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Why everyone innately wants to start their own business, and how to get there

women working on her computer to start a business

I think everyone wants to start their own business.


It satisfies the highest levels of human motivation.

Enter Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the only thing I remember from my Management 101 class.

If you're not familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, it's a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, starting from the bottom tier and working up. Read more here.

The five tiers of needs

1. Biological and physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.

2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.

3. Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).

Pyramid showing Maslow's Hierarchy of needs

4. Esteem needs - which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige). Maslow indicated that the need for respect or reputation is most important for children and adolescents and precedes real self-esteem or dignity.

5. Self-actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming”.

The reason most people innately want to start their own companies is the needs for esteem and/or self-actualization. Often the journey of entrepreneurship starts with the need for esteem and then evolves to the need for self-actualisation. I quit my job because I felt that I could do more with my life and was undervalued by the company (esteem). I then became very focused on rapid learning and development and understanding more about myself and the fundamentals of the world (self-actualisation). It's the same story for many entrepreneurs.

This becomes a challenge for existing companies - to retain good employees a company must create and maintain environments where these higher level needs can be realised. This is taught in management 101 but almost never achieved in most company cultures.

So if everyone wants to start a company, yet very few are actually doing it, maybe it's because most people haven't met their lower level needs? Maybe this is how existing companies keep good people? They are stuck seeking the lower levels of the hierarchy, levels 1-4.

Is this you? If it is, then stop and do a check in on your life. Do you get enough sleep, eat good food, drink enough water, have the security you need to be able to quit your job and work on your idea for 3-6 months without needing to working full time, and have a community of supportive people to make you feel supported?

I developed an inflammatory condition when I was still working in my corporate job. It meant that I had to take very good care of my health and cut out certain food groups (specifically wheat and dairy). I satisfied my physical needs.

I saved enough money to co-invest in a house and live for 3-6 months without an income. I satisfied what I perceived to be my safety needs.

I completed a leadership camp that introduced me to a new community of like-minded people where I felt I belonged. I satisfied my love and belongingness needs.

A year later I quit my job and started Mum's Garage. I believe that the life changes that led up to this point were fundamental to making this happen.

That desire to start your own things is not likely to go away. So you might as well follow it.

If you don't feel ready yet, then focus on satisfying some of your lower level needs. What it means to satisfy these will be different for every person, so be conscious of working out what they are for you.

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