Home Advice For The Young At Heart Once An Upstart, Always An Upstart

Once An Upstart, Always An Upstart



by Kathy Kolbe, co-author of the new book “Business is Business: Reality Checks for Family-Owned Companies

Being an upstart is a state of mind. It’s how you attack the world – both the opportunities and the obstacles in it.

You don’t learn to be an upstart. You are driven to be an upstart.

When you ask upstarts what they want to make happen, it will be something they’ve never done before, or something that others doubted they could do. They are determined to take on challenges and prove that they can overcome the odds. If it seems undoable, they’ll invest in doing it.

What drives this energy to go against the odds is not ego – as many think is going on with upstarts. Rather, it is their natural, instinctive set of abilities to:

  • Innovate
  • Improvise
  • Originate
  • Accelerate

These instincts have been ignored by academics.

Brain researchers don’t get it. They get stuck on the importance of intelligence and don’t understand what upstarts know. Upstarts realize that it’s what you actually do that matters, not just what you think about doing. Instincts trigger actions, reaction, and interactions.

As an upstart, I took on the task of proving that instincts compel upstarts and true entrepreneurs to challenge the status quo, just as other peoples’ instincts compel them to be neat niks, or factoids, or to be mechanically inclined.

My studies proved there were four basic instincts which make up an MO or modus operandi.
All upstarts have an MO that includes initiating action through the Quick Start mode. That’s how the initiate action. They also have some aspect of each of the other three Kolbe Action Modes®: Fact Finder, Follow Thru, and Implementor.

It is their combination of these instincts or traits that cause some young upstarts to design systems, some to become entrepreneurs who run creative businesses, and some to invent breakthrough gadgets or discover amazing unknowns.

“So, it’s how we innovate that makes some young upstarts business people and others individual contributors?”

Yes, your natural MO is a strong driver of action. Another factor is the level of Will that you put into doing what you do. To be a young upstart, you need to be self-motivated to act on your innate abilities. If you didn’t put effort into it, your potential to innovate would go unrealized.

“I have a brother who is very smart. He’s never been motivated to do much more than read a lot of books about history, stuff that other people have done,” a young upstart said. “Is that because he’s not a natural Quick Start who is driven to innovate?”

He may have the instincts of a natural researcher, whose MO would lead him to gather facts by reading a lot of books. If he does it purposefully, and becomes persuasive in teaching or writing about what he learns, he would be able to use his mental energy to excel in teaching, just as you use yours to promote your innovations.

“Does that mean,” the upstart asked, “that all of my former classmates, even the ones who didn’t seem like go getters, have an equal chance of doing something that becomes useful to the world?”

Every human being is born with an equal amount of instinct-based abilities. It is up to each person to figure out ways to use their differing abilities to contribute in some meaningful way.

Every upstart needs help from people whose instincts differ from theirs, which typically comes from their strength in what I call the Quick Start mode. You need bookkeepers with the Follow Thru systems, Fact Finders who write specifications, and Implementors who handle the construction/technical aspects.

“Is that why upstarts shouldn’t partner with other upstarts?”


A couple of upstarts are likely to compete with one another for resources to help turn their ideas into realities. Working with people who have differing MOs is often more productive.

Does that make upstarts lousy collaborators?

Not necessarily. Upstarts are great at collaborating with people who share their values and their interest in specific projects. They work well with others if the upstart can change directions and interject new ideas at any point in the project. Otherwise, upstarts will mentally drop out of projects (and relationships…but that’s another story).

Is that why upstarts are great in start-up situations, but get bored after a while?

Upstarts start a ton of projects that often go unfinished – especially if they are working on them alone. They stick with situations that provide opportunities to continually contribute innovative ideas. They need moving targets.

Upstarts could be called serial innovators. Their state of mind, or their MO, is what sets them apart. They will thrive at any age or stage by having the freedom to be who they are.

Young upstarts will always be upstarts.

Copyright © 2017 Kathy Kolbe. All Rights Reserved.



kathy kolbe

Kathy Kolbe, co-author of the new book “Business is Business“, is the global leader in discovering and accessing the power of human instincts. She’s done the brain research to prove the relevance of her Kolbe Theory of Conation to individual and organizational success. Kathy was the first person to connect conative behavior to instinctive drives, which she postulated as the source of the patterns of mental energy commonly known as a person’s MO.