Over the years, I have used this blog to evangelize the merits and virtues of purpose-driven entrepreneurship and living.
Early in this journey, especially as things started to pick up and grow, I viewed entrepreneurship as a powerful way out of the daily grind of corporate life. It was a ticket (if not THE ticket) to AMPed up living – a life of autonomy, mastery, and purpose – the very pillars of human satisfaction and personal fulfillment. It was under this belief and personal experience that I began to evangelize – writing, speaking, and teaching on a consistent basis.
Is Entrepreneurship For You?
As I have progressed in the journey, and looked back on my 8+ years as an entrepreneur, it is pretty clear to me that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. I think everyone has entrepreneurial / purpose-driven capacities and should definitely employ these principles in their life and work; however, actually starting and running a business is simply not for everyone.
It takes a certain kind – a certain kind of craziness – a willingness to handle uncertainty and surprises, an ability to sell and deal with rejection and loss, a deep belief in what’s possible without having a concrete plan or guarantee of success.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Yes, it has its glamour moments and tends to be surrounded by an air of coolness and trendiness, but make no mistake, entrepreneurship is a beast of a journey.
Every “overnight” success is usually a 10+ year endeavor. I am in my ninth year (full-time) and I have sometimes wondered (especially in the last 18 months) if I had what it took to keep going.
How I Built This
As I pondered this question, I stumbled upon this amazingly inspiring podcast: How I Built This. It is a weekly podcast, hosted by Guy Raz on NPR, and started airing back in November of 2016. Have you heard of it? Do you have any favorite episodes? I started listening about 9 months ago and have devoured many of the episodes. It chronicles the story of entrepreneurs, business owners, game-changers and the movements they created.
It is riveting, absolutely inspiring, and in many cases tear-jerking. I found myself weeping on many occasions, relating to the stories of triumph and tragedy, success and failure, serendipity and loss.
Every story is fully unique and at the same time, there are common threads weaving through each one:
– Starting with a small idea
– Nurturing it with relentless hard work
– Serendipitous good fortune
– Overcoming insurmountable odds
– Experiencing crushing defeat
– Long, arduous struggles
– Tipping point acceleration
– Triumphant glory
Not necessarily in that order.
What these real-life stories taught me is that everything I have experienced thus far, with respect to building something, is perfectly normal. Every great company experiences struggles, crises, ups and downs, and near-death experiences on many occasions – sometimes months, years, or even decades into the journey.
Listening to “How I Built This”, put me at ease. Rather than feel shame for my inadequacies, shortcomings, and failures, I see that my journey fits right in with the best of the best. I am on the right track!
“How I Built This” gave me such a jolt of inspiration and fuel for the soul, I am ready to make it to 10 years and beyond with greater fervor and enthusiasm. We have come this far – it is time to persevere!
While entrepreneurship may not be for everyone, if you are a builder or aspiring builder, “How I Built This” is a must listen.
Grace, Luck, and Effort
One of the questions that Guy asks each of his interviewees is: how much would you attribute your success to luck vs. effort?
The answers are fascinating. Some assert that there is no such thing as luck – it was all hard work, persistence, and grit. Others argue that it was nothing but luck. Had they not been in the right place at the right time, none of their fortunes would have followed. And, then there are some who will say that it was a wholesome blend of both – maybe 80/20 or 50/50.
The answers to this question remind me of two distinct, very short videos I used to share with my students regarding the role of luck, effort, and grace in the entrepreneurial journey:
Warren Buffet, Jay-Z, and Tyler Perry have not yet been interviewed on “How I Built This”, but I know Guy would love these responses. Take a look and see which message resonates with you the most.
The Inner Voice of Love
Despite their use of different terminology for describing what some would say is the same phenomenon, what I find fascinating is the common thread of love for what they did.
Warren Buffet would have been an investor even if it meant getting paid in seashells! Tyler Perry believed in his dream so much, he endured years of crushing defeat and failure to see his vision to fruition. This undying passion and love is what allowed them to continue in the face of money or no money, success or failure – whatever obstacle they may have encountered.
And, this was an undeniable common thread from all the “How I Built This” stories. What enabled each of these legendary entrepreneurs to endure, was their love of the journey – the love of what they were doing.
Steve Jobs sums it up beautifully:
While finding what you love is the high order bid for sure, what Steve also points to is something bigger than building an empire or doing something entrepreneurial. What Steve is alluding to is our inner voice – our calling, which may or may not have anything to do with entrepreneurship (it often does, but certainly doesn’t have to).
Fulfillment, making a difference, living a meaningful life – our inner voice / intuition is calling us to this every day. It doesn’t always give us the full picture, just the first step. It waits to see if we trust it and act on it, before offering the next clue.
What has sustained me on this path of entrepreneurship for so long has been the love of its many faces – connecting, creating, sharing, and innovating. And, along the way new voices have tugged at my heart. I have sometimes set aside those voices in favor of what was right in front of me or general inertia, but that didn’t serve me. What got me to where I was, wasn’t going to get me to where I needed to go – new calls and clues were leading me into new, unchartered waters of growth and learning.
And, it wasn’t until I acted on them – even if for one hour a week, that I discovered renewal, expansion, and fresh energy for every aspect of my life.
This has been my big, recent epiphany: it is not about whether you are “entrepreneuring” or not – it is about listening to the quiet whispers of your heart.
Are you listening and heeding its call?
Vikas Narula is Creator and Co-Founder of Keyhubs – a software and services company specializing in the power and wisdom of human networks, connection, and crowd-sourced sentiment. He is also Founder of Neighborhood Forest – a social venture dedicated to giving free trees to kids every Earth Day.
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