Einstein's Entrepreneurial Spirit, and the Pros and Cons of Starting Your Business

Like his son, Einstein's father excelled at math but unlike Albert, he pursued a career in business, following in the very successful footsteps of his family before him. In fact, the Einstein family was key to bringing light to Munich, Germany--and that legacy certainly influenced Albert.

But another legacy from Albert's father was the woes and throes of entrepreneurship. Hermann, a serial entrepreneur, tried to bring his family's electricity business to cities around Europe but could not sustain their successes. Albert's life was impacted so much by his father's business failures--living with family members during his father's start-ups and later after Hermann's death.


The young Einstein (Source)

Perhaps too it was this uncertainty that discouraged a young Einstein from pursuing a career in banking or business--not too far off since he was a genius for numbers--and into the somewhat abstract, ethereal airs of quantum physics.

But of all the evidence to the contrary, I think there was something of a budding entrepreneur in our fabled hero. Back in my favorite museum in Landau's store, I found archived desire from an elder Einstein to live the life of the businessman. In what is Americas only Einstein treasure chest, landaus walls hold a letter from Einstein to his friend the plumber where Einstein talks about his desire to work for himself in a similar profession.


How inspiring that Einstein wanted to pursue the path of the entrepreneur. In fact, it's been said before hat the traits of the successful entrepreneur are shared with Einstein.

In striving to do scientific work, the chance--even for very gifted persons--to achieve something of real value is very small. . . There is only one way out: devote most of your time to some practical work. (Source)

At the same time, Einstein knew the dangers first hand of risking everything for your startup business. Let's look at the top three Pros and Cons of entrepreneurship that every young person should consider.

PRO: You are your own boss and take full responsibility for all choices in how to run your business. Many entrepreneurs have grown tired of listening to orders from above, and desire the power to enact their own ideas and strategies. When you start your own business, you have the power, and the responsibility, to run the business the way you see fit.

CON. Sometimes you can't control your market and if you're not willing to listen and adapt to what the market is telling you, then your venture will fail. In the end, you may not have another business person above you, dictating your moves, but you have the market--and the market will always be your ultimate guide.


In this letter, Einstein again alludes to his entrepreneurial dreams

You have to be willing and prepared to fail. After all any new business is just like a science experiment so it's just as likely that your venture will succeed as it is likely that it will fail. A successful entrepreneur sees the long-term goal in satisfying the market and strives to do so.

PRO: In general, we are all striving to discover what we love to do and do. One of the beauties of opening your own business is the freedom to find what you love and pursue that with 110% of your will.

CON: At the same time, it takes time and resources to start a successful business so if you don't love it--if you're not in love with what you're doing, then you may find that you hate what you've chosen for yourself.

PRO: You have the chance to be innovative because there are fewer barriers. When an entrepreneur enters the market, they offer a product or service that is either completely new and unmatched, or (and more likely so) an adaptation of an existing one. Both instances require creative thinking on the part of the business person to understand the needs of consumers and how to efficiently meet them.

CON: Being creative and innovative are key qualities that help entrepreneurs succeed, but only within the confines of profits and losses. Entrepreneurs measure their successes, and how well they are meeting the needs the see from the market, by how much customers consume their goods and services. When the entrepreneur's product is rejected by the market, it is time to recreate, adapt, and better serve.


The author with Princeton students, in Einstein's archive at Landau.

Special thanks to Lauren Bailey for her help with this article

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