Reinventing Entrepreneurship: Focus on Making a Difference and You'll Make Plenty of Money Very few entrepreneurs will be billionaires but all of them can make a positive difference in the world.
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We're living in scary brutish times. Brexit, Trump, wars and rumors of wars. Every day, Gordon Gecko's "greed is good" creed seems more political commentary than 1980s cinema. It's been said that money can't buy happiness but poverty can't buy anything. Sure, we entrepreneurs want to make money, but that's not who we are. For most of us, entrepreneurship is about pushing ourselves to be better than we were yesterday.
What I am about to propose is heresy; steel yourselves as I prepare to lay out some savage and ugly truths. Most of us won't become billionaires and truth be told, that's okay. Being an entrepreneur is more of a noble calling. Should we strive to make money? Well, you can do what you want but I'm still looking to make money, a lot of money because I'm always broke. In the classic movie Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Butch claimed he "honestly doesn't know where the money goes." Sundance told him the money goes because "you're a soft touch, and always taking expensive vacations, and buying drinks for everyone, and you're a rotten gambler. That pretty much sums it up for me as well.
Entrepreneurs don't need to pursue the accumulation of wealth at all costs. We can do, we can be, better than that. I had to look up the definition to be sure, but an entrepreneur is "a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk." I found it odd that while we think of entrepreneurs as primarily driven to make enough money to buy the world a Coke (even if I DID have the money I just don't have the time or logistics support to do that) the actual definition doesn't even mention money, but instead focuses on risk and initiative. So with that in mind maybe it's time to rebrand entrepreneurship by adopting six simple behaviors:
1. Give back.
Think of all the breaks that you have caught in your career and ask yourself who helped you. Maybe it was a purchaser who gave you that project that took your company to the next level. Maybe it was the community that supported you when you wanted to move your office into their neighborhood. Or maybe it was just that one customer or employee who stuck by you in the lean times. Now is a good time to resolve to give something back. It could be financial, but it can also be something of yourself. Consider giving your most valued commodity -- your time.
2. Bring peace.
Take a hard look at how mean and selfish social media has become. Worldwide, we are in for a wild ride with regime changes, investigations and scandals not yet imagined. People all over the world are scared. Don't make it worse by fanning the flames of hatred and bigotry. If you really are a bigot, spew your hate speech to your next door neighbor; he doesn't like you anyway. Resolve to post something positive, life affirming and hopeful on a social network every day.
3. Smile at, and greet, strangers.
Never underestimate the power of a friendly hello and a smile. It makes people feel better and goodwill is contagious. Saying hello to people and meeting them with a smile may not solve their problems but it most certainly will brighten your day and position you for success. The world changes a single mind at a time.
Relax and you'll be a calming influence on others. There is enough worry and fear in the world, "keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you." There is scarce little in life that can't be made just a little bit better by taking a nice deep breath (with the exception of swimming underwater of course. Seriously though, nobody every lay on his or her death bed and wished they worried more and relaxed less.
The Reader's Digest used to have a section called "Laughter is the best medicine" (Conversely, the New England Journal of Medicine had a section called, "Treating terminal diseases: Laughter is NOT the best medicine"). Spinning on our entrepreneurial hamster treadmills, we often forget that the world is a very funny place. It feels darned good to have a good, hearty belly laugh. So laugh dear friends and hope that the world laughs with you.
6. Tell the people who matter to you how you feel about them.
I have had a weird year. I lost my ex-wife, a dear friend who struggled with cancer for a decade and my beloved dog. We can get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of fighting for success that we wake up one day filled with regret. I was fortunate to have told those who mattered to me how I felt about them and what they meant to me before it was too late (well, not my ex-wife, that would just be mean). Now as I look back, I gain some small measure of peace.
These simple behavioral changes will not only help you be a better business professional, but will help you be a better person and to create a better world. At the end of the day isn't that the point of being an entrepreneur?