Over the past few decades, the concept of a business has become more accessible and, in turn, increasingly progressive. The multifaceted realm of entrepreneurship is one of society’s many double entendres, igniting both potential success motivated by passion, and potential failure caused by excessive risk. And as the average entrepreneur makes this journey from an idea to a solution, he or she must draw upon a certain tenacity—galvanized by the interconnection of various schools of thought—that characterizes the transformation of an idea into a solution. The old mottos defining entrepreneurship were passion, confidence, and commitment. Today’s Gen Zers see entrepreneurship very, very differently.
Entrepreneurship now revolves around the premise of seeing ourselves as a work in progress. As Charlie Scaturro asserts in his article “Life as a Work in Progress,” “the second we feel like we have everything figured out is the second that we no longer give life the chance to change our minds or enlighten us. The second we feel like we are no longer a work in progress is the second we stop making progress.” And this exact premise defines entrepreneurship. The three keys to building a successful startup are now confusion, frustration, and fear.
To understand why confusion, a term with such a negative connotation, fits perfectly into an entrepreneur’s toolbox, let’s simply take a look at American business magnate and Apple’s former CEO, Steve Jobs. Only a month before the first iPhone was scheduled for release in 2007, Jobs found himself in the midst of a crucial dilemma. At an unexpected senior team meeting, Steve Jobs angrily pointed at dozens of cracks on the initially plastic iPhone screen, born simply out of contact with car keys and credit cards in his pocket. He had no clue how to progress—should he ignore the problem, and continue with the current iPhone production schedule? Or should he order a stronger glass screen, and deal with the drastic company setbacks that would surely ensue?
Steve Jobs realized that confusion was not a problem: it meant that he was thinking deeply, and instead of letting that feeling make him uncomfortable and concerned, he shaped the future of Apple by confidently working through his confusion and deciding to design a glass screen. Only three months later, he had sold one million iPhones. Gen Z entrepreneurs follow Jobs’ example and embrace the clarity that confusion eventually creates.
Even lesser known companies have begun to accept the multitude of obstacles inevitable in entrepreneurship. Patrick and John Collision—the brothers that founded Stripe, a convenient online payment platform—built their startup out of frustration, and the inherent need to quench their dissatisfaction with the workings of the world. Their inability to easily and quickly set up online payment systems encouraged them to quit their jobs and create a solution of their own. The Collision brothers viewed frustration as a method of fostering evolution.
And finally, Seattle’s own Blazing Bagels has followed these newfound entrepreneurial ideals. When Dennis Ballen was suddenly laid off from his job in office supply sales, he was extremely scared, to say the least. With absolutely no idea how he was supposed to support himself and raise enough money simply to survive, as a last resort, Dennis grabbed a homemade bagel cart from his garage and started selling bagels to passers on the street. As time passed and his popularity grew, Dennis transformed his tiny bagel cart into a chain of thriving retail shops. Fear instills creativity—Dennis was forced to become creative and turn his favorite snack into a business.
So which path is better: passion and pride, or frustration and fear? The question is impossible to answer: each method of creating a business is too distinct from the other to be compared. But in a world that has recently invented AI-powered robot microscopes that help clean the world’s water supplies, or that is close to developing zero-carbon natural gas, it doesn’t matter. Success will arise either way.