Been a while! Today I’m going to write a little bit about my experience with entrepreneurship (normally spelled entreprenurrrrrship). I’m also going to tie it into some cool ideas about determination and the will to succeed. Sound good? Okay ready break.
It seems to me that pretty much everybody has good ideas. In fact, I went around for much of the last year asking lots of random people one pretty simple question: What would you fix if you could? I’ve heard so many incredible responses to that question, often from some of the least motivated, least entreprenurrrial people I know. In fact, so many of these ideas are so good that I can’t help but wonder why they don’t exist yet! In a world full of technology, where everything is becoming more and more possible, where are these things:
- Automated lawn mowers (think Roomba for grass)
- Organic Baguettes (baguettes are so goddamned delicious, but what if I want bread without all the additives and stuff?)
- Dragonfruit Juice (I mean seriously. Dragonfruits. I’d drink it just to feel like a wizard)
- Pirate ship tours along the coast (I would SO do this. yarrr).
The list literally goes on for a very long time. So why don’t these things exist?
Starting new things is hard. A body at rest likes to stay at rest. People get routines (that usually include a lot of tedium and a lot of TV-dium) and the marginal gain of shutting the tube off and building something doesn’t seem worth the hassle. The idea of making the world better, making lots of money, gaining independence and working for yourself all seem appealing until it comes time to actually haul anchor and float away, and then it seems somewhat challenging (insert: terrifying, daunting, intense, not-quite-worth it).
So what is the magic sauce, the Jordan’s-secret-stuff that turns the wheels of industry, makes some people stand out from the crowd for their service, development, and giant bundles of cash, and separates the entre-pah-neurs from everyone else?
I’d say that it’s determination.
Here are three short stories to exemplify what I’m talking about:
First, I had a friend who really, really wanted to go to Dartmouth. In fact, he was so sure he wanted to go to Dartmouth that he applied early (and made no plans to apply to other schools!) Now, most people get screened out immediately, and some lucky few get accepted immediately, but there is a sort of “honorary dismissal” that’s called being “wait-listed”. That means that they think you were totally good enough, just not “unique enough”. Well, forget that, because my friend didn’t even get to that point. Instead, he was promptly rejected, “have-a-nice-life” style. The only problem? He was determined to go to Dartmouth. So, he spent the next few months traipsing around New York City gathering signatures on a petition that said “I should go to Dartmouth”. When people asked him about it, he could explain in detail all of the reasons he wanted to attend the school. In fact, he’s quite persuasive (as determination often is). So, people signed (and signed and signed and signed). Eventually, he had over 10,000 people who all signed this petition (I’m not sure of the exact number, but it was around the 10k mark). Then, he drove up to Dartmouth’s Campus, walked straight into the admissions office that rejected him with his have-a-nice-life letter in one hand and a stack of signatures in the other. He said, “I read here that you don’t think I should go to Dartmouth. Here are ten thousand people who disagree”. He tossed the papers onto this poor admissions officer’s desk and walked out the door. The next day, his decision was reversed.
Second, I met a guy on a train who was an entre-prah-neur. He told me the following story about a similarly entre-brah-neurial friend who had a single life goal and was determined to achieve it– he wanted to own a mountain. His dream life was to wake up in his cabin on his own mountain in the Rockies, amble out the door and snowboard down the slopes. The problem with that plan was that he was broke, and that mountains cost somewhere upward of $40 million dollars. So, he made a plan. He picked out a mountain and then tracked down every millionaire he could get ahold of. He approached them all and gave (roughly) this pitch: “If you agree to spend 1 million dollars, I’ll make you one part of a 41-person partnership in the ownership of this mountain.” He called and pitched until he had 40 millionaires (or billionaires) ready to buy into his mountain split. The only side element of the deal was that a small piece of the mountain would be set aside for his own personal use. Everyone agreed, and now you can find this man on his mountain, living his dream.
LAST STORY I PROMISE: My father worked with a guy who dreamed of being a trader on Wall Street. Most of you guys know this, but it’s no easy gig to get. A good friend of mine from Dartmouth was a top 10 student, interned at some of the most prestigious financial institutions in the world, and wasn’t offered any positions on Wall Street (despite applying desperately all across the board). So when I tell you that this particular business partner never even graduated from college, you might consider his dream to be totally impossible. However, he was determined and got himself a job working the copy machine at one of the major investment banks. While he wasn’t making copies, he was getting to know the traders, asking them questions, and reading the books they suggested. One day, somebody quit in the middle of the work day (as happens apparently quite often in our beloved financial capitol), and the team needed somebody to pick up the work. When the copy-guy volunteered, everyone agreed it was a no-brainer: he’d been there for a couple years, he knew all the stuff, he could certainly handle a day of work while they looked for a replacement. Several years later, he was a managing director of the trading floor.
The point is, when you know what you want you know what you want. However, it’s easy to want something and lack determination. The good news is that determination is something you can choose to have. So the next time you want something, decide if you really really want it or if you don’t really care. If it’s the former, you shouldn’t ever really give up.
As some of you know, I’ve been working long and hard on a business myself. I’m not going to discuss that business until it is ready for it’s first round of beta launches, but I’m excited to see it come to life. I’ll be writing more about entrepreneurism in the future, but next time I’m going to revisit my “a-ha moments” blog from a little while ago with some cool neuroscience stuff.
Hope everyone is well. I’m back on the writing grind, so you should be seeing more of me. Remains to be seen if that’s a good thing or not 😉
Music of the day: