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Billionaire Spanx Founder Sara Blakely: These 2 Questions Will Help You Think Like an Entrepreneur

Whatever your aspirations, you need to learn the entrepreneurial mindset, Blakely insists.

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BY Jessica Stillman - 11 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Entrepreneurship isn't just for entrepreneurs anymore.

In a fast-moving, dynamic (read: insecure) world, everyone needs to learn how to assess problems, come up with original solutions, and rapidly adapt to change -- not just those who dream of starting their own businesses.

Which sounds a little daunting, but Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of Spanx, believes thinking like an entrepreneur isn't as difficult (or exclusive) as it first appears. In a recent Big Think video she lays out the case for absolutely everyone adopting a little bit of the entrepreneurial mindset, and also a offers a few dead simple tricks to help you learn to think like a founder.

What does it mean to think like an entrepreneur? (And why should you bother?)

"As an entrepreneur I'm such an advocate for everyone to think like an entrepreneur. Whether you want to start your own business or not, it's incredibly helpful no matter what," Blakely says, kicking off her talk.

This begs an important question: what exactly does is mean to "think like an entrepreneur?" How do entrepreneurs think exactly? Blakely's answer is straightforward: entrepreneurs don't operate on autopilot.

"We're all on autopilot. We're doing things the way either someone else showed us how to do it or we saw and learned from watching. And real change only happens when you do it different than everybody else," she insists.

Which also, helpfully, answers the other obvious question raised by her "entrepreneurial thinking for everyone" mantra, which is: why bother? Why is this mindset so beneficial?

But if you define entrepreneurial thinking as seeing situations with fresh eyes and thinking through solutions from first principles rather than following received wisdom or well-worn paths, then the appeal of this approach is easy to see. If you want to fundamentally change anything -- your work, yourself, your life -- you need to think like an entrepreneur, at least a little bit.

Two questions to spur entrepreneurial thinking

"Think like an entrepreneur" sounds big, vague, and hard. Blakely insists it's actually pretty simple. She suggests a couple of straightforward questions that can help anyone get in touch with their inner entrepreneur:

1. How you would be doing your job if nobody showed you how to do it? If you want to rethink your work from the bottom up and come up with real, fresh solutions, Blakely suggests spending some time pondering this question.

2. How could that be better? This is another way to "get off autopilot," according to Blakely. "Look at everything every object in your life, the way that you do things; when you get up and brush your teeth, is there a better way to brush your teeth? Is it the right way to be doing it? And see what comes."

Intrigued by Blakely's ideas? Check out the complete video for more, including why she never shared her idea for Spanx with friends and family for two whole years, and how she kept up her motivation despite constantly hearing "no" in the early days.