Giving A Chicken Flying Lessons

One of the most important life-lessons I learned during my PhD work came from my PhD advisor. I was trying very hard to get a complicated measurement done, together with a colleague. I was in the lab all week and much of the weekend. I was doing models, I was analyzing – my colleague was just not catching up. First, I got angry. But then, I noticed that he actually tried very hard. He also worked hard, he worked weekends and he just could not keep up.

I went to my PhD advisor and asked for his advice. How can I get this guy to be more successful? Why can’t he do this? His answer was brief and to the point: “not everybody is like you”.

Many entrepreneurs are frustrated with their colleagues at school, or their fellow-faculty. They are natural risk-takers; they love the thrill of not knowing how things will turn out. And, their colleagues live a steady life; they are well-prepared for things, but they cannot deal with uncertainty. Their life seems so boring and predictive to an entrepreneur.

But, as a matter of fact, not everybody, not every professor, is a natural leader. Some people are great at organizing, some great at teaching. I have seen great strategic thinkers who just could not keep simple organizations afloat. But, they made fantastic leaders in the right environment.

I am convinced that it is not possible to make everybody a leader and everybody an entrepreneur. If we try to do this, it will be as successful as giving a chicken flying lessons. You can try and try, the chicken may be able to flap the wings longer and better, but it will never soar like an eagle. I think it’s great for a chicken to learn about flying, but we should set our goals correctly.

It’s a great skill for entrepreneurs and leaders to get to know people. Who are the eagles? Who are the chickens? Who are the nightingales? It’s good to learn about flying, about laying eggs, and about singing – but we cannot really change who we are!

It’s very easy to get to know great leaders and great entrepreneurs: just listen to them. You will immediately know that they understand that they can only be successful with successful teams. And, in these successful teams, not everybody is like them!

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