Birthday Present

Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the June 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Depending on when you actually read this, I will have almost turned or just turned 50. As more of us age, that may seem fairly routine, but for someone (me) who doesn't handle big birthdays well, it's momentous. The reason I'm sharing this with you is that June also marks my 20th year here at , which means I've devoted 40 percent of my life to business ownership. If you just count the post-college years, I've spent about 73 percent of my time talking to, for and about entrepreneurs. No wonder I'm obsessed!

So many phenomenal things have happened in my 50 years that I find it hard to believe we actually crammed so much innovation into such a short period of time. Unlike on Happy Days, I don't remember when we first got a TV set, but I do vividly recall my first look at a color TV (it was at my cousin's neighbor's house, and we watched Bonanza) sometime in the mid-'60s. The revolutionary technological advance of my youth was the transistor radio--which I took full advantage of, secretly listening to Yankees games while I was supposed to be sleeping. For someone who has (and uses) three computers, it's unbelievable that I was 23 before I even touched a keyboard (and found it totally intimidating). I can still remember the day in 1987 that now-executive editor Maria Anton and I stood in fascination and watched a fax machine at work. "What will they think of next?" I wondered.

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Well, they thought of computers I can carry in my purse, the Net, e-mail, cell phones and wireless everything, to mention a few. Though all these make my life so much easier, I no longer am amazed at what brings. Not that I don't welcome the new iterations, but I guess, like many of you, I take it for granted that someone will trump whatever exists and come up with something even better and more affordable.

I guess it's a matter of me, like many in my generation, believing in endless possibilities. Every generation thinks it's the greatest one. I am no exception. I think the children of the '60s grew up to be the entrepreneurs of the '90s, because our parents, who went through so many truly rough times, raised us to be optimistic and positive. We learned early on to be independent thinkers, to go after what we wanted, and not to take no for an answer. When I was 15, my guidance counselor gave me a choice of three things I could grow up to be. (Most women my age can guess what those were.) I rejected them all, mainly because I have never liked to be told what to do. At 17, I saw a man walk on the moon. After that, nothing seemed impossible.

Ninety-six years ago, a 13-year-old boy got off a boat from , speaking not one word of English. Over the course of his life, he started at least three businesses. My grandfather was not an entrepreneur; at best, you could say he was a fairly successful (very) small-business owner. But he had an entrepreneurial outlook. I inherited that trait. Although not an entrepreneur by definition, I am one by attitude. I operate by gut and am driven by the passion for what I do. Sound familiar?

Entrepreneurs have made my world a better place. Not due to the stuff you've invented and perfected (though I'm appreciative), but because you've proved you don't need much more than an idea and an attitude to succeed. My personal credo was inspired by you, by your battles, your triumphs and, yes, even your failures. So thanks for showing me that if you believe, and if you persist, all things are possible.


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