On June 1st, 2016, I took the leap. I chose to work for myself, live my life on my own terms and accept all the joys and risks that come along with that decision. I could not have made a better decision. I didn’t do it for the money, I did it for the lifestyle…the freedom. Each year, we celebrate our independence, so why not celebrate those who have achieved their own independence in a world designed for W-2 forms, retirement plans, and the nine-to-five. Let’s celebrate the concept of entrepreneurship.
Defining the Concept of Entrepreneurship
Here’s what you’ll see if you search Google for “concept of entrepreneurship”:
There’s bravery in those words. This definition makes it clear that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Just as it took courage for our country’s founding fathers to fight for its independence from British control, it takes courage for entrepreneurs to tap into their own “capacity” and “willingness” to create something profitable and of value while taking on all risks that come along with such an endeavor.
For a bit different perspective, let’s hear how Gary Vaynerchuk defines entrepreneurship.
Gary loves “the climb.” He defines entrepreneurship as “loving the process more than the gains you get out of it.” It’s a lifestyle, a frame of mind. It’s a way to continuously create and evolve your life while being in full control. For Gary, it’s not a means to an end, but a process and a “game.”
Clearly, entrepreneurship means different things to different people, but what’s at the center of qualities that we should celebrate: leadership, bravery, creativity, and independence.
The Path to Entrepreneurship
Years ago, I dreamed of this time. I read books like Multiple Streams of Internet Income, The $100 Startup, All You Need to Know About the Music Business and others as I was searching for my entrepreneurial path. I wanted it, but I wasn’t ready. I was still searching and did not yet have the confidence in a chosen path in order to embark upon it.
I spent 5 years crafting my skills as an online marketer at a large publishing company (F+W Media), where I was eventually promoted to Director of SEO and able to explore my leadership skills in an area where I was passionate. I learned two things:
- I loved being in charge of organic search for incredible brands
- Management wasn’t my path
I eventually joined forces with some like-minded SEO professionals at a local agency in Denver (Inflow), and experienced nearly three years of incredibly collaborative consulting with team members, where we all continued to craft our skills in SEO and inbound marketing. It was a shared passion and we achieved some great success for some remarkable clients.
The calling was still there, though. I still yearned for something more. I wanted to build something. Having our baby daughter in August, 2015, had a big impact on me. I knew that if I wanted to enjoy my time with her as much as possible, and create the life that my wife and I dreamed of, we needed to take a risk. She had already taken the plunge by becoming a Shaklee distributor, and was able to give our daughter the motherly attention that she deserved. Now it was my time.
At some point, an entrepreneur must take the leap. Embarking upon the unknown is fucking scary, and can be dark at times, but it’s also an amazing thrill. Entrepreneurs must stay on the path, and through the darkness there will be light.
Entrepreneurs are Willing to Take Risks
Being a guitarist (which makes me an artist?), I was used to taking creative risks…but not financial risks. Still, I knew the time had come for the ultimate challenge…going out on my own. I wasn’t sure, though. I don’t have the desire to create an agency and hire people, but SEO and inbound marketing is what I know, so I knew that I needed to leverage what I was good at in order to take the risk of being an entrepreneur. That was my first realization in how I was going to take, but mitigate, the risk of becoming an entrepreneur.
As my wife and I planned on how I could join her in becoming fully independent, grow our income and lower the immediate risk to our income, we decided that I would spend some of my time on my own clients and projects, and some of my time on helping to grow our Shaklee business (our long-term plan). Our long term is filled with residual income and doesn’t require hours to be fulfilled. This was my next realization in how I was going to become an entrepreneur. Having a general understanding of both short-term and long-term plans helped me prepare to take the risk of becoming an entrepreneur.
Why Do Entrepreneurs Fail?
Let’s explore the dark side of entrepreneurship–failure–from a different light.
“Fail Fast” is Terrible Advice
Whoever came up with this phrase has negatively influenced generations of people who approach their entrepreneurial spirit with fear. As this article explains, no one wins with that approach. Well, why do entrepreneurs fail? That’s a good question. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m off to a good start…and it’s because I’ve waited until I knew that I was ready. I waited until I had a business plan that gave me the confidence that I needed to become an entrepreneur. I became certain that I could not fail if I gave it everything that I had. Failure wasn’t an option.
I suspect many entrepreneurs fail because they have not clearly defined how and what they are going to do to create income, they’ve not defined clear processes for how they are going to execute and grow their business, and they’ve not yet committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve success. Such clarity leads people, who are brave enough and willing to give it everything they got, to a great sense of confidence.
There’s a very important passage from Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich, where he cites Edwin Barnes’ desire to work with Thomas Edison.
When he went to Orange, he did not say to himself, “I will try to induce Edison to give me a job of some sort.” He said, “I will see Edison, and put him on notice that I have come to go into business with him.”
He did not say, “I will keep my eyes open for another opportunity, in case I fail to get what I want in the Edison organization.” He said, “There is but one thing in this world that I am determined to have, and that is a business association with Thomas A. Edison. I will burn all bridges behind me and stake my entire future on my ability to get what I want.”
He left himself no possible way of retreat. He had to win or perish!
You need to want it. You need to sacrifice to get it. There can be no doubts. No plan B.
Forgetting that Preparation Breeds Confidence
We must prepare for our goals. I’ve spent 13 years preparing for this moment. I took my first “real job” as an inside sales rep for Service Magic in Golden, CO (now Home Advisor), which I was furious about to begin with having just come from life on the road as a musician. Really? I was going from the stage to the cubicle to spend my days cold-calling? I did it. It sucked, and I moved onto other positions at different companies, still doing sales. Hated it. But, I was on a path. I was learning marketing from the sales perspective.
The path eventually led me to a position with Denver.com where I was selling advertising and producing web pages for local businesses. I got many of them ranking very well, and drove them a ton of business. I also drove my own leads by using SEO and content marketing techniques (see my portfolio if you’re curious), and created my guitar blog so that I could further experiment with SEO, content marketing and also keep my passion for music alive. This was all before I ever became Direct of SEO at the publishing company and Sr. Strategist at the inbound marketing agency.
Ultimately, my path took me from sales to SEO and inbound marketing (…well before Hubspot made the phrase popular). Looking back, I needed all of that experience. Those sales skills are needed now in my role as an entrepreneur.
We’re all on a path. Like Gary Vaynerchuk, we may not all have a final destination, as we continue to evolve our professional endeavors and enjoy the thrill that comes with that approach. Some of us, on the other hand, eventually realize exactly what we want to do for the rest of our lives and the end is clear.
Regardless of where our paths lead us, it’s critical to be patient along the way and realize that if we’re not where we want to be quite yet, the path is very necessary to develop the skills, mindset and passion to be where we’re trying to go. We cannot forget to live in the moment, to experience the “power of now,” as Eckhart Tolle would say. We are always building our future. Without the preparation that comes from our individual paths, the necessary confidence cannot be built for later in life when someone is ready to become an entrepreneur.
Why Entrepreneurship is Important to Society & the Economy
We all have friends and family who are striking out on their own. The freelancer economy has grown 24% in 7 years (source). Whether your family member is opening up a private practice, your friend is opening restaurant, or your colleague is becoming an independent consultant (like me! yay!), consider the value (and passion) that they bring to society. Consider the value that they can bring to your life by offering you the chance to do business with someone you trust. Celebrating their bravery and help them succeed.
Why is entrepreneurship good for the economy? According to Investopedia, entrepreneurs create new business, add to the national income and create social change. Per Bright Hub, entrepreneurs create businesses that hire people, create demand for products which in turn create jobs and other businesses, and introduce new technologies to the market and stimulate the economy by instilling confidence in people. That’s why. Let’s celebrate THAT!
Why is entrepreneurship good for society? Per the Guardian, the most common regret of those on their deathbed is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” That’s powerful. We don’t die with our money, but (I believe) we take our experiences, memories and karma with us as our souls leave our bodies. Most people don’t whisper “I wish I had worked more”, or “I wish I had made more money” on their deathbed. Nope. Instead, it’s sentiments related to personal achievement, fulfillment and community.
Support the Entrepreneurs in Your Life
Support your fellow small business owners who are taking a risk on their own talent and passion. Help them chase the American dream and let their bravery be an inspiration for your own life. That’s how we make America great again.
Special Thanks: I would like to give special thanks to Mike Belasco (CEO & President of Inflow, an E-Commerce marketing agency) and Damon Gochneaur of Aspiro Agency (a Dallas SEO company) for your encouragement.