I love entrepreneurs. I am an entrepreneur myself, and I find working with other entrepreneurs very enjoyable because their energy is so compelling. Also, if you haven’t heard, this particular moment in history is a great time to be an entrepreneur — many authors and futurists are lauding entrepreneurialism as the “savior of business.”

But I am troubled by something: What if you don’t want to start a business?

What if you don’t have the “crazy gene” that entrepreneurs seem to have?

There is a ton of information about how to succeed in today’s business climate by being entrepreneurial. And that’s great.

Unless you don’t want to be one.

An entrepreneurial lifestyle can’t, and probably shouldn’t be, for everyone. When I look around at my circles of influence, I find very few of my friends or family who have any “entrepreneurial desire.” Left to their wants, the vast majority of them would prefer to find a job working for someone else—and this ought to be OK.

It is true that the new economy is brilliantly organized for entrepreneurs. And that’s wonderful. But not everyone wants to start a business or lead an organization. In fact, judging by the numbers in the workforce, it seems there are many people who prefer to work for someone else.

And that should be wonderful, too.

The world needs both managers and makers.* One is not more important than the other, they are simply different pieces of the puzzle. The real problem is that each side often forgets something really important: nothing happens without both groups working together.

Every single person deserves to work in an environment that 1) provides them a sustainable living, 2) treats them like a human being, and 3) allows them to work towards some greater purpose.

As leaders and entrepreneurs, we should see it as our responsibility to design this kind of working environment.

If we don’t, who will?


*I confess I don’t know who used this terminology first, but I originally heard of it in a blog post by Seth Godin referencing Paul Graham.


9 Replies to “What If You Don’t Want To Start A Business?”

  1. […] Designing An Organization That Doesn’t Suck”, will be released in early 2012. Connect with him online. Follow Josh on […]

  2. […] Designing An Organization That Doesn’t Suck”, will be released in early 2012. Connect with him online. Follow Josh on […]

  3. Dan S says:

    I’m glad I found this article! It reflects some sentiments I’m currently working through myself.

    I’m an aerospace engineer who decided to explore options for self-employment and starting a business for the sake of gaining freedom from an employer. Unfortunately, engineering can be one of those fields where it’s difficult to just go out and hang a shingle unless you can sell yourself as a consultant with decades of experience and a healthy Rolodex of contacts. As a young engineer, I have neither!

    Also, self-employment has its own demands that may not suit everyone. Engineering is exciting and fun for me. Analyzing a physical problem and developing a solution is something I like to do, and a skill I like to hone. Attempting to sell that service, market that service, compete in a market with that service, would be something I couldn’t honestly be as passionate about. What’s more, I don’t want to be owned by my business any more than I want to be owned by my job; I’ve got other passions in my life I’d like to pursue. Entrepreneurship without a passion for such doesn’t strike me as the best alternative to working full time for a company, because it feels like trading one set of constraints on one’s freedom for another, perhaps equally grueling set!

    This is where I hope to explore what I see as a possible middle ground: embracing temporary and/or contract employment on a full-time basis. Work for someone else, but in a capacity that allows more flexibility to jump ship, take a few weeks between contracts, etc. The obvious additional constraint on freedom in this case would be financial stability and staying mobile, but I don’t see living a simpler life and keeping a good cash cushion as being quite as demanding as the entrepreneurial demands of maintaining one’s own business. This is also a lifestyle conducive to the demands of employers today, who are still hesitant to hire full-time, and I’ve found a lot of literature that points to this being a nice way for young professionals to build a comprehensive network of contacts in multiple companies (as opposed to just being a company-man in a single company).

    There are definitely different strokes for different folks, and it’s nice to see someone think the same regarding the relentless cultural demand that one can’t be free in the United States unless they’ve started their own restaurant, their own online store, their own consultancy, etc. Some people want to do more than economically optimize their passion. Some just want to work on what they’re good at and be free enough to pursue their own passions outside of the rat-race.

    I’m hoping to try the temporary lifestyle when I wrap up my graduate studies this fall, and I’m excited to see how it plays out!

    • Great stuff, Dan. Thanks for taking the time to comment! Certainly wishing you all the best! :-)

    • LRB1111 says:

      Current Date: 2019 — Thank You, Dan S. (Wherever you may be) because your input and insight was well written, and well received. Kudos, to You, My Friend. Thank You, Josh D., I am so grateful to have stumbled upon this article/site today. : ) BlesSings – LRB1111

  4. Cat says:

    I’m glad I found this, I have been feeling under pressure the last few years to start my own business because apparently, that’s what young people do. It’s all I ever hear. I have tried business courses and gotten advice, but I can’t muster up the passion and I keep running away. It makes me feel a bit of a failure, honestly, especially when normal jobs are hard to find right now.

    Thanks for this article, I’m glad I’m not alone in wanting to work for someone else.

  5. Karen says:

    Hi! I know this is an older post, but I’ve just found it. I have a question I’m hoping someone can speak to. I am a 51 yo woman. I worked with my now-ex-husband while getting a PhD and raising kids. I got almost no divorce finances because I have a “PhD.” They thought I will have “no problem” getting a job. I did get a temporary contract for 5 years, but since then I’ve only been able to get PT, min wage jobs. ‘m knocked out of “traditional” paths, I believe there is significant age discrimination in hiring. All I want is a job, but I just can’t get one. In any field. So I think my only option is to be a life coach. I’m certified and it is related to my PhD. The problem is, I don’t want to. After nearly 7 years of not being able to get a job, I don’t feel I have a choice. But I can’t get the energy to do this: the work is boring and I’m not financially stable enough to take a chance on income instability. I think my ambivalence even shows when I network. What to do? How do I muster energy to start a business when I don’t want to?

  6. LRB1111 says:

    Dear Karen, I’m not sure if you will see this reply. I read your message and I understand. I hope you’re well. I relate to your situation, somewhat. We all have special gifts and talents. What is your field of study in relation to the Ph.D.,.? Your heart is your passion. The rest is just survival. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” — (quote by… Either Mark Twain, or Confucius ..lol) :-)

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