The Mirror Test

One of the foundational arguments in psychology is the notion of nature (genetics) vs. nurture (experience) when it comes to a person’s emotional and mental development. Each camp has compelling evidence to support their theories, but there may never be a definitive answer. Believe it not, the same question is often asked about entrepreneurship: can you teach someone to be an entrepreneur or does it require some innate personal make up?

While there is probably no right answer, there is a test that I often pose to those who are contemplating their own business venture. It’s a test I put myself through during my first job after college. I refer to it as the man/woman in the mirror test, and it’s eminently simple in process, but difficult in execution.

Work to me is the answering of a motivation. We spend so much of our waking lives working – at a job or on our business – that to make it through the ups and downs requires some fulfillment of an internal motivation. And that’s the test: identify your core motivation when it comes to work. The easiest person to lie to about anything is that reflection in the mirror, so this is not an easy test for a lot of people. But for me, the answer is typically a good indicator of your entrepreneurial spirit.

There are innumerable motivations out there: money, power, fame, material possessions, travel, saving the world, etc. In my opinion, being honest about your motivation makes your life so much clearer. My first job out of school was a good one and had ample opportunity for advancement, but something just wasn’t working out for me. Then I had my own mirror session and realized what drove me: it was being the boss. Turns out I was an excellent worker, but a terrible employee. I questioned everything – and not always in most politic way. But at some point, you should accept that there are generals and soldiers. Well, I wanted to be the general.

From then on, everything I did was directed at building my own venture. For a long while there was more disappointment than success, and if not for being true with myself way back when, there’s no way I would have made it through the low points. And that’s why I think this test is a solid indicator of your entrepreneurial fortitude. If your motivation does not align with the constant pendulum swings of entrepreneurship, then there is nothing wrong with seeking something with more stability or less pressure. Soldiers are just as vital as generals, it’s usually the motivations that are different.

Sean O’Rourke
About Sean O’Rourke 6 Articles
Sean O’Rourke is a Cyber Liability Insurance (CLI) consultant for Combs & Company, a full service insurance brokerage firm headquartered in NYC. Sean works with small- and mid-sized businesses to mitigate the myriad of risks posed to their technology and data. Sean has worked in the technology arena for 20 years, so he has a unique approach when discussing the value of CLI to businesses. Sean can be reached at or 646.736.3737.

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