I chuckled to myself the other day while reading an article where the author referred to entrepreneurs as having a defective gene that caused them to be the way they are. Perhaps it was the best description I had heard yet. In a way, he may have been correct. If you have that gene, you will know it because it’s like being a tea pot that is constantly over a blazing fire, boiling all the time with ideas continually whistling out of the spout. No matter how much you try to shut it down, it just never shuts down.
I’m certain the author of the article understood this all too well. He had been an employee of Disney and was fired because he didn’t fit into the mold of a “good employee”. Once freed of the constraints of his job, he began to pursue his passions, eventually building several successful businesses. His latest project was to turn the economy of a neighborhood around and he’s pretty much doing so single-handedly by providing jobs, housing, educational grants and seed capital for new businesses.
This was an inspiring story to me because it told a “not-so-often-told” story of someone having a huge positive influence in the community around him. It made me think of how building community is just one of the many characteristics of true entrepreneurs. Sure, we are always over-charged with business ideas, plans, strategies and the like. Those things are the building blocks of the economy. Some of the ideas actually make the entrepreneur wealthy. Many don’t. The point is though that if you don’t understand the soul or spirit of an entrepreneur, you will likely always misinterpret what drives them.
Here’s, to me, the secret of the “defective gene”. If you were to take the financial rewards away from the entrepreneur, it would change nothing. Financial reward is the by-product of pursuing what you love to do and what you are passionate about. When a blossoming entrepreneur is “discovering” himself, financial reward may be the spark that begins to move things into motion. Sooner or later though the soul of the entrepreneur will come alive and life will forever change for the entrepreneur. Once this happens, the financial rewards become a side note as the true passion begins to come into focus.
My personal experience with this proves it’s truth to me. Before yielding to the inner entrepreneur, I held various jobs. When employed where my creative tendencies were “free to roam”, I did pretty well. When working a repetitive job, (food service, factory, retail) I went out of my mind with boredom. I would lay awake at night in agony over having to get up and go do it again. (I’m breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about it)
Getting a taste of the freedom to pursue ideas was like stepping outside to get a big deep breath of clean air. Once there, going back is nearly impossible. In fear and apprehension, I made a couple of different entrepreneurial “break outs” and then ran back to the “security” of a steady job. But it was too late. You CAN’T go back once you’ve taken your first steps. Yes, there will be days you want to flee in terror of the perceived “uncertainty”, but eventually that fades.
If nurtured through infancy, the life of the entrepreneur becomes its own reward. We function around our passion rather than an alarm clock or a work schedule. We occasionally lie awake at night building things in our head wishing the sun would hurry up and get here so we can go to work building them with our hands. We have a terribly hard time understanding why others don’t pursue their passions with the same intensity. To us, a time clock may as well be a pair of hand cuffs locking us up in a strange kind of “house arrest” for eight to ten hours a day. But the biggest difference is that we tend to see the future as a bright place full of hope and opportunity just waiting to be discovered.
Eventually, the spirit of the entrepreneur makes life difficult in a couple of ways. We can only seem to relate to others who have similar perspectives and we actually need them in our lives as a kind of support group. No one else seems to understand our enthusiasm for transforming ideas into reality. We need friends who can run around and play with us who are not locked into rigid work schedules. Eventually, we find ourselves in a world where if we get a good idea today, we can be working to make it a reality tomorrow.
IF……..you have this defective gene buried in your gene pool somewhere, suppressed in fear that it may take over if given room to breath, you have a choice. Kill it while you can. Or…….Set it free.