You might’ve seen the latest news/study about the “Generation of Narcissists“ in your social media feed or favorite time-killer media site. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Due to too much coddling by parents, the trend of participation trophies, and basically every child being told they’re a unique snowflake, we might just have a whole generation of narcissists on our hands. The point of the coverage is that narcissist tendencies (not the diagnosable narcissist personality) are nurture, not nature. And it might be doing more harm than good.
The coverage focuses on the negatives of narcissism. For example, when people are told their entire childhood that they’re special, they end up expecting things instead of realizing they have to work for them. It’s even blamed for the supposed inability of Millennials to get good paying, stable jobs. It’s not the economy — it’s narcissism. However, there’s a big silver lining most people aren’t seeing: Narcissism can be great for entrepreneurship.
Self-Confidence by the Bucketful
Ask any successful entrepreneur (or anyone who’s studied them) and you’ll see that self-confidence is an important trait of a successful entrepreneur. Luckily, narcissistic people have this in spades. It takes a lot of risk, a lot of confidence, and the belief that you will succeed no matter what, to have a successful entrepreneurial venture.
Not all narcissists expect things then don’t know what to do when they don’t arrive. Some stubbornly try again and again, sure they’ll get it right this time. If they can just pivot to the right product idea, learn from their past mistakes, they might just be right.
Entrepreneurs have a doggedly focused vision of success and they won’t let anything stand in their way. Maybe it was the fact that their mom told them they could be anything they wanted to be — even if they were a girl interested in technology. Maybe it was their dad’s commitment to telling them they were handsome, smart and athletic, that spurred them to create that fitness modeling app that makes millions. Narcissists believe they’re special, and it takes that kind of conviction to be a success.
Using Narcissism to Your Advantage
Nobody wants to admit to being narcissistic because it’s so often talked about in a negative way. However, in my experience, if you’re in your 20s and 30s and can remember being told often that you were special, good looking or intelligent, you likely digested some of those words and have a few narcissistic tendencies now. Maybe you have a lot of them. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to make that work to your advantage. Quite frankly, as an investor, I have found that a bit of narcissism in a founder, combined with the right energy, direction and ideas, isn’t a bad thing and could mean a successful company down the road.
So, you think you’re special, or just deserve more than the nine to five grind working for the man? Prove it. Expect success, but just in case, make sure you have contingency plans for failure too. Don’t be afraid of failure, because you’ll actually get better and better with each experience, and it will temper your narcissism with that good ‘ol school of hard knocks. It will show investors, employees, partners and colleagues just how special you and your ventures are, because they’ll be dealing with a more well-rounded individual.
In general, show off what you have to offer, whether it’s a product you designed or the charisma to woo customers. Narcissists aren’t known for their humility or modesty, and neither are entrepreneurs. But be smart about it. You can talk positively about yourself and your ventures without it being bragging too much.
As Millennials, being a little narcissistic might be par for the course. However, don’t feel you need years of therapy or that you need to fake an entirely different personality to be a success. Your parents, teachers or society spent years building you up, and for what? Make it count, otherwise all that grooming is in vain (and not the good kind).