The Unexpected Entrepreneur: A Journey to Last A Lifetime
T.E.A. takes on Year One
I wasn’t sure how I felt about Entrepreneurship when I first enrolled in this class. I had never taken a business class at university before, and it wasn’t especially in my area of interest. I’m an English major with a minor in film. Numbers, facts and figures often bore me. I didn’t know how much I would like the class. I was excited to travel to Graz and be part of the program, but I never considered just how much the entire experience (including the class itself) would benefit me. This class taught me more than how to become an entrepreneur: it taught me a different way to think.
Every assignment made me feel alive and connected with the world around me. Literature and film do that too, but in a different way. Entrepreneurship was more straight forward. I could look at a problem, analyze it and empathize with it, and spit out the solution. Now, that wasn’t true all the time – sometimes we developed and modified and shaped a solution over time, like editing an essay. But there was no planning or outlining; there was just doing. Entrepreneurship takes some of the mess we encounter in everyday life and makes it simple. There’s a problem, fix it. There’s a need, fill it. People don’t think like that. We are so overwhelmed with the wealth of information and the number of choices in our world that we forget that behind all those things, it is truly that simple. There are problems. There are questions. There are many, many solutions, and many, many ways of going about those solutions. The hardest part is looking through all the debris and extraneous fluff and just starting. It didn’t feel like 7:30 in the morning when we finished the in-class exercises and discussions. Class made me feel like I had gone for an early morning run in cool spring air, or finished an extra-large French vanilla coffee from Dunkin. I felt energized.
This class gave me the courage to start. Projects are due in five minutes, half an hour, an hour, a week. There is no time to worry about getting it wrong. And, if you do miss the mark with the actual product or solution, you can always get points for presenting well. I think that’s part of this “Entrepreneurial Mindset”. It’s about starting. It’s about doing. It’s about taking action and creating something, anything, a starting point to build on.
Keeping an ’Opportunity Journal’ is something I’ve never had to do before. It’s simple, but strange. If you asked someone how many ideas they have in a week, they’ll probably say “a million!”. Ask them to tell you any of them, and they’ll probably draw a blank. The journal kept track of every thought I had for an invention or app or product. Even the ones that seemed trivial went in the spreadsheet. I think that was an important lesson – not every idea was revolutionary. But it kept the juices flowing in my head. In our school systems, we focus on forcing the “right” answer. There’s shame in being wrong. But that’s not how it should be. Being wrong just means you’ve got something to learn. And don’t we all have something to learn? This is the mindset of an entrepreneur. They see problems as ‘opportunities’, solutions as beginnings and complications as challenges to overcome. Classroom learning, although valuable in its own way, is different from the real world. I think that’s why you all kept asking us questions about our ideas, pushing us to rethink and reshape; you didn’t want us to get stuck in this rut where we ‘solved’ problems and tucked them away. You wanted us to learn the process.
Visiting Graz was my favorite part of my entrepreneurship journey. The best part was meeting students from another country. That rounded out the entire experience, and supplemented my education there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with those students, and I know I made lifelong connections in the group. Travelling is its own sort of education. It makes you expand your mind. It forces you to step outside of your own world. I had never been to Austria before, and I loved experiencing a different part of the world through an entrepreneurship lens.
I feel confident that the lessons I learned with T.E.A. will benefit me greatly in my professional and personal endeavors. I like that this course isn’t just about entrepreneurship, or entrepreneurs in business. It’s specifically focused on the entrepreneurial mindset. I think that’s exactly what I gained from these two weeks: a mindset. There’s no way to leave it behind, no matter where I go from here.
Written by Rachel Belsky
Montclair State University Class of 2018