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How Learning About Entrepreneurship in My Grandfather's Orchard Planted the Seed for My Career

As a child, I was fortunate to have two great men in my life. My grandfathers taught me everything I know about strategy and entrepreneurship -- and it all started in an orchard in Hungary.

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Growing up in Hungary in the ‘80s, I spent my afternoons in an orchard with my two grandfathers. One of them was a master in chess and won international competitions. He and I would play the game together in the orchard, which my other grandfather owned. These days spent with my grandfathers taught me lessons in wit and strategy, but they also taught me about entrepreneurship and gave me the vision for my future career.

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A modern-day Rumpelstiltskin

One day, after playing a game with my chess-champion grandfather, the grandfather who owned the orchard took me with him through streets and boulevards looking for silverware in pawn shops. As I watched him carefully eye spoons, forks and knives, I wondered why he was so intent on finding utensils. It wasn’t like we were lacking cutlery.

When we came home, he showed me elaborate sets of silverware. Many were missing pieces, and my grandfather knew exactly which items were still needed. He would hunt them down in local shops and bazaars. After gathering all the pieces, he would return to the same pawn shops and sell full collections for twice as much money. Single pieces of silverware were sold by the ounce, but you could command a far greater price by reselling a complete set.

Looking back, I see my grandfather as a benevolent and ingenious version of Rumpelstiltskin  the fairy-tale rogue who spun straw into gold.

This experience ignited my entrepreneurial spirit, and it wasn’t long before I put it into practice on the humble sidewalks of communist Hungary. I set up a tiny stall on the block where we lived, selling fruit from my grandfather’s orchard to passersby. I applied my passions for math and strategy to this endeavor, experimenting with pricing and distribution and combining different types of fruit into baskets as my grandfather had done with his silverware.

Related: ​​How My Grandfather's Watch Gave Me the Life I Always Wanted

The apple never falls far from the tree

These experiences are what provided me with my first taste of business. The memories have stuck with me, and I’m the entrepreneur I am today because of them.

I learned that, in the business world, it’s not essential to always be the “category creator” or the one who conceives of and executes an idea from start to finish. Being an entrepreneur requires keeping a sharp eye open for opportunities and being curious (and sometimes fearless) about exploring unexpected or untrodden paths. 

My memories of helping my grandfather build magnificent sets of silverware from completely random components also inspired my foray into the world of recruitment and job boards. They informed my vision of establishing a community where people get creative and resourceful about what’s often deemed an arduous and frustrating task: job-hunting. 

Many people still cling to a traditional mentality, believing that a career path is an inherently linear and one-dimensional process or concept: Apply for a job. Get hired. Get promoted. Move on to a better position in the same field. Step and repeat. Then finally, retire when you can afford to or are told you have to. 

But this doesn’t have to be the case.  

Related: Don't Stand Still in the Job Search

You don’t have to be the one who planted the tree to harvest the fruit of the orchard

While my earliest job board focused on individual opportunities, the one I own now has a more holistic approach. It takes into account someone’s whole career and empowers him or her to use AI to find the direction he or she wants to go in life — not just one individual opportunity. Just as one piece of cutlery isn’t worth as much as the whole collection, a single job isn’t worth as much as the entire vision for your career.

Many people believe that in order to actualize their entrepreneurial dreams, they have to start a company and stick with it from conception. But there is so much more you can make use of throughout your career or as an entrepreneur. It’s all a matter of putting yourself out there, thinking creatively and finding what works for you. The best results and most innovative ideas don’t always come out of thin air — they are supported by good use of tools and the ability to experiment and take risks. Once you unlock the power of your available resources, you can work toward building the career you really want and making your entrepreneurial ambitions a reality. 

And, who knows? You may even dig up some old memories that open your eyes to how you got where you are and provide you with childhood lessons that can take you where you want to be next.

Gergo Vari

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Gergo Vari is the founder and CEO of Lensa. His journey as a founder of multiple successful job boards and recruitment startups has taught him that the traditional process of searching for a job is broken. That’s why he created Lensa, a job board built on technology that puts people first.