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That's the Spirit

November 1, 2001
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/45230

As you read this, i hope our world will have resumed some semblance of normalcy after the horror of September 11, though I expect a true return to normal is years off. But as I write this, the events are still fresh in my mind. So fresh, I need to speak to them here.

First let me address the issue of our October cover lines. Some of you, in light of what happened, were offended by our words. It is easy to take words out of context and apply different meanings to them. Our issue was devoted to defending your business. We are certainly not proponents of violence. What surprised me were the letters that acknowledged our issue was likely produced before the tragic events (it very definitely was) and still expected us to change what was obviously beyond our control. Most of the letter writers understood. A few did not. And while we felt awful that even one of our readers was upset by this, there was nothing we could do about it. Which is exactly how many of us feel about what's going on today.

We are enraged or numb, because it seems there's nothing we can do . . . the situation is beyond our control. And, of all people, entrepreneurs do not tolerate well things being out of their control.

I have talked in the past about the similarities between entrepreneurs and the revolutionaries who founded our great nation. The spirit that drove those heroes more than 200 years ago is the same that drives you today: to create something better than was there before. To be in control of your own destiny. To be leaders.

There is something indomitable about us, both Americans and entrepreneurs. We don't take no for an answer. We are not quitters. And we don't like to lose. If you mess with us, we do not hang our heads in shame. We instinctively spring back. We adapt quickly. And we carry on.

The very foundation of our nation, the reason we won the Revolutionary War against all odds, is that we somehow inherently know we can overcome anything. Year after year, we have proved that. Over the centuries, people have come to America to escape whatever demons haunted their homelands. It was risky for most to come here-risky to get on a boat bound for an unknown place or risky to sneak across our borders. My own ancestors did that, most on a boat headed for a place where they didn't even speak the language. One great-uncle had to sneak into America. Twice they caught him and sent him back; the third time (being a charm), he eluded capture and stayed.

Most of us are children of immigrants. We grew up in this bountiful land of opportunity. And so we must defend it. Not necessarily with guns and bombs; that's not for me to decide. But we can defend it by showing our "never say die" spirit-by reopening our businesses if they were directly affected on September 11 or by helping those whose were. Yes, as we pointed out last month, there are times when it's imperative to beat your competition. And then there are times, like now, when it's most important to band together, to stand together as one. As poet and editor William Cullen Bryant once wrote, "Difficulty . . . is the nurse of greatness."