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What Does “Entrepreneurial Spirit” Mean?
To me an “entrepreneurial spirit” means embodying a deep seated desire for freedom and self-actualization. It stems from the philosophy of freewill; our ability to create our destiny. Many would think that being an entrepreneur means “not having a boss”, but this is a false belief. Rather we entrepreneurs have many bosses in the form of clients.
“Entrepreneurial spirit” is generally associated with making money where you create your own work as opposed to having someone give you work. Whether we like it or not, we live in a society where money is power, money is freedom, money is a virtual life blood. The entrepreneur understands this at least on a sub-conscious level. The entrepreneur accepts a certain amount of risk with creating his/her own business. The risk is there is no guarantee for making money, that all your time and investment could potentially yield little to nothing. But the reward for taking this risk is having no limit to your success. There is no ceiling to how much one can earn when you are an entrepreneur.
There are many “hats” when running a business. The technician; the person who actually builds the product or yields the service. The manager; the person who manages the details of the back end of business such as finance books and taxes. And the entrepreneur; the person with the overall broad vision to propel the organization forward. To speak metaphorically, the entrepreneur is the one on top of the hill looking out beyond the immediate vicinity to see new opportunities on the horizon.
The Development Of Entrepreneurialism
At the age of 14-15, I had a job as a dishwasher at a jazz and wine club. While I made good money, I had a growing desire to quit over the course of 14 days…until I got the check. I got locked into the a vicious cycle where I felt obligated to stay in a job I did not like…A situation that many people find themselves. I learned that I must be an entrepreneur in my life so that I have freedom.
Incorporating entrepreneurship in my career is critical in making it an actual career and not a hobby. Indeed artists are often the best “technicians”; that is, they create massive inventory of product often totally engrossed in the creative process. The reason why the phrase “starving artist” exists is because many artists fail to utilize the important aspects of business. When I was younger, I despised doing finance books, but now I embrace it as a relaxing exercise to know what is going on in my business. The actual creative process is only a fraction what goes in to be a successful artist.
Some entrepreneur elements include networking, public speaking, seeking new opportunities, forecasting the “weather” of culture, marketing, money management, time management, etc.
It takes both sides of the brain to be successful… or having other people involved with the business that balance where you lack. Indeed successful people like Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie actually didn’t know how to build an engine or the mechanical properties of steel, but they surrounded themselves with knowledgeable people who did. They created win-win relationships with these people by giving them work while mutually reaping the rewards of their knowledge.
Time is the most valuable resource we have and the entrepreneur must learn how to potentiate the productivity out of every minute. I created a sign above my desk to remind myself to “Automate and Delegate”. I value being in control and like many business-people, I believe I can do things better and faster than others; alas this is an Achilles heel of workaholics. Let me explain….
There are a lot of tasks we do in business every day. Accounting, sales, errands, networking, delivery, and fabrication. Let’s assume that I ought to make at least $50 an hour doing the most effective thing…standing on the hill looking for new opportunities to seize upon. Anything that takes me away from the most effective thing, is actually costing me money. For example, if I can hire a person to do delivery for $20 thereby allowing me to focus on the most productive activity, I am actually making $30 more an hour by delegating.
Likewise for automation. I can plasma cut metal parts by hand for negligible direct cost. Or I can get a loan for a CNC plasma cutter for $200 a month. While this is more expense every month, it allows me the freedom to do what I am best at. Even if I only use the machine 8 hours a month, which would be $25 an hour, this frees up my time to pursue $50 an hour tasks; effectively doubling my money. The concept of automation and delegation is a key characteristic of entrepreneurship.
The Risk Of Being A Creative Entrepreneur.
There are multiple risks associated with being an entrepreneur…especially the creative kind. Since my income is project based, this means I have to have a constant supply of projects in order to have a constant supply of income. Say I have a project which yields a net income of $10,000. The problem I have is not knowing when the next project will come. The question I must ask myself is “How long must I make this money last?” “Will this need to last a month or will it need to last nine months?” Consequently, it is hard to budget or ever take a break.
Obviously the solution to this is to take on more projects which can easily overwhelm my capacity. And overwhelmed capacity means delays which means unhappy clients. I need to take my own advice of automate and delegate to expand my capacity. As previously mentioned, automation often means incurring debt which is obvious risk. I haven’t talked about employees yet. Having employees has the potential to exponentially increase productivity. This requires the investment of time to train the employees. Increased paperwork. And increased injury liability. Employees can quit at any time which means a lost of invested time training. Employees can get hurt which can pose serious cost. Employees can even catch the entrepreneurial spirit and take your formula to create competition. These are risks one must weigh when hiring employees, but the rewards can be great.
Another risk of being an entrepreneur I have realized, is the problem of never “turning off”. When you are an entrepreneur, it is completely up to you whether you will sink or swim (or fly). If you don’t put in the time and effort, you will sink. If you don’t invest yourself, you will sink. There is no person telling you to work from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Likewise, there is no person telling you to go home. Because of the great personal responsibility to my success, I have found I never turn off the business mind. I am always thinking and doing in relation to my businesses. From the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed, everyday including weekends…I am business. This can be toxic and cause fatigue. Let me reference “Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People”… Where Dale Carnegie talks about production vs production capability. Let’s think about a machine which produces widgets. You can force the machine to produce widgets 24/7 with no down time and for a period of time you will have increased productivity. But eventually the machine will break down because of lack of maintenance. Productivity will suffer and repair costs will be steep. When amortized this way, we see that productivity, productivity, productivity all the time actually becomes inefficient. I have experienced this in 2014, where I had the two largest projects yet of my life to complete. I did heavy work from 8am in the morning to 9pm at night every day in freezing temperatures and in 120 degree heat over an entire year. I drove myself with energy drinks. I ended up burning my adrenals where I had to go to a doctor to learn why I lost my mojo. It took me a year of down time to recover.
Production capability means maintaining the machine. It means “sharpening the saw”. Production capability is absolutely critical for maximum long term productivity. This is why many tech companies like Google and Amazon have their workers take frequent breaks and have “fun-time”. It is in the down-time where creative insight sparks and morale is regained.
How Entrepreneurship Has Shaped Who I Am.
Being International Baccalaureate program during high school, educators tried to program me and say that the only way to be successful was to go to college. But I believe that an equal investment of time and money into a business can yield better results. Because I dove into entrepreneurship early, I have been able to rack up over 10,000 hours of experience. This is what Malcolm Gladwell says is required to become an expert in any given field. My “professors” are my colleagues. My “tests” are my projects. My “textbook” is my life. Both the depth and breadth of experience has allowed me to see patterns and make relationships in my mind thereby creating greater success and richness of life.
I have learned work ethic. I have learned that my success is solely my responsibility.
In our culture and politics we always hear about the need for “jobs”. I believe this stems from a victim mentality where people think their success is solely dependent on external influences; the government, the corporations. What if we changed the dialogue from creating hourly jobs to creating entrepreneurship? I believe we would live in a more sustainable economy if we shifted such national focus.
Back on the personal level, my experience as an entrepreneur gives me the confidence that I can sustain myself regardless of the economy or politics. I have the power to create the life I want. Entrepreneurs have resilience unlike any other.
Advice For The Aspiring Entrepreneur.
The first bit of advice is that grit and perseverance is the number one determiner of success. It’s not financial background, class, beauty, or even intelligence….it’s grit. Please listen to the following ted talk on Grit: https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance
On a related subject, the most important key to wilderness survival is the “will to survive”. This is the number one most foundational characteristic of the person who survives as opposed to the person who perishes.
Moving beyond developing a heart of perseverance, other advice would be:
- Be a voracious reader of business, your industry, and of all other subjects. Reading expands the mind and opens new avenues of thought. Some suggestions would be “Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” and “How To Win Friends and Influence People”.
- Learn how to communicate effectively both orally and written. Grammatical errors can be used to discredit everything a person says in the minds of the critical audience. Body language speaks more than even tone and words alone; therefore it is important to understand what body language says.
- Embrace your extroverted side and network like a honey badger. Talk with people of the same industry. Talk with clients. Talk with people in the grocery store line. Talk with everyone. Learn from everyone who crosses your path; everyone is your teacher. Subscribe to the philosophy behind the quote “We have two ears and one mouth; use them proportionally”.
- Let go of self-limiting beliefs. People are told by family, teachers, or friends that they are good at some things and not other things. We tend to believe this at a deep level and often never break loose of these chains. Believe you ARE good at what you were told you weren’t. Develop an obstinate contrary will to prove the nay-sayers wrong. Some people told me that I couldn’t build a 40′ diameter 16,000# arch sculpture in my driveway; this criticism fueled a fire within me to prove them wrong.
- Strive for balance. Balance of the left brain with right brain. Balance of production and production capability. Balance of the masculine and feminine. Balance of being present yet planning for the future and learning from the past. Balance accounts. Balance introversion with extroversion.
- Seek excellence in everything you do. Strive to be excellent in your speech. Your personal presentation. Your hand-writing. Your comprehension of what you read. Your driving. Your product or service. And if you make a mistake, be grateful for the opportunity to learn and be better moving forward. Excellence takes effort and time, but it’s increasing rarity makes it’s value all that much more important.