Entrepreneurship as a Solution to Find Meaning in Work

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As today’s jobs become more challenging, you wouldn’t find many employees who’d turn down a raise. Many will grumble that they aren’t receiving fair compensation for the hard work they do. Yet unhappy workers often aren’t wanting for more money. Over 90% would actually trade a percentage of their earnings in exchange for meaningful work.

The problem is that most companies don’t offer enough opportunities to do something that gives you a greater sense of purpose. Following supply and demand, therefore, means that we face intense competition for meaningful jobs. Not everyone has the career capital required to leverage their way into those coveted positions.

If employment offers scant opportunities for meaningful work, the alternative of entrepreneurship should become more attractive. But people tend to associate starting a business with self-serving purposes, such as becoming your own boss or earning more money. The reverse is true. Entrepreneurs may, in fact, be the best-positioned individuals to make a positive contribution to the world.

Embracing complexity

People dislike complexity. A lack of money comes with a subtly gratifying sense of simplicity. If you can’t afford to buy a house, you rent or live with your parents. Once that goal is financially attainable, you need to find the best mortgage rates, scout property listings, and consider relocating and finding a new job.

Processing complexity becomes a necessity when you have financial flexibility. Or, as Notorious B.I.G. put it, “the more money we come across, the more problems we see.” This turns people off from seriously considering entrepreneurship as a career path.

Conversely, it follows that those who do start a business have embraced the complexity of it. Having the freedom to make big decisions means you have to manage consequences and tolerate certain risks. You also tend to develop qualities such as persistence and continuous learning, which prove vital to navigating the complex situations that the business world throws at you.

A wicked world

The difficulties of business arise because you’re dealing with too many moving parts and factors to account for. There are no neat and orderly solutions that apply to every circumstance. Much as you’d love to study things in the long term and collect more data before making a decision, you often have to learn and respond on the fly instead.

In the literature of planning and systems management, these situations are called ‘wicked’ problems and environments. They are complex systems in which exact definitions and causes may be unknowable. Identifying leverage points is often counter-intuitive.

Handling wicked problems isn’t something they teach you in school. And it’s rarely something you acquire by persisting with an employee’s mindset.

Entrepreneurs who seek to overcome these difficulties will find that they must pursue both breadth and depth of knowledge.

Being curious and dabbling in many other fields gives you more transferable skills and the ability to adapt quickly to unpredictable challenges. On the other hand, acquiring specialized pertinent knowledge will help you avoid serious negative consequences in the big picture.

Finding market-based solutions

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Many of the world’s biggest problems are wicked in nature. Climate change, inequality, and poverty are among the most complex and persistent issues we face. Emerging challenges such as AI development and improving human capacity to deal with an uncertain future are likewise wicked problems.

The path of entrepreneurship is a natural filter for those who can deal with complexity. If you have what it takes to launch and run a business, you can also apply your skills to solve the world’s problems.

Many people don’t see it that way, though. They are caught up in thinking that businesses exist to make a profit. Therefore, entrepreneurs must always look out for the bottom line. It’s practically the opposite of our perception of meaningful work.

However, many of our wicked problems can be effectively addressed through market-based solutions. Given the right support and direction, entrepreneurs can serve as the catalyst for improvement in these areas.

The public sector is often handicapped by political division and a dependence on the tax base for funding. Finding market incentives gives entrepreneurs a critical edge. They can win investors’ support while initiating effective change more rapidly than a government institution or nonprofit.

If you’ve been seeking more meaningful work but remain hesitant to start a business, give it a second thought. Beginning one is not all about turning a profit. Align a good business idea and model with tackling wicked and harmful problems in your community, and you can find a good purpose through entrepreneurship.

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