I still remember that period in my late teens well. I was in the last two years of high school (or, secondary school as we call it in the UK), and school just didn't feel fun to me anymore. I enjoyed learning for learning's sake, about all the subjects.
Aged 16, as one heads into Year 12 to begin the last of two school years, you're forced (a strong word, and that's exactly what it fel like) to choose 4 subjects, which you then whittle down to 3 for your final year.
Making choices as an adult isn't easy, and at that age it came with added stress. I remember having to choose between Latin and Drama in Year 9...I loved Latin, but I remember thinking that not choosing Drama would be shutting the door on any possibility of an acting career. (And, of course, little did I realise as much at the time... but I was a creative soul).
And when it came to those Year 12 choices, I chose exactly those "impressive" subjects I felt I had to do. The more 'serious subjects', and also those I would have to do if I wanted to be a doctor. I saw my 'choices' as doing one of the "impressive" things - from something like Law, Banking or Medicine. Medicine involved subjects I quite likted and helping people, so it felt like a good fit; Banking was too maths-y and didn't involve helping others I felt, and Law appealed to be my dreamer/CSI-watching self, but I'm not sure how I would've felt about defending a potentially guilty person. Isn't it interesting how similar we are to our younger selves?
Looking back, I much prefered the variety of different subjects we had before Year 12. It felt more like learning for the sake of learning, and there were exams but not ones we were led to believe were life-defining. Biology and especially Chemistry were much less fun in Year 12 and 13, I wouldn't have chosen Maths at all (it was just a 'solid' choice and good to do for Medicine), and I'd have chosen History and/or Latin. Spanish was introduced as a language later, I wish I could have studied that. And I may even have been tempted by Greek. In fact, I may not have chosen any of the subjects I ended up picking. But, who knows.
Anyhow, for as long as I can remember the identity I gave myself was academic/nerdy (not cool/sporty/artistic/creative).
I remember the many times, in my teens and twenties, that I'd do quizzes and try to sesrch for "the thing" I was supposed to do. It seemed elusive, though, and I only became more and more confused and unhappy the more I read and researched. (It took me a while to realise that "the one thing" didn't actually exist, but that's another story). The suggestions that would be thrown up by unhelpful career quizzes (we had this one at school called FastTomato) left me feeling even more confused - and threw up every possibility from data analyst to zookeeper, neither of which felt right. I was drawn to the more fun-sounding things (#dreamer) like archeologist, paleontologist or forensic scientists - largely inspired by stuff I'd watched and re-watched, like Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, CSI and Columbo.
And then, as I landed in the world of work and started to appreciate the reality of life, going from early -> mid twenties I started to take a growing interest in the concept of working for myself. I hadn't been part of any 'Young Business Society' at school, studied business at university, nor been someone who had come out of the womb as an entrepreneur, selling sweets to classmates for a profit. Or, like another kid in my class, build computers from scratch & sell them. (Because these were the things 'real' entrepreneurs did, right?)
Nope, not little old me. I thought that, just like I was undeniably an 'academic' person, being an entrepreneur was something innate that we are born with. Like Neil, whose parents owned a restaurant and property, who was a member of Young Business Society (I think that's what it was called) and went on to study business at university. Or Amar, the kid from the last paragraph who built computers. (To make things worth they were both Asian... why couldn't I be born an Asian entrepreneur dude, too?!).
These guys were the business peple, not me. I don't think I'd even heard of an 'entrepreneur' when I was at school. The 'businessmen' I knew were the Richard Bransons of the world, and came from a different planet altogether.
Then, in my twenties, I realise I was an introvert and an INFP, and I would come across articles online telling me that my personality type was amongst the lowest earners and least likely to success as entrepreneurs. Thank goodness I didn't take those words to heart. Articles and memes like this can actually be really damaging. And seeing so many of them was one of the inspirations for starting INF club, writing articles like this and running a membership community focused on growth and growth mindset, rather than the negatives/feeling of hopelessness I have come across online when reading about INFJs and INFPs, and more broadly introverts and HSPs.
If anything, I think reading unhelpful things like the above left me on a mission to prove otherwise. Especially when I knew, in my heart of hearts, that each of us is capable, being born with stuff is b*llshit (a harmful message I still have to snap myself out of sometimes), and I can do and be whatever - and whoever - I want to.
When I left my city job as one of the highest earners (and youngest) in the office, I proved to myself that I was as capable as anyone else thank you very much (and more capable than I had previously felt possible).
I could cross that one off. But the 'business' thing felt like a whole different ball game. Working for someone else with a framework and a set of rules kinda felt like I was back in a classroom or lecture theatre again.
I started reading the stories of those - like me - unfulfilled in their jobs and then started doing their own thing. I tried to build a 'big' business, but it just wasn't for me. I was much more about the solopreneur/'company of one' vibe - it better aligned with me, my values, and the reality I wanted to create for myself.
Again, these were words - and stories, and books - I didn't even know existed at the time. It was the stories of these bloggers, creatives, freelancers, many of whom were introverts, which must struck a chord with me. They are solo business people (i.e. self-funded solopreneurs, rather than entrepreneurs pursuing the startup/get funding route). There was a focus on building a business around you interest/values/who you are, slowly and organically. It was the 'startup world' stuff that was more 'out there' at the time though, and lured me in and - if I'm being honest - lured my ego in, too. Books about disrupting and taking over the world, movies like The Social Network. But, that just wasn't the right place for me.
As I now navigate this world of solopreneurship, pursuing this INF club project and others (currently: The Indie Author and my tutoring; I forget that I've been running a tutoring business since my late teens/early twenties), I'll be honest and say that I still don't feel like a traditional 'entrepreneur'.
I feel that's partly because I'm not, as I described, wanting to be the sort of 'mainstream entrepreneur' (what is one of those, anyway?) but probably also because I'm still shedding old beliefs and stepping into this new solopreneur self.
But I'll tell you what, I've read stories and since surrounding myself with others on the same path as me - who are also taking action towards their becoming a solopreneur (some just getting started, others well on their way).
Meeting some of these people online in places like Fizzle, and in real life at places like World Domination Summit, seeing other regular folks making it happen... this really made me realise that solopreneurship was possible for me.
Many of us INFs, introverts and empaths don't feel so much like business people. I feel this might be for the same reasons I've experienced, and also has something to do with out heart-centred nature not aligning with 'traditional business'. Also, from personal experience, it can be a case of 'inner work' happening, and it taking time for us to lean into our potential and become who we want to become - and who we're supposed to become.
If you're reading this, there's a reasonable chance that you don't feel like a typical entrepreneur, either. And that's totally okay.
Let me tell you this... if you are reading this you can absolutely 100% do your own thing and make it happen, whatever that looks like for you.
Whilst I'm not where I want to be yet, financially, I am on my way and I've come across dozens and dozens of others who are either sustaining themselves/their families already, or are well on their way.
PS. Rather than 'entrepreneur', I prefer calling myself an indie or a solopreneur, as it better represents who I am. But it's been important for me to lean into 'doing my own thing' and realise that this path is possible for me - and for everyone else - and not just those seemingly naturally business-minded. It's taken some gradual mindset shifting, which has happened from a combination of the healer/grower that is time, taking gradual action, gradually learning to believe in myself, and surrounding myself with likeminded others on the same journey as I am - something I've been consciously doing since taking the leap in 2015.
Subscribe to INF Club
Subscribe to the newsletter and unlock access to member-only content.