The (Liberal) Art of Becoming an Entrepreneur

by Kurt

They do not teach you this in school – at least not most schools. There is no required high school course on entrepreneurship, nor any liberal arts major specifically designed for people who want to be their own boss. Sure, there are economics, business and other related degrees, but unless it runs in your blood (i.e. the family business or entrepreneur parents) you are unlikely to be told from an early age that there is, in fact, something out there besides working for someone else. No one told me, anyway.

So, now that I work online, run a small network of sites and am a full-time web professional, do I wish I could go back and know my options sooner? Not really. I am fond of joking that my education has nothing to do with what I do now but that is far from the truth. My undergraduate degree in philosophy honed my research and writing abilities. My graduate degree in architecture helped me plumb the depths of contemporary design innovation and taught me to work hard and think more critically about built environments. If I had taken a degree in business or publishing I believe I would be worse off for it in terms of what I do now – if I were even doing something of the same sort.

More and more architecture schools are seeking out liberal-arts educated undergraduates to enter master’s degree programs. Why? To bring in a broader range of people who are not just technically skilled and specifically knowledgeable about architecture and design. They have begun to realize that other backgrounds can be assets. Likewise with entrepreneurship, it seems that having a healthy mix makes sense. Some people who choose a business path early on will no doubt be successful, but there are some niches that may be best filled by those of us who find our way indirectly through the forest and stumble across a perpendicular road of entrepreneurial opportunity.

When I was in school I was never quite certain where I was going. Architecture was fascinating, sure, but I always dreaded the idea of sitting at a desk in general – or worse yet: ending up as a drafting monkey for a corporate mega-firm, designing luxury toilets for some skyscraper in Dubai. In retrospect, the street seems much straighter. While design was never my strongest suit I always felt right at home writing (so long as it was not fiction) and loved doing research and analysis. If you had told me ten years ago I might someday make a living writing, editing and publishing design-related content without having to work with anyone, well, I would have told you: that is my dream job – but it does not exist. It does now, however, and I am humbled to hold the position of (modest) success I do.