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Entrepreneurship = Obsession?

Posted by: Amy Choi on November 3, 2009

Here at SmallBiz, we spend a lot of time thinking about what drives an entrepreneur. The issue was at the heart of our special report earlier this year on social entrepreneurship, and our feature story on how entrepreneurs beat burnout and stay passionate about their business. We’ve asked several of our guest columnists to examine the subject, including Steven Berglas and Vivek Wadhwa.

In fact, you could say we’re obsessed.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing. After spending an evening listening to Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar and current CEO of GoLoco, dissect one of Carl Jung’s paintings at the Rubin Museum of Art last week, I’m convinced that obsession is the core of the entrepreneurial spirit. The Rubin has invited numerous artists, intellectuals, and executives to sit on stage with a Jungian analyst and respond to a painting from Jung’s legendary Red Book diary, which famously chronicles the psychologist’s descent into madness. Chase could have gone anywhere with the painting, which featured a deity-like man floating above an urban waterfront scene. Instead, she spent an hour discussing the potential tragedy of climate change if people don’t deal with excess capacity (share your cars!) and sprawl (infrastructure first!).

This sort of single-mindedness, even when presented with madness, is what has helped propel Chase to success. I’d venture that other entrepreneurs who dive into their business ventures wholeheartedly have the same. After all, what is it to sacrifice everything for an idea, if not madness?

Reader Comments

Shahroll Photo

November 3, 2009 10:45 PM

GOOD article! that guide me to be good NEW comer in business..

Lou Hoffman

November 4, 2009 10:58 PM


I have a slightly different take on this topic.

Years ago we debated whether to expand overseas. All the data pointed to a great business opportunity that would differentiate our services against larger competitors.

Still, it was a daunting decision (cost + learning curve) and one we waffled on for a good two years.

In discussing the pluses and minuses for the upteenth time with a colleague, he asked me how I personally felt about building an operation that extended to Asia and Europe.

His point was that successful entrepreneurs are a bit selfish in the sense that they follow their passions and what they enjoy. It's this energy that allows them to overcome hurdles that they have no right overcoming.

Once the decision centered around what I believed in and would enjoy versus a spreadsheet showing profitability, it was easy to move forward.

I'm sure this tale has the MBA crowd cringing but we now have more employees overseas than in the U.S. and I still love my job largely because of the global dimension.

Is passion the same as obsession?

While both traits share a "ssion" I perceive passion as encapsulating more of one's personal feeling (enjoyment).

Lou Hoffman

David Calabrese

November 5, 2009 4:07 PM

Obsession often leads to irrational decisions. While the root of an entrepreneur's success it is also the cause of their downfall.
Holding too tight to a vision or the feeling that they have put so much time and energy in that something HAS to come from their endeavor... these are things that entrepreneurs do every day. Habits that lead to more debt and stress.

Learn to let go, don't get so attached that you get clouded by emotion...

Roger Kahn

November 5, 2009 9:53 PM

I have to agree with your post and also your comment Lou, I think entrepreneurship is a "passion" that borders on "obsession". Why not be passionate and obsessed with the idea of being in charge of your own success?!

I work with entrepreneurs every day in my line of work, in the virtual office business. My company, Virtual Office of Garden City, offers small businesses and entrepreneurs a range of cost-efficient virtual office and live remote receptionist services on an as-needed basis.

Based on my own personal interactions and observations with our clients and also the fact that I consider myself an entrepreneur too, the obsession you speak about is, at the heart of it, a passion – a strong desire for success and willingness to do almost anything to achieve it.

This passion and obsession is what makes entrepreneurs so wonderfully unique and what makes my business so rewarding.

Rebecca Tann

November 6, 2009 6:20 PM

As an employee of Regus, I can honestly say that my organization is also obsessed with entrepreneurship and supporting small business owners. In this economy, we want nothing more than to help these businesses and individuals survive and thrive. In fact, Regus is offering business people in Manhattan 2 months of free office space. To learn more and take advantage of this offer call 1-877-REGUS-01. (Rebecca Tann, Vice President of Marketing for Regus, for more information visit


November 13, 2009 3:45 AM

I am an entreprenuer and have often felt that I was alone in being obessesed about my business. I eat, sleep and even dream about my business to the verge of near insanity. To me obession is a by-product of being passionate. Entrepreneurship is all about proving to myself that I can accomplish even more than I ever imagined. It is about feeling that I have stretched beyond my own limits - in a way proving that your most closely held beliefs about yourself were wrong. The success is a high beyond imagination - a feeling of invincibility

Jenn Kirk

November 20, 2009 6:07 PM

I love the comments here! Whether obsession or passion, entrepreneurs have an "it" factor that is not easily understood by those without the entrepreneurial spirit.

Jenn Kirk
Founding Partner

The "CareerBuilder" for aspiring entrepreneurs!

Jackie Semar

November 21, 2009 9:30 AM

It takes balance -- which is exactly what I like about Wake Up Now. It's about getting out of debt, having more time to fulfill your personal aspirations, and helping others. Not a gtet-rich-quick scheme or promoting obsession. It promotes personal responsibility, education, financial security, giving back to the community. This is the new kind of entreprenuer -- combining energy and compassion, self-development with concern for others.

Carol Cross

November 24, 2009 4:15 PM

All real entrepreneurs, hopefully, understand before they commit themselves that the odds of failure are high. Real entrepreneurs are to be admired for their confidence and obsession to create a business of their own.

Real entrepreneurs understand the grim odds but are sure that they can overcome these odds with talent, dedication, and hard work. They are emotionally prepared to take the risk for the reward.

In the franchisor-franchisee business model, it is the franchisor who is the entrepreneur and the franchisees are merely the resources (the hard assets) of the franchisor.

The entrepreneur of an independent business, who is subject to the known grim odds of failure, has measured the risk and has the confidence to take the risk when they can raise the money or negotiate a loan to follow their dream.

The franchisor entrepreneur takes the risk but mitigates the risk to a great extent because it is the franchisees who supply the hard assets for the franchisors with loans for startup capital and who provide cheap labor

The loans are personally guaranteed by collateral posted by the franchisee and franchisors don't fail when frnchisees fail. Franchisors churn the assets of failed franchisees in fire sales to new owners who continue to serve the entrepreneur franchisor.

Franchisors have never been compassionate or caring entrepreneurs with concern for others and recruit prospective franchisees by suggesting that they are fellow entrepreneurs who will profit from buying a brand franchise but don't disclose the material risk, as known to the franchisor.

Hopefully, the entrepreneurial community and the business community will help to warn prospective franchisees that they are not entrepreneurs.

Pete Sveen

January 16, 2010 9:36 PM

Good article Amy. I found it interesting to read the comments as well. Like the other posters, I am definitely obsessed with entrepreneurship. After graduating from college, I have focused on creating 2 start-ups. I am always thinking about my business or new ideas. Sometimes I wish I could clear it from my mind and think like a normal human being! But, I guess many of us have the entrepreneurial bug. I'm only 3 years out of college and have learned so much already with owning my own business. I remember my entrepreneur professor humorously apologizing in advance for messing me up and giving me the entrepreneur spark. I am so glad he did have such an influence on me! I know my entrepreneurial passion has rubbed off on others and I am trying to share it with others by collecting entrepreneur stories and sharing them on my blog. I am trying to get stories from as many businesses as possible to inspire others. Thanks for posting your article!

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What's it like to run your own company today? Entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles new and old, from raising capital and managing employees to keeping up with technology and competing in a global marketplace. In this blog, the Small Business channel's John Tozzi and Nick Leiber discuss the news, trends, and ideas that matter to small business owners. Follow them on Twitter @newentrepreneur.

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