Although some business schools offer majors in entrepreneurship, no self-respecting empire-builder ever would covet a diploma emblazoned with “Bachelor of Free Enterprise.”
Your mother will not be pleased: Unlike doctors, dentists, and lawyers, who progress steadily through lock-step curricula and then join their professions, entrepreneurs have no strict course of study that certifies them as worthy of business leadership with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereunto. Just as all of America’s twentieth century Nobel Prize-winning authors flunked out of college, so college drop-outs have starred in many of America’s most celebrated start-up success stories. College does not prepare you for entrepreneurship by teaching you what to do; it grooms you for marketplace distinction by showing you how to become your own best self. Therefore, preparing to ascend the pinnacle of entrepreneurial success, choose a major that will school you in the fine and subtle arts of pushing back your limits and performing brilliantly solely on the strength of your distinctive gift.
Once you find it, follow your passion.
Traditional schools require you complete 60 units of “general education” before you declare your major an specialize in a single discipline. This broad-based exploration of the “humanities” and sciences supposedly prepares you for responsible citizenship in a participatory democracy; really it gives you unmatched opportunities for discovering what genuinely excites you. Break the mold: Instead of changing your major three times before you settle on the one in which you actually earn a degree, remain “undeclared” until you finish your “breadth” requirements; then, select a major that affords you unlimited opportunity to pursue your passion. Your enterprise will require the same sort of fiery dedication you learn from following your natural inclination as far as it will lead.
Satisfy your curiosity.
These big schools acquired the name “universities” because they encourage sustained inquiry into the nature of the universe and everything in it. Therefore, if you can imagine it, you probably can major in it; and, even if the catalog does not list it, you undoubtedly can petition for some combination of disciplines that supports your insatiable curiosity. Because entrepreneurship will challenge your intellectual and emotional stamina, following your curiosity all the way to its natural destination builds precisely the skills your life’s work will require. Moreover, if your unorthodox major reveals the need for a product or service only you can conceive, then it obviously gives birth to your enterprise.
Perfect your analytic skills. Major in English.
English majors quickly discover two salient facts about sustained study of literature: First, it’s always about “Man versus Nature”; and, second, “all of the above” is always the correct answer. Then, they learn that the answer hardly matters, because it’s all about the process for deriving the answers. Law schools prefer English majors over all other disciplines because English majors develop sophisticated analytic and interpretive skills, and they learn to argue forcefully for their points of view. If you expect your enterprise will require a great deal of thinking “outside the box,” an English major will prepare your mind exactly as the business will require. Caution: Do not major in English if you have a passion for “creative” writing, because English majors seldom if ever write either fictional narrative or poetry; they write nothing but traditional essays.
Perfect your reasoning skills. Major in math.
In order to failure-proof your enterprise, you must become a skilled problem-solver, the person who can reason from “a” to “z” with careful attention to all the steps and letters in-between. Sophisticated reasoning and sequencing lay the foundations for industrial processes and merchandising procedures. If geometry proofs and balanced equations compel you, you absolutely should advance to trigonometry, calculus, and theoretical mathematics. Note also that “game theory,” also known as algorithmic prediction of human behavior, belongs in the province of mathematics rather than behavioral psychology. Your x and y may empower you to analyze and anticipate consumers’ behavior as no one else can.
Become a certified visionary. Major in Fine Arts.
Reporters and biographers often describe successful entrepreneurs as “visionaries,” always a congratulatory term. Where would a person find a school for visionaries? In the fine arts, of course. Even if you cannot draw even a rudimentary stick figure, you can study design or you can major in film, allowing the machines to do the drawing for you. Disney fans can perfect their “Imagineering” skills in colleges of fine arts, and those exquisitely rare and wonderfully valuable people who draw from their brains’ right hemispheres inevitably will feel perfectly at home in a fine arts major.
Jerry Keitel, one of the engineers on the original Apollo descent engine, confessed, “I’m not a very good engineer, but I’m the only one with a gift for making the accountants share our vision.” Even the guy who invented the wheel had to persuade his friends of its value. Wherever you attend school, whatever major you declare, make sure you develop social and communications skills, becoming proficient at making “the money guys” appreciate your gifts and share your vision.
About the Author: Alice Kirkland is an advertising writer earning her masters in mass communication to take on a new position within her company.