here I am, a businesswoman, a writer for therapists and other busy professionals. And because the only person running this business is me, that makes me an entrepreneur. So how can I square this term with my identity?
What helps me in these situations is to go back to the word’s roots. Somehow getting in touch with the evolution of a word helps me understand it better. (I am a wordsmith after all.) In this case, entrepreneur comes from 18th century French and means “to undertake.” It was mainly used to describe a manager or promoter of a theatrical production, according to this Quora article.
Richard Cantillon, an Irishman living in France, wrote a book in 1755 using the word entrepreneur. He established an entrepreneur as a risk-taker and he believed the term combined two Latin words: “entre” meaning to swim out and “prendes” meaning to grasp, understand, or capture.
When I think about “entrepreneur” being a combination of “swim out” and “to understand,” then I can settle into the word more easily. Someone who swims out in an attempt to understand something describes me. I love literal swimming but I also love swimming out metaphorically, leaving behind old ideas and trying on new ones. I find inventiveness thrilling and can’t stand stodginess or doing things because that’s the way they’ve always been done.
On top of that, I constantly seek to understand. Curiosity is one of my strongest character traits and is part of the reason I became a journalist – I want to really know people, places, and things beyond the surface level. I care about learning. I ask the deeper questions. “Why?” is perpetually on my mind. It’s not enough for me to hear that such and such happened, I want to know why it happened. What’s the reason behind it?
When I think of an entrepreneur in this manner, it’s easier for me to accept it as a description of myself. No, I didn’t sell lemonade or Girl Scout cookies as a kid. But I did ask “why” all the time – well beyond my toddler years. This curiosity is what drives my interest in mental health and ultimately my role as a writer for therapists. I have fluency in therapeutic topics even though I never went to school for psychology because on my own I’ve delved into attachment theory, trauma responses, emotional regulation, and more. I seek to understand. And that’s what makes me an entrepreneur.