5 Motivational Meme Terms That Might Be Giving You The Wrong Idea

by Logan Cohen
REUTERS/Kay Nietfeld/Pool

Let's face it: We live in an airbrushed world.

The woman on the magazine cover doesn't even look like that in real life, the food in advertisements is rarely edible and even Instagram models can look flawless with the right filtering app.

That being said, it's time to address a new culprit of airbrushing, the airbrushing of entrepreneurship, also known as motivational memes.

Unless you live under a rock, you've seen them. The cliché motivational quote on an image of an innovator who may or may not have even said it, or even worse, on an image of a yacht, luxury car or bag.

Most of the time, it has absolutely nothing to do with entrepreneurship, but is some how deemed motivational. For the record, I love memes. I find myself tagging friends in many, and I may be guilty of even posting a few.

However, the meme game has gotten out of control when it comes to their portrayals of entrepreneurship.

Here is a deeper look into five terms we often see in motivational memes:

1. “Be a risk taker.”

Actually, the most successful entrepreneurs are not risk takers, they are more like risk mitigators.

They take calculated risks.The common misconception of entrepreneurs having to be these avid risk takers is a strong reason why over 90 percent of start-ups fail.

Let's take a look at someone featured regularly in motivational memes, Bill Gates.

The motivational meme version often states that Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft. In fact, Bill Gates sold his first software company in his sophomore year; it then took another year to apply for an approved leave of absence from Harvard.

Now don't get me wrong; Bill Gates is still a total badass. But he's a badass risk mitigator. Successful entrepreneurs don't just take leaps of faith. They measure the distance of the potential leap, gather the necessary resources for a calculated leap, then build a strong safety net at the bottom (just in case).

2. “Failure is not an option.”

Actually, many successful entrepreneurs attribute their successes to the times they “failed.” It's really chalked up to how you look at it. In the start-up world, failure is the new black.

More often than not, investors actually prefer to fund founders who have failed before. It proves that they can persevere and show that intangible “grit” factor.

Teaching the mantra of failure not being an option can lead to toxicity when an entrepreneur does fail. Failure has its own rock-bottom feeling, but it doesn't mean that you failed at being a successful entrepreneur. So go ahead, fail. Failures can be milestones that you reach on your path to your success.

3. “Do what you love.”

Actually, this one is kind of correct. I could not agree more with the notion of loving what you do. But let's look at it this way: You should love what you do, but when you find yourself doing a menial task you don't love, chances are you're still working closer to your goal.

A misconception of loving what you do in the start-up world is that founders live this glamorous lifestyle of making their own schedules, getting press coverage and attending networking events.

But entrepreneurship is full of peaks and valleys. The love of the mission of your company overrides the dread of tedious tasks. Do I love what I do? Hell yes. Do I love triple checking thousands files for inconsistent data entries? Hell no. But it's part of the job.

The ultimate motivator is this: If you believe the world will be a better place if your product existed, you will do everything in your power until everyone has access to it.

4. “Procrastination is the thief of time.”

Actually, procrastination can be a good thing. By giving time between the stimulus and response you are enabled to spend more time to brainstorm different ways to complete the task.

As Adam Grant writes in the book "Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World," “Procrastination may be the enemy of productivity, but it can be the resource for creativity.”

He also notes that Ancient Egyptians actually had two different words for procrastination: one indicated laziness and the other meant waiting for the right time."

Now, I'm not advocating telling your co-founder, professor or boss that you're simply waiting for the right time to complete your overdue assignment, but it's important to realize procrastination can be conducive to creativity.

And if that doesn't convince you, I share with you the sage words of Adam Grant, “The early bird gets the worm, but we can't forget the early worm gets caught.”

5. #LifeGoals

Actually, let's take the literal definition of “life goals” or the purpose of your time here in the physical world. Now that we have defined it, why is it that #LifeGoals is usually the caption of a fancy car, house, shoes or bottle service?

We live in a time where our digital identity and real identity live together. The question is, which identity defines you? Does your digital identity showcase your real entrepreneurial efforts, or is it a substitute that's only success is defined by the amount of "likes" it accumulates?

Research some of the most influential innovators of our time. Not only were they iconoclasts, but they were rarely motivated by monetary gain alone. A Forbes article states, “Most successful entrepreneurs say that their primary motivation has been to build something lasting, not to make a lot of money. Money is a byproduct, and usually a secondary one at that, for such achievers.”

As Millennials, we are the generation with the most amazing technological advances and resources literally at our fingertips. Let's act like it and utilize these resources for good. #LifeGoals should not be strictly materialistic. #LifeGoals should embody a greater good, an innovation a societal advancement.

Just like we cannot rid the world of airbrushing, I am not advocating ridding the world of memes. If they motivate some who are feeling sluggish or even make someone laugh, they have done their job.

Let's recognize these memes for what they are, beautiful fantasies that do not always embody the truths behind the glorious journey of entrepreneurship.