Entrepreneurs and Con Artists

Jim Surowiecki’s weekly economics column points out that entrepreneurs use the same skills as hucksters:

Entrepreneurs have skills that are very much like those of con men. To raise money to start a business, you’ve got to sell an imagined future–a dream.

Successful entrepreneurship involves hucksterism; like a con artist, you’re peddling optimism.

Surowiecki’s top example? Steve Jobs and his famed “reality distortion field”:

Job’s endless rehearsals for his public presentations and his scripting of every moment for maximum effect–these are all straight from the con artist’s playbook. So, too, is the sense of conviction he projected.

Of course, con artists know that the fantasies they’re selling are lies, whereas entrepreneurs really believe in them. And in many cases, entrepreneurs actually deliver, and investors make money. Still, it’s a fascinating article, and it shows why Surowiecki is still doing the New Yorker weekly column after many years–because he’s an insightful and brilliant writer.

*Surowiecki, January 13, 2014. “The Financial Page: Do the Hustle”. The New Yorker, Page 21.

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