By Jill Griffin
noun: entrepreneur; plural noun: entrepreneurs
A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
I consider myself an “accidental” entrepreneur. Early in my career, a risky job move ended badly and it had a profound effect on me. The powerlessness I felt in that situation forever changed me. My heart told me I could never be an “employee” again. And I listened.
So after some soul searching, I did the next best thing….I became a consultant of sorts helping businesses grow loyal customers. To help pay the bills, I was a part time marketing lecturer at the Austin campus of the University of Texas.
Things took off for me when my first book was published.
I’ve sometimes wondered why I chose this route when others who might have been faced with the same roadblock would have reacted differently. What was it that made me walk away from safety instead of just finding another ‘safe’ place to work? The part of that definition of entrepreneur at the beginning of this piece that says ‘…taking on greater than normal financial risks’ almost didn’t occur to me at all in making my decision. I just stepped out. Sort of on faith. I’ve never looked back and wondered “what if?”
Over time, I have met many others who have chosen this entrepreneurial path. I’ve come to admire their tenacity and willingness to walk on the high wire and do their calling, whatever it may be. If you think about all of the great things that have been invented in the past century or so, most of them were created by entrepreneurs. May I call you on your iPhone to discuss this further? Yes, Steve Jobs had an entrepreneurial heart and a clear vision for how to execute it.
May I fly out to meet you and discuss this? Those Wright Brothers were entrepreneurs, too. They were relentless in their pursuit of manned flight. We are all grateful for that. But think of how brave and seemingly impossible this undertaking this was. No one had ever flown before. It sounded crazy. I am sure they were ridiculed unmercifully by some. They kept going, and one day, they lifted off and they took the rest of us with them.
Or maybe you could drive over to meet me in your automobile, built on an assembly line, an idea hatched by the great Henry Ford. But Ford wasn’t always successful. He had two famous and very public failures before he found success. Once, his company was dissolved, and once he walked away of his own volition out of frustration. But then…
That’s what entrepreneurs do. They are single minded, and they are filled with grit. They lack the ‘off switch’ that most people have that says ‘enough. I’m tired of trying.”
Perhaps the most famous of these never-say-die individuals was Thomas Edison. He tried and failed ten thousand times when he was trying to invent the light bulb. Most of us would have given up after a hundred tries. Or five hundred. It has been said that he would lock himself in his lab and forget to bathe or eat or sleep. That’s the very definition of relentless, isn’t it?
Most entrepreneurs have encouragers in their circle. I certainly did, and I am thankful for them. Edison’s first encourager was his mother. As a schoolboy, he didn’t fit in with the other kids. One day he brought home a note from the school principal that said that he was no longer welcome at school, that he was “addled” and in essence, unteachable.
He dutifully gave the note to his mom without ever reading it. Later, when he asked what the note said, she told him that the school thought he was too exceptional and smart to be taught in a regular school like the others. After his mother passed away, he found the note among her things and realized what a profound and life changing thing she had done for him. She had made him believe that he was exceptional and he went out and proved her right.
My advice? Listen to your heart and follow it relentlessly. Never give up. Find your encouragers.
Then, go out into the world and change it.
Appeared in Forbes.com