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Do you owe it to yourself to become an entrepreneur?

Posted on: July 29th, 2012

Potpourri: Do you owe it to yourself to become an entrepreneur?Self-help

This week’s column is NOT for you if you are inclined to answer yes to the following: Should I start my own business? Am I up to the challenge? Can I handle the lack of security? Am I as sharp as those who have already done it?
This IS for you if you are equivocating.
Rather than discuss the benefits of taking a risk to create your own business, let’s consider what might transpire if you do not. Here is my motivation.

A penalty for not trying?
I realized recently that some aging members of a family I had known for 30 years once had the potential to be terrific entrepreneurs and never acted upon it. They had “the right stuff,” the “stuff” that creates, builds, pushes, risks, accomplishes, and inspires. The stuff of heroes. In the 19th century, they would have lead the wagon train, panned gold, or perhaps sought a Northwest Passage.
Instead, these individuals were 20th century grumblers. They obsessed about small things, argued, ranted, and criticized. In hindsight, I believe they did so because they existed in a state of thwartedness. For some reason they did not recognize or exploit their gifts. Instead of launching companies or developing projects that would tap innate skills, they confined themselves with self-imposed limits and labored mightily at the ordinary. They passed frustrated decades earmarked by frequent interpersonal problems, occasional alcoholism, free-floating anger, and bitterness. Their negative intensity made them difficult to be around. It was only after talking recently to one 70-something member of this family that this unsettling perception of them occurred to me. I had the sense that they never realized what they might have accomplished.

They indeed had the “right stuff” 
These proud folks had restless energy and could outwork a mule. One septuagenarian who has been dead 14 years had the seeming endurance of three 30-year-olds. Like his brothers and sisters he had a furious curiosity and natural intelligence, was verbal, extroverted, and blessed with the face and physique of a film star. Instead, he and his siblings seemed to turn their energies inward against themselves and others. They and their families suffered.
Perhaps we can learn from their life choices.

What does this have to do with you and me?
This family reminds me both of contemporaries with similar capabilities and frustrations, and of my own past. I have come to believe that people like us, as with that family, are often acrimonious and argumentative because we are not taking advantage of a particular restlessness. Therefore we must continually blow off backed-up pressure resulting from this unexpended potential. We also dissipate enormous energy pursuing activities, sports, or hobbies that are basically pressure-relief mechanisms.
I began to fathom this after I started my own business. Only then did I notice how much anger and bitterness that so often dogged me vanished. Gone too was frequent blaming of others for what was not right in my world. Gone were make-work activities. Gone was envy of others who had risked all for a dream.
This insight deepened after talking with others in transition. While some were networking to find jobs, several reminded me of the family. They were dynamic, knowledgeable people of verve, gregariousness, inquisitiveness, and determination who were pent-up. They often had worked under the constraint of bosses who did not reward their potential, or straitjacketed them with rules or budgets. Some wore the golden handcuffs of well-paying no-growth jobs. A few had wealthy spouses. I began to think of all of these folks as Ferraris in idle. Classy power wasted.

Taking the leap
Because of these thoughts, I now tend to encourage such friends to strike out on their own. Sure, they will experience midnight flop sweats of worry about not supporting the family, losing the home, jeopardizing the reputation, or running out of money. Yes, I worry about pushing them too hard, but I push anyway.
None has failed. Their fears remain (do they ever go away?), but they are accomplishing goals only dreamed before. They live the dual exhilaration and intimidation of knowing that the terms of their existence are of their own making. They, not others, determine success or failure.

The lesson?
On a larger scale, could it be that much disappointment in our society stems from relying on others to rescue us? Do we depend too much on bosses and governments to protect us?
The only certainty is what we ourselves do. Brian Tracy, creator of “The Psychology of Achievement”, advises that even if we work for others, we must remember that we are really working for ourselves. Only through that awareness will we do what we must to succeed.
Therefore, if you feel the anger and bitterness of a life that is smaller than you want, consider that you might be one of those meant to venture out on their own. Perhaps you have the right stuff to be a 21st century pioneer. While it is too late for the dying family that began this article, I doubt that it is too late for you. As someone once said, ocean-going ships are not meant to stay in the harbor.

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