In his best-selling book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller is consumed with the idea of story. He asks readers to consider how mirroring the elements of inspiring stories will guide them towards meaning and purpose in their own lives. He says, "Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo [and achieves it]...But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful."
This quote has many implications to consider, but I'm preoccupied with one in particular: We wouldn't mind having a "Volvo", but is that why we exist? What is the narrative we really want to tell with our lives?
In short, it's heroism. It has always been heroism. But heroes don't slay dragons or storm the gates of Troy quite as much as they used to. They're regular people with lives, families, and dogs just like the rest of us. And at a very distinct moment they said yes to a very difficult call, choosing to believe in themselves despite doubts and fear of failure.
This is the story of the entrepreneur. It's the Hero's Journey told through the lives of normal people who rise to the occasion and demonstrate the simple bravery of saying yes.
Everyone knows the good fears that keep us alive--heights, fire, alligators. And everyone knows the bad fears that keep us from realizing potential--the unknown, failure, change. But entrepreneurs are unique. Just like heroes, they lean in to the bad fears to avoid their worst fear--leaving untapped potential on the table and not living.
Entrepreneurs are beset with fear on a daily basis, but they would rather learn by doing--and possibly failing--than never learn and never achieve. It's nurtured perspective more than natural bravado, and the entrepreneur who gets comfortable with his or her fear never fails. They just learn.
It's easy to think successful heroes were born as such, but they weren't. Consider Luke Skywalker, fictional though he is. He needed to be developed and learn how to navigate through his bad fears with the encouragement and wisdom of his close mentors (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda). His potential was strong, but his belief was non-existent.
The truth about humans in general is the same as Luke's. It's a lot easier to exist in relative comfort than recognize an unnerving call and answer with yes. And all entrepreneurs learned how to say yes at the right time because of their mentors' wisdom who identified their potential and patiently guided them towards growth, confidence, and belief.
There are very distinct moments in entrepreneurs' lives when they knew they had what it took to say yes, even if they failed. This isn't a yes to guaranteed success, it's a yes to embracing that they were designed to pioneer something--to lead the way in spite of their fear of failure and inadequacy.
It has often been said that 'nothing good in life comes easy', and it's the sculpted attitude of the hero-entrepreneur alone that knows there's no such thing as a reward without a risk.
For hero-entrepreneurs, saying yes is simply the key to getting them immersed. This is where they thrive. They're in the battle now, they're fighting with the tools they have, and there's no turning back once they have something at stake. Victories and losses begin to look similar--because living to their potential means finding out what they're made of, not being perfect. It's about progress and playing a part in the greater good, not running all legs of the relay alone.
It's hard to say no to anyone on everyday matters. But when it comes to answering the call for something that's new or scares us or tests us, it takes a hero to say yes. They pull upon courage and abilities they're unsure they possess to do something radical for the benefit of someone or something else. Many of those heroes today are entrepreneurs.