Entrepreneurial Archetypes: what kind of business owner are you?
Archetypes are an insightful way to understand how you to tick so you can improve the way you navigate the world — including your work.
I was introduced to the concept of archetypes by my wellness coach and the usefulness of it blew me away.
I briefly studied the concept in school years ago but it didn't stick with me then. This time around I went deep into the research and ended up with a profound level of clarity around how I see and approach the world.
In fact, knowing my archetypes has empowered me much in the same way as knowing my personality type (INTJ) did — by helping me unlock the emotional and mental mysteries around innate strengths and recurring challenges.
In this article I’d like to introduce you to the concept of archetypes and help you use it to break through barriers you may be experiencing in your business. We'll dive into the following:
- What are archetypes?
- How to determine your dominant archetypes
- How to learn from and work with your archetypes
- A curated list of archetypes relevant to entrepreneurs, thinkers & creators
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What are archetypes?
Though similar concepts were introduced by thinkers before him, Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung applied the term archetype to his groundbreaking work on the collective unconscious.
The collective unconscious, according to Jung, are elements of the unconscious mind that are shared by all beings within the same species.
For humans, these elements are grouped into two main buckets: instincts and archetypes. The latter being inherited patterns of thinking, models of how the world works and images that typify our dispositions and experiences.
Archetypes are fairly rampant in every part of our life. Just think about the concept of the Hero for example and how someone saving the day shows up time and time again in fairy tales, religions, and myths — from ancient and traditional stories to modern Hollywood blockbusters.
Archetypes influence us on both a societal and individual level. So if you want to truly know your character, it’s worth exploring which archetypes are most dominant in your psyche and how this shapes your personality.
As an entrepreneur it's also worth going a step further and considering how your dominant archetypes show up — for better or worse — in your work and the way you run your business.
How to determine your dominant archetypes
The most practical work I’ve found on archetypes — in terms of how to understand and work with them to improve yourself — is by spiritual coach and New York Times bestseller Caroline Myss.
Now, let me pause here. I'm open-minded about my personal and professional development and draw insights from a broad range of disciplines: philosophy, science, religion and more. So I believe you will benefit from leveraging Myss’ work regardless if you are religious, spiritual but not religious, agnostic or atheist.
Despite the spiritual and mystical undertones, Myss takes Jung's work and makes it more practical for the layman’s use. According to her, at least 12 archetypes tend to have a dominant influence on us including four that show up for all of us.
If you are open-minded about the spiritual aspect of Myss’ work, I recommend reading the book Sacred Contracts and going through the exercises.
If not, then skip the book and browse Myss’ list of archetypes directly. First, read about the four that influence us all, then identify an additional eight from the list that deeply resonate with you.
Don’t get caught up in the names of the archetypes or immediately reject one because you perceive it to be negative. The archetypes, in and of themselves, aren't good or bad. They simply have different facets that influence our behavior in both favorable and unfavorable ways.
How to learn from and work with your archetypes
The fascinating thing about archetypes is that they are predictable in that they tend to influence us in very similar ways. Because of this consistency, we can learn to hear them when they speak to us and come to see why and how they lure us to behave in certain ways.
This is a relief because often times we battle with ourselves internally — thinking if only we had more willpower, discipline, determination or resilience we could be better individuals.
But when you start to see just how powerful these archetypes show up in your life (especially under specific circumstances), you’ll realize how easy it is for your inner resolve to fold under their impulses.
So hopefully you can start being just a bit more gentle and forgiving with yourself. Because no one — no matter how mentally or emotionally strong they may be — can escape their archetypes’ influence.
Here are some ways in which you, as an entrepreneur, can manage your archetypical impulses. For each of your dominant archetypes do the following:
Self-inquiry and interrogative self-talk
Self-inquiry is the developmental process of asking yourself thoughtful questions to help gain awareness, clarity, and focus. In this case you can inquire about how each archetype is showing up in your business.
For instance, if the Rebel archetype is dominant in your life, you want to ask questions such as:
- how does the Rebel help or hurt my decision-making?
- does the Rebel disrupt my work routine?
- in what situations does the Rebel sabotage my business?
- how did the Rebel influence me to become an entrepreneur?
Meditation and breathwork
Meditation accompanied by deep breathing is proven to bring about a plethora of physical, mental and emotional benefits. Pertaining to archetypes, this wellness duo can assist you in calmly observing your stream of consciousness without judgement.
When you sit in meditation and become in tune with your mind and body through deep breathing, you'll focus your attention on the here and now. That peaceful yet alert state, unburdened by thoughts of the past or present, leads to more clarity over time.
All sorts of thoughts may come up during your meditation and breathing practice. In your state of calm, you'll be in a better position to recognize patterns in thinking and start to see how they link back to specific archetypes.
Visualization and imagination
As an entrepreneur you have an active imagination and an innate ability to visualize that which doesn't yet exist. If you take the time to identify patterns in your mental images, you may start to uncover how your archetypes influence you.
For instance, the Artist archetype tends to show up heavily in my imagination. From daydreams to strategic visions, there is always an aesthetic sense and design sensibility that lies at the root of my desires. I care deeply about being in the midst of and creating beautiful things or experiences — this is the Artist expressing herself through me.
Journaling and creative writing
I remember, when I took a creative writing class in graduate school, that most of my stories tended towards featuring main characters with free spirits. Likewise, when I think about the tone of my writing — be it journaling or blogging — there's usually at least a touch of irreverence present. The Rebel likes to show off her nonconformity via my words.
Writing — especially informally — can reveal a lot about your ideals and, subsequently, the archtetypes at play. If you don't already, try your hand at writing short stories or journaling for a few minutes each day. Then after a few weeks go back and review your words and try to identify which archetypes are present.
If you find that working with your archetypes stirs up overwhelming emotions then don't hesitate to seek a therapist or coach skilled in archetypes who can help you navigate them.
A curated list of archetypes relevant to entrepreneurs, thinkers & creators
I went through Myss’ entire directory and compiled a list I subjectively thought would be interesting to creatives and entrepreneurs, and summarized them in my own words.
Let me caveat this by saying that just because an archetype sounds like it may be applicable to you doesn’t automatically mean it is. You really need to review the descriptions thoroughly and use self-inquiry to determine if they show up in your personality.
And out of respect for both Jung and Myss, I highly recommend you explore their work directly as I’m merely providing a snapshot of a much richer theory. There are light and shadow aspects of each archetype that may not be immediately apparent without diving deeper into the research.
Note that the first six are also the archetypes that show up strongly in my life and work, and I provide personal commentary to illustrate how I am working with them to improve myself.
Artist (aka Artisan)
The Artist has a deep emotional connection with beauty expressed and experienced through one or more of the five senses — and beyond. You will recognize its shadow side in the many cliches (such as the starving artist).
Many creators (be it musicians, painters, or fashion designers) are under the influence of this archetype. However, you don't necessarily have to be a creator in a traditional sense. In my life, the Artist shows up via a strong sense of design and deep desire for my environment to be aesthetically pleasing at all times.
Engineer (aka Architect)
The Engineer also has innate creative energy but has a deep desire to realize that energy in a practical way (perhaps with more emotional detachment than he Artist).
This archetype loves to solve problems and make life easier by providing answers to everyday conundrums. Its shadow side is when it selfishly designs solutions for his/her own use in total disregard to the needs of others.
The Engineer is one of my most dominant archetypes. I studied engineering in undergrad and tend to have a very rational and strategic approach to life and work (in line with my INTJ personality type).
Hedonist (aka Bon Vivant)
The Hedonist is all about pleasure and rich experiences — from good food and fine wine to shopping at high quality boutiques or indulging in a spa day. It wants the absolute best that life has to offer. Of course the shadow side is overindulgence (gluttony, addiction, etc.).
I remember way back in elementary school by dad telling me, after a shopping trip, that I was the type of person who walks into a store and somehow manages to pick out the most expensive item they have. I do, in deed, have a propensity for the finer things in life.
The Hedonist is one of the main reasons why I wanted to become an entrepreneur. I believe life is all about the little moments that make up each day. I wanted to have full control of my schedule so I could dictate how I spent those moments — in my case, full of simple pleasures.
Rebel (aka Nonconformist)
In addition to the cliche images we all have of rebellious people, the Rebel archetype shows itself in many different ways. It can be through the person who pushes back against an overbearing family or resists peer pressure, just as much as the person who sparks a revolution against the government or disrupts an industry with an unheard of idea.
It doesn't always show up in an extreme way but you know the Rebel when it is there. I've been what I call a quiet rebel all of my life — having no interest in influencing others but being more than willing to resist external pressure when I think it isn't in my best interest.
For instance, I never subject myself to social cliques, I'm irreverent towards authority figures who I believe don't deserve their status, and I quit the traditional 9-to-5 grind so I could make a living that supports my ideal lifestyle.
You don't have to be a woman or a biological mother to be under the influence of this archetype. The Mother is applicable to anyone who has a natural inclination to birthing, nurturing, and protecting — be it an idea, ideal, project, or person.
The Mother archetype is a powerful creator and compassionate caretaker. She exerts strength in protecting and defending what she loves and is also willing to destroy if provoked. Her shadow is expressed if she abandons or abuses what she brings to life.
I'm not a biological mother and never considered myself to have the stereotypical qualities of this archetype (such as being domestic). However, I can see how this archetype shows up strongly in how I birth and nurture ideas — not only my own but the ideas of others as well (one of the reasons why I love coaching). This is also why I think the Mother is relevant to creative and entrepreneurial individuals.
Mentor (aka Counselor)
It comes as no surprise that the Mentor archetype is a dominant force in my life given that I make a living coaching, consulting and advising. However, I also wanted to list it here to show that those who provide counsel can be entrepreneurial and creative in their own right.
The role of Mentor shows up in many different work and life situations but it's more than just a teacher. It's a way of creatively passing on wisdom and strengthening the character of others. The Mentor's craft is development of ideas and skills in another, and those who do this well impart an incredible amount of value.
The shadow aspects can be manipulation or mismanagement and/or holding their students back from their own mastery because of ego.
Alchemist (aka Inventor)
To me, the Alchemist is the quintessential Entrepreneur when you strip away the overemphasis on making money. It’s what the Entrepreneur can be when the pressure to make money and be an overnight millionaire is replaced with an insatiable desire to create value.
The Alchemist is constantly tinkering with ideas, reimagining outdated concepts, finding novel ways to solve problems, or designing solutions to things you didn’t even realize was a problem. They are inventive in an almost a magical way.
The shadow aspect is when the Alchemist in you does harm — using this amazing gift of ingenuity to steal, trick or manipulate. I’ve also noticed that truly imaginative people get stuck in their own world, sometimes looking down on those of us who don’t immediately get their ideas or concepts. Perhaps the shadow appears when they can’t find a positive or constructive outlet to manifest their ideas.
Have you ever been around a young child who was fascinated by every new thing they encountered? I mean eyes bright, mouth opened in awe at something you, as an adult, perceive to be just an everyday thing? I don’t have children but have a niece and nephew (twins) who tickle me at the things they get excited about.
There are some people who retain this enchantment with life even into adulthood. Ever positive, optimistic and upbeat, they can’t help but think that anything is possible, every human is inherently good, and life net-net is wonderful. The Magical Child likely gives them these rose colored glasses.
Entrepreneurs under the influence of the Magical Child should appreciate this wonderful outlook as it’s the spirit that will compel you to see a path forward when inevitable challenges in your business arise.
Just beware of the shadow aspects of this archetype — for instance living in a fantasy world where you expect the best outcomes but don’t put the hard work behind that expectation. Also be sure to protect your spirit because most people don’t share your idyllic world view and may try to tear you or your ideas down in a response to their own negative perspective.
The name Gambler may evoke a negative connotation that you don’t want to associate with, but I think all entrepreneurs have at least a little bit of the Gambler in them. That’s because of the sheer amount of risk you must take to start and run a business.
The Gambler archetype makes you comfortable with playing the odds. It forces you to follow your intuition and push forward when people and circumstances suggest you should do otherwise. As a result many people with this dominant archetype do indeed yield extraordinary success and outcomes.
Of course there is the shadow aspect of the Gambler we are all fully aware of. For example, the individual looking for get rich quick schemes or short cuts to success. If you often take uneducated or unwarranted risks because you prefer fast results, then the Gambler in you may need to be put in check.
Dilettante (aka Amateur)
You ever meet a person who dabbles in many different hobbies, projects or fields and, to your surprise, actually has a fairly decent command of them all? They may have a dominate Dilettante at play. This shows up in entrepreneurs and creatives who can make unlikely connections between disparate ideas or concepts.
The Dilettante is a generalist or jack of all trades. They are open-minded by the diversity and richness of ideas and ideals they come across and feel inspired to explore them. Their curiosity compels them to skim the surface of many things, though they are pulled into too many directions to ever go deep.
You can take a Dilettante anywhere, throw them into new experiences and bring them around different networks of people— and they will thrive. Because they know just enough to make genuine connections.
The downfall is when they aren’t honest with others or themselves about the limitation of their knowledge. They get into trouble when they forget they are merely an amateur and start to claim expert status on a particular topic.
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The Lover archetype shows up in people who are very passionate about specific people, experiences or objects to the point of arranging their entire life around them. When you have an extremely deep appreciation for or devotion to someone or something, the Lover is in play.
Many creatives are lovers whose entire sense of self is wrapped up in a muse or concept or their work more generally. Another example of The Lover in play is when your environment has to be a certain way. For instance, orderliness and cleanliness are incredibly important to me. From the way I dress to the arrangement of my home, I love and thrive within neat and tidy environments.
The shadow aspect is when love turns to obsession or when you have such an exaggerated passion for something that the energy around it becomes stifling, restrictive or even destructive.
The Midas archetype is very much associated with creative ability and entrepreneurial talent particularly when these skills frequently translate into the creation of wealth for yourself and others. If it seems “everything you touch turns to gold” — i.e. your ideas or ventures seem to effortlessly generate wealth — then you have the Midas touch.
Though if you do have a dominant Midas archetype beware of the desire to make money superseding your ability to create wealth (yes, there’s a difference). The former is greed and can lead you to unscrupulous behavior.
Pioneer (aka Explorer)
Those who often discover or initiate something that is considered to be new are under the influence of the Pioneer archetype. Not all entrepreneurs or creatives are pioneers — the distinction is whether your work is perceived to be something that hasn’t been done before.
Because of my thoughts on Zeitgeist I sometimes struggle with just how much credit should be given to individuals for spurring newness. Nevertheless, I do think that some people have a knack for bringing forth ideas in an unusual or groundbreaking way.
The shadow aspect of this archetype manifests when the innate desire to chart new paths frequently causes you to throw away your work in order to move onto something else. The quest for newness can become an insatiable thirst that leaves you unsatisfied, restless and always on the hunt for something else.
This is one where the name can cause you to misunderstand and discount its influence. However, according to Myss, the Prostitute is one of the four archetypes at play within us all. At the core of the Prostitute is self-worth particularly as it pertains to the desire to sell your ideas, work, etc.
A healthy relationship with the Prostitute means you value yourself and your work. Some things — like your integrity — simply aren’t for sale. What is for sale is not exchanged unless the compensation matches its value. You won’t stand for anything else.
An unhealthy relationship with the Prostitute means you sell out or sell yourself short. For fear of financial insecurity you may be willing to engage in unethical behavior to make money. Or because you have self-esteem issues you may heavily discount your work and undervalue it in the process.
As an entrepreneur it is imperative that you understand how the Prostitute influences you, how you run your business and how you value your ideas and offerings. The growth of your business — and your personal growth — are directly linked to the ability to uphold your values even when they are challenged.
The Saboteur is related to how you empower or disempower yourself. Your ability to succeed, or tendency to sabotage your success, is linked to this archetype. So as an entrepreneur you should understand how your inner Saboteur speaks to you as it may be subtle and difficult to unmask.
When you are in tune with your Saboteur it becomes easier to navigate situations that may set you back. You may find that you tend to avoid many of the land mines that pop up in your life and business and can better handle the impact of the ones you do hit.
When you are not in constant contact with your Saboteur it’s as if you walk right into trouble — you step directly onto the land mines, even those that should have seemed obvious. As a result things are always blowing up in your life and work and it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain the impact of these hardships.
Being able to hear and heed intuition — particularly warning signs that alert you to danger — is tied to your relationship with your Saboteur.
Seeker (aka Nomad)
I consider the Seeker to be almost a mix of the Pioneer and Rebel. With the popularity of the trendy “digital nomad” this is clearly an archetype gaining dominance on a societal level as people pursue self-employment in hopes that it gives them more freedom and fulfillment.
The Seeker archetype instills in you a desire for more that’s not necessarily material but perhaps spiritual in nature. It’s not money or titles or prestige that drives you but a quest for meaning and a need to break free from societal norms in order to find it.
However, the Seeker needs his journey to be rooted in a clear idea of what he is looking for or looking to do. Otherwise one of the downfalls is aimlessness and pursuit without purpose. It’s seeking without ever finding or starting without ever finishing
The Visionary archetype is similar to the Alchemist in that imagination is how it manifests. The difference is that those under the influence of the Visionary often feel a higher calling to use their abilities to benefit society on a grand scale. Entrepreneurs and creatives with really big world-changing ideas may have the Visionary at work in them.
Visionaries have an ability to see, articulate and often design a way of living that is beyond the limitations of what most of us can imagine. However the visionary is also skilled at influence — they know how to get us onboard and invested in their ideas as it often takes collective effort to bring them to fruition.
The shadow aspect is when grand visions are used to destroy instead of build up, or set back instead of make progress. Or when the Visionary compels you to sell your ideas to those who have ill intentions for them.
I hope you’ve found this in-depth exposé on archetypes to be beneficial as you seek to understand what drives you as an entrepreneur or creative. Though archetypes aren’t my expertise I am skilled in identifying and overcoming self-limiting thoughts, behaviors and habits that are stopping you from making progress in your business.