The Flexible Entrepreneurial Mind

May 23, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

Einstein was a retard as a child. Tolstoy was considered nothing special. The great mathematician Pascal was homeschooled and forbidden to study math until the age of 15.

What does this have to do with me and my startup? You ask. Everything! Let me explain. There are two mindsets that people have in this world. The fixed mindset and the flexible mindset.

A person that has a fixed mindset believes that the qualities that they are born with are the qualities that they will die with. That they cannot change their qualities, cannot change their minds, and can’t really “grow”. You will hear the following from them: “Why go to that training, I already know everything”, “There’s no need for me to review where I am, since people don’t change”, “I can’t start a company, I wasn’t accepted into Harvard”, “I’m not a people person, I work better with systems” or “We need the entire system built, all marketing printed and 100 people hired before we can even launch private Alpha.”

Somebody with a flexible mindset believes that where they are at is only the beginning. That everybody had to start somewhere and that there’s a lot of room for development, improvement and growth. They believe that IQ, personality, and everything else about them can be changed, bettered or improved by training, studying, experience, and other ways. They like to get started with anything and build on it, improve it, get feedback and change it. They like to “throw something up and see what happens”. For them acting as a CEO, marketing director, programmer and toilet cleaner at their new company is “A OK”.

Imagine that when people were born all of their qualities came in a box. The fixed mindset people would have two inch steel cased box that could never be opened and changed, but they could “pimp out” on the outside. The flexible mindset people would say “What box?” and quickly start to evaluate what they have now and start to hack something better out of it.

One big area where the fixed mindset differs from the flexible mindset is with dealing with setbacks and failure. The fixed mindset people think that if they take on a task and they fail, that their entire lives are failures, that the end of the world is near and they would put themselves down and draw up negative generalities about themselves. The flexible mindset people would see a setback as a very temporary thing, they figure out what went wrong, how to fix it and how to improve on it and use it a stepping stone to something bigger.

Fixed mindset people would never start a company unless they were sure to be a success (they would buy a proven system like McDonalds). It is something that would go against their core believes to start something that is not a guaranteed.

People that want to start up companies or lead a startup type of life tend to be people that have the flexible mindset. They know that it will not always be smooth sailing; that they will have stop, go back and regroup and launch again, but to them this is fun. Sometimes (like Flickr) they scrap their initial idea entirely and adapt something new, other times the end product ends up looking 10% like what it was first initially envisioned by the founders.

Summary: As Einstein and others are examples, nobody can forecast the potential of anybody else. It would be benefitial to understand what mindset you have and be able to recognize the mindsets of others. This way you can continue as you are or change, at least it’ll be a concious decision.

Oh, and Noah has a flexible mind. What is your type?

Andre Nosalsky can be found at his site.

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17 responses to “The Flexible Entrepreneurial Mind

  1. Patrick Reply

    Andre, surely you’ve been told you look like Leo Dicaprio before.

    I’d like to think I’m a Flexible Mindset and its good to know that – its an encouragement to continue with my startup ideas.

  2. Will Kern Reply

    I like to think that I am a flexible mindset type. Your analogy of the flexible mindset person as a “CEO, marketing director, programmer and toilet cleaner at their new company is “A OKâ€? ” rings so true and it reaffirmed my willingness to do all that and then some for a venture of my own.



  3. noah kagan Reply


    Thought provoking post. Most of my life has really been failures. It’s funny because most of them are not thought of and only the positive things are left. I learned when I cried on stage in drama class that we should always try to learn from things and improve them. I personally hate compliments and love criticism/feedback.

    I don’t think fixed mindset is bad for someone who wants a life of safety. It all comes down to the type of life people want to live.

  4. Will Kern Reply

    Great point, being of the flexible mindset is not for everyone. The world needs both types to keep everything balanced. What is interesting is that I think some people may be more flexible than they realize, they just have not had something that really pushed them to think differently, to change to be more flexible.


  5. Andre Nosalsky Reply

    Nice, we should have our own show or something…

    Noah, good point, the sad thing is that most people out in the world don’t even realize that there’s a choice or a difference in mindsets, and they end up just floating their entire lives with no purpose or direction. I’m OK with people consciously choosing the fixed mindset, but let it be an informed choice and not the default.

    @Will, good point too, sometimes a truly big life crises stirs people up and they wake up, but sadly that doesn’t happen too often.

  6. Noah Kagan Reply


    I always wondered if the world only had leaders who would do the work. Who would be serving me the burritos or the delicious In-n-Out burger?


  7. Jason H. Reply

    Great post, Andre 🙂

    I was watching Big Idea the other day, and the founder of Soapworks said something that stuck in my mind. She said something like, “Some people think they are entrepreneurs, but the fact is that they are just small business owners. Being an entrepreneur is different than being a small business owner. ”

    “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, tha is all.” ~ Oscar Wilde

    P.S. Big Congrats, Jordin Sparks– the new A.I. 🙂

  8. Ray Dotson Reply

    Great post. It really is a type of mindset that determines where in life we’re going to go and how far. I agree that most people live their lives in boxes and don’t bother to venture beyond the safe confines. Most don’t even realize that the box they live in is of their own construction. Again, that’s okay for a lot of people and necessary for society to continue functioning. Thanks for posting!

  9. sri Reply

    something inside me tells me im a genius…does everyone get that feeling or do i just think too much of myself..

  10. Jason H. Reply

    Sri, I think u r a comedian genius, u crack me up from time to time 🙂

    “Everyone is a Genius. There is a Genie-In-Us”~ Robert Kiyosaki

  11. Shawn Reply

    This is a good spin on something I learned a few years back – I can increase my I.Q. Now, that doesn’t stop me from being a dumbass sometimes, but I probably have increased my I.Q. since learning a secret a few years ago. Here it is; follow the logic: in order to think, you need to be able to comprehend and form concepts which are based on words. Therefore the more words you know, the more thoughts and ideas you can think.

    So the larger your vocabulary, the more thoughts you can think on your own, and the more things you can learn from others. By learning a new word each day (or each week, whatever) you can effectivally increase your I.Q.

  12. Joel Mueller Reply

    Keep writing Andre. I haven’t yet gotten through a whole column that you wrote, but I will someday after I graduate from school…..5th grade. Then hopefully I’ll be like some of the people you write about in your columns. Or better yet, many I can help someone else be amazing. Either way, cheers to your articles and topics. Keep writing!