MBA vs. NBA:

Entrepreneurs often beat themselves up for their lack of “success.” Sometimes they’re right to do it. But often, it’s because they’re comparing themselves against an unrealistic competitive set.

For example, a budding retailer might compare herself to Jeff Bezos (or maybe not, given the current market!). A hardware entrepreneur might look at Michael Dell, and a budding software mogul might look at Bill Gates, or, god forbid, Larry Ellison (though if you feel inadequate because you don’t a) own a Russian fighter jet, b) race in dangerous sailing competitions, or c) hire an endless stream of attractive young assistants, you’ve got bigger problems).

The problem is, these success stories are six-sigma events–way outside the standard deviation. According to Forbes, there are 298 billionaires in the US (probably less by now–editor’s note). In contrast, there are 384 players in the NBA.

Let us consider the NBA, the world’s most glamorous sports league. I’ve seen commentators cluck cluck about how terrible it is that thousands of underprivileged African American boys dream about making it to the NBA. It’s like a lottery, they say, only the tiniest fraction succeed.

How reasonable is it then, for the millions of entrepreneurs and dreamers who someday want to be billionaires to compare themselves to the mere 298 billionaires?

So don’t beat yourself up just because you drive a Corolla (which I do), and don’t have over a million dollars worth of liquid assets (which I don’t). But I wouldn’t ever take away anyone’s right to dream.

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