Being an entrepreneur is a risky business. Startups aren’t always successful, and even if you put in your blood, sweat, money and tears tenfold, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. Typically, entrepreneurs are seen as unemployed, or professional gamblers. I recently came across an article in which the author discussed the similarities between being an entrepreneur and playing poker, and how a lot of the traits used in professional poker playing could be positively used in entrepreneurship.
One of the first rules of poker is to know that you won’t win every hand or every tournament. That’s simply impossible. Entrepreneurs know that some days, they’ll lose money. The only factor that determines whether or not you’re a professional player is if you can afford to keep playing at the professional level so that you eventually end up winning more money than you lose. The trick for entrepreneurs is to minimize losses, so that you can learn from them and live to fight another day.
A professional poker player won’t depend on luck to make their living. They won’t play every hand hoping to win, and in fact don’t even play the majority of hands. They only play hands that they think they’re most likely to win. Steve Jobs once gave an interesting piece of advice: say no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. By being selective, entrepreneurs who follow this mantra will find the perfect opportunities for themselves.
Becoming a professional poker player isn’t just something you wake up and decide to do without ever having played before. If you come into poker with that sort of attitude, you won’t do that well. Entrepreneurship is no different from this: it takes years of practicing at innovation and interacting with customers before you finally develop a proficient skill.
Information is the bread and butter of professional poker players. They strategically risk small amounts of money, just to figure out how their opponents play. Similarly, successful entrepreneurs know that predicting customers’ behavior in a vacuum is impossible. The only way to gain information about whether clients are interested in a product is to go out, interact with them and discover small opportunities as soon as possible to test this behavior.