Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
As Elton John once sang, life is short and the world is rough, so if you want to boogie, boy, you’ve got to start your own business.
Well, it was something like that.
I want to tell you a secret: Most people who’ve never created their own business envy most people who have.
And have you ever noticed that Hollywood makes movies about the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and rarely about, say, the CEO of Unilever?
I’d therefore like to spend this morning’s sermon discussing what it is that entrepreneurs do that makes them enviable to those who don’t have the courage to be an entrepreneur.
1) They Stand on the Edge of the Cliff and Jump.
Don’t underestimate just how much those who spend their careers in organizations wish they had the guts to do their own thing. For them, though, a big leap is a change of job title on their business card, or perhaps a move to the London office for a couple of years. They always know they belong to someone else. They’re always too scared to belong to themselves.
2) They Take Responsibility.
One classic method of rising in big corporations is to make sure that you appear to take responsibility but can shirk it when the fan is adorned by dung. How many corporate apparatchiks have risen tracelessly by making sure that they could never be blamed for anything that went wrong? It’s an art form, in its way. But so is kissing the soles of your feet. Entrepreneurs have nowhere to hide. If something goes wrong, it’s their business. They have to clean it up. Or else.
3) They Take It Personally.
I’m not sure business is quite worth giving your whole life to. However, great entrepreneurs believe that their businesses are an extension of themselves. Or even that they are their businesses. (Steve Jobs answered customer emails late at night.) This means that when something goes wrong, the truly great entrepreneurs feel they personally have let someone down. Compare this with anyone who works at a call center for a large corporation. Or anyone who runs a large corporation. Oh, don’t. It’ll only upset you. It upsets them to see what you’re doing and the risks you’re taking.
4) They’re Able to Change Lives.
One of the sneaky satisfactions of great entrepreneurs lies in the lives they influence. They go out on their own. They create something. They persuade a few blessed people to come along for the adventure. Those early adopters of the dream are those whose lives might change the most. It’s true that corporate types change lives. It’s also true that they’re always ready to change jobs, so that they can change (their own) lives somewhere else.
5) They Really Do Feel Like They’re Creating Something.
Several times in my life, I’ve worked with senior figures in advertising corporations who completely, totally, and utterly didn’t give a flying funicular for advertising. Actually, it was most of them. They could have been in any business. All they were interested in was personal advancement, a large expense account, and fiscal safety. They were functionaries, civil servants of the capitalist system. They looked upon true entrepreneurs with an envy that was as ill-concealed as their tics of mendacity. (Oh, his mouth twitched to the left. He’s lying.) How many faint-hearted corporate lifers (and I’m thinking of you, person I used to work with whom I cannot name here, but you work for a very large and famous drinks corporation) get to the end of their career and realize they’ve created nothing more than the need for more (and bigger) meetings?
6) They Actually Get Excited.
The lily-livered corporate types know how to fake excitement. Especially on team-building exercises. But any excitement they feel is rather wrapped in a patina of “What will this mean for me and my desperate desire to climb the corporate ladder? Will I soon have ‘senior’ in my job title?” Entrepreneurs have no ladder. They are relying on their faith in an idea, their drive to build against the odds, and their ability to juggle challenges, people, and lawyers, while still trying to thrust a business forward--or, at least, trying to prevent it from falling over. There are days when they don't have the faintest concept of how to get to where they want to go. But they’ll keep going, keep making it up on the fly, as they float through the air with no parachute and perhaps even no pants. Now that’s exciting.