Joys of Entrepreneurship

Knowledge@Emory carries an interesting piece on the pressures and joys of entrepreneurship, culled from the wisdom of many a risk taker… And I am reminded of Dan Bricklin’s quote once again : “As you jump from rock to slippery rock, you have to *like* the feeling.”

Knowledge@Emory carries an interesting piece on the pressures and joys of entrepreneurship, culled from the wisdom of many a risk taker :

“An entrepreneur has to like to take big risks. When I say big risks, I mean BIG risks. I’m talking about losing your own stuff. Not somebody else’s. You’re not risking getting fired; you’re risking losing everything you ever had.”

“Flexibility and an open-mind are also key factors in entrepreneurship.”

Definition of an entrepreneur: “He or she who has succeeded more often than they have failed.”

“What does a great leader do, especially an entrepreneurial leader? You hire people that are smarter than you. You don’t want to be on this big ego trip.”

Another tip: you better like what you’re doing. “Whatever business you get into, it is a way of life”. “You better pick something you like. You have to live it. I never had so little time off as when I started my own company.”

And I am reminded of Dan Bricklin’s quote once again :

“As you jump from rock to slippery rock, you have to *like* the feeling.”

Sound Business Advice

The group of judges that preside over the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition picked their Top 10 Recommendations for Startups this week : Some real gems of wisdom here ; Advice that would be invaluable to all kinds of businesses (and managers), not just startups.

The group of judges that preside over the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition picked their Top 10 Recommendations for Startups this week :

1. Find a customer for whom your product or service is a "must have" and who will buy again.

2. If you can avoid raising venture capital, do so. If you need venture capital, raise more than you think you need. Either way, focus on sales and conserve cash.

3. Surround yourself with good people and let them do their jobs. Don’t get caught up in control issues.

Some real gems of wisdom here ; Advice that would be invaluable to all kinds of businesses (and managers), not just startups.

Working for a Living

We were meant to work for a living…not a life. Yet, billions of us spend more than a third of each day, in places we don’t want to be, doing work we don’t want to do. Is there an escape? In June of 2002, I chanced upon an essay by email. It came into my life out of the blue, but seemed to echo every thing I wanted to say on the subject. It provided me with hope…and encouragement…giving me a clarity I wished I had had earlier in life…

We were meant to work for a living…not a life. Yet, billions of us spend more than a third of each day, in places we don’t want to be, doing work we don’t want to do.

In the name of a “fast-track corporate career” or some such thing, we spend most of our lives buried in work…the kind we don’t even enjoy…earning more money than we can spend…and still wanting more !! Many spend their whole lives chasing a dream that’s not really their own, all the while, harbouring desires to do something entirely different.

In June of 2002, I chanced upon an essay by email. It came into my life out of the blue, but seemed to echo every thing I wanted to say on the subject. It provided me with hope…and encouragement…giving me a clarity I wished I had had earlier in life. I reproduce parts of it here for your benefit…

On Work, Kent Nerburn :

I often hear people say, “I have to find myself.” What they really mean is, I have to make myself.” Life is an endlessly creative experience, and we are making ourselves every moment by every decision we make.

That is why the work you choose for yourself is so crucial to your sense of value and well-being. No matter how much you might believe that your work is nothing more than what you do to make money, your work makes you who you are, because it is where you put your time.

This happens to anyone who takes a job. Even if you hate a job and keep a distance from it, you are defining yourself in opposition to the job by resisting it. By giving the job your time, you are giving it your consciousness. And it will, in turn, fill your life with the reality that it presents.

Many people ignore this fact. They choose a profession because it seems exciting, or because they can make a lot of money, or because it has some prestige in their minds. They commit themselves to their work, but slowly find themselves feeling restless and empty. The time they have to spend on their work begins to hang heavy on their hands, and soon they feel constricted and trapped.

They join the legions of humanity who Thoreau said lead lives of quiet desperation – unfulfilled, unhappy and uncertain of what to do. Yet the lure of financial security and the fear of the unknown keep them from acting to change their lives, and their best energies are spend creating justifications for staying where they are or inventing activities outside of work that they hope will provide them with a sense of meaning. But these efforts can never be totally successful. We are what we do, and the more we do it, the more we become it. The only way out is to change our lives or to change our expectations for our lives. And if we lower our expectations we are killing our dreams, and a man without dreams is already half dead.

You must never forget that to those who hire you, your labor is a commodity. You are paid because you provide a service that is useful. If the service you provide is no longer needed, it doesn’t matter how honorable, how diligent, how committed you have been in your work. If what you can contribute is no longer needed, you are no longer needed and you will be let go. Even if you’ve committed your life to the job, you are, at heart, a part of the commercial exchange, and you are valuable only so long as you are a significant contributor to that commercial exchange. It is nothing personal; it’s just the nature of economic transaction.

I once had a professor who dreamed of being a concert pianist. Fearing the possibility of failure, he went into academics where the work was secure and the money was predictable. One day, when I was talking to him about my unhappiness in my graduate studies, he walked over and sat down at his piano. He played a beautiful glisando and then, abruptly, stopped. “Do what is in your heart,” he said. “I really only wanted to be a concert pianist. Now I spend every day wondering how good I might have been.” Don’t let this be your epitaph at the end of your working life. Find out what it is that burns in your heart and do it. Choose a vocation, not a job, and you will be at peace. Take a job instead of finding a vocation, and eventually you will find yourself saying, “I’ve only got thirteen more years to retirement,” or “I spend every day wondering how good I might have been.”

We all owe ourselves better than that.

David v Goliath

Through most of my working years, I have been associated with small- to medium-sized firms. I have tried the large-enterprise route too. And come to the realization that the two represent two very different personalities. Neither route is more right or wrong. But the probability of success with any one approach will depend strongly on the kind of person *you* are. Over the next several posts, I will try and highlight some my learnings on this subject to give you a better idea of what the two routes involve…

Through most of my working years, I have been associated with small- to medium-sized firms, believing that they would offer me a much richer experience and allow me to hone my skills in many different areas. The trade-off is, of course, the kind of exposure that a large enterprise provides, with its systems & processes and scale of operations and its ability to build “stable”, well-charted, careers.

I have tried the large-enterprise route too. And come to the realization that the two represent two very different personalities. Neither route is more right or wrong. But the probability of success with any one approach will depend strongly on the kind of person *you* are.

Entrepreneurship is not for every one. It’s a different kind of world that you get into. And it’s better to understand it somewhat, before you take the crucial step.

Dan Bricklin summed it up best when he explained the difference between the Davids and Goliaths of the working world :

In big business, when you need to cross a river, you simply design a bridge, build it, and march right across.

But in a small venture, you must climb the rocks. You don’t know where each step will take you, but you do know the general direction you are moving in. If you make a mistake, you get wet. If your calculations are wrong, you have to inch your way back to safety and find a different route.

And, as you jump from rock to slippery rock, you have to *like* the feeling.

Until the next post on this subject, read this excellent series on Entrepreneurship by Rajesh Jain to know more.