Here's the moment when I realized Kirk Hammett, lead guitarist of Metallica, is a true entrepreneur, and that as a band and a business, Metallica totally embraces the startup mentality.

Most acts sign record deals that grant them a percentage of music sales in the form of royalties. Due to a provision the band negotiated in 1994 with their then-label Warner Brothers, Metallica now owns the rights to all its music and videos and formed its own label, Blackened Records. The result is a level of freedom and control -- both artistically and financially -- most musicians rarely attain.

And that's how Metallica's new album, "Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct" came to be the band's first major studio record released on its own label. Sink or swim (forget "sink": it's a badass album), it's theirs.

It's not the easy way, but the best way rarely is.

The same is true KHDK Electronics, the pedal company Kirk co-founded with industry veteran David Karon. Instead of creating a signature line of pedals under the umbrella of an established company, which Kirk could easily do, the two decided to start their own company so they could exercise total strategic, creative, and business freedom and control.

Sink or swim (forget "sink": so far KHDK is swimming very nicely, both critically and financially), it's theirs.

It's not the easy way, but the best way rarely is.

"Every time I start a project, I go into Metallica mode," Kirk told me. "It's kind of like a reflex. [I use] the same process that I would when we write and record album. And if I found myself in a position where I didn't have complete control and say over the quality and creative input, I think I'd get bored.

"I can say that for Metallica, too. If we didn't have 100 percent creative input and creative output and final say, I don't think we'd even be around anymore."

Being an entrepreneur is ultimately about freedom: The freedom to do what others say you shouldn't do. The freedom to try what others say you can't do. The freedom to define success the way you want to define it.

And most of all, the freedom to live the life you want to live, in the way that makes you happy and fulfilled.

It's not the easy way, but the best way never is.

That's what Kirk does. That's what Metallica does.

That's what you do.