Monday, April 28, 2014

The Entrepreneurial Spirit



“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~ Thomas A. Edison

I had two interesting conversations this past week with two different people.  Both of them are hard workers, have a strong work ethic and a strong belief in the importance of family.  Both of them have two different experiences, come from two different backgrounds and two different countries.  Both, however, set personal goals for themselves and had the discipline to follow through with them. Who they are is not as important as to the fact that they made choices in their lives to control where they are today.

I find it interesting to note that there is one thing we have been well taught and followed in both school and at home.  From a young age, we are taught to go to school and get good grades.  Getting good grades will lead to getting into a good college.  We see this reflected by the acceleration in the subjects taught in the schools at a younger age, and, through our college visits, the levels that some of the schools have risen to in the past 30 years.  Doing well in college will then translate into getting a good job, which leads to making a good income.  Once we have a good income, we can afford…OK, you get the point?  Basically, we teach and we learn that by following the path laid out above, we will get the things we want.  Only problem is that we are not taught about the hard work, discipline and personal finances that we will need to truly move through life. 

In olden times, let us say about 150 years ago, the village that some of our ancestors came from, every male had an important role in the community.  The women’s role was important, too, as they maintained the household, raised the family and generally kept the family together.  The men, however, provided not only for the family, but also for the community.  In a small village, since there was no industry, each male had to be some sort of entrepreneur and help with the village’s commerce.  You had the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the tailor, the cobbler, etc.  There was no formal schooling, as you learned through apprenticeship.  This meant that everyone worked for himself and had to have the discipline to manage his own time and efforts to survive.  When I go to work in the morning, someone else has already decided / dictated the structure of my day.

In my two conversations from the past week, one person is a business owner and the other provides for his family in another country.  Both people have to wake up each day, plan the day and follow through without the “help” of someone guiding them.  I have had the opportunity to be a business owner, but at the end of the day, for the companies that I did business with, I acted more like one of their employees.  I did not have the discipline to build my business and think like a business owner.  While many of us travel “for work”, we do not travel to “find work”.  While the two stories are not necessarily unique, I applaud both of these people and all the people that have struck out on their own and intentionally created their own path.  Their abilities to “get and go” are what have enabled them to be successful in their endeavors.