Entrepreneurship starts with you

Tom Bengtson

An entrepreneur is someone who surveys the landscape, looks for things that could be improved, and acts toward that improvement. Entrepreneurship, at its essence, is problem-solving.

Sometimes an entrepreneur will start a company to solve that problem, and if the company is successful, that entrepreneur becomes famous. Think of Steve Jobs who envisioned a better way to work and launched a computer company, or Herb Kelleher who thought air travel was too expensive and invented the low-cost airlines. Apple and Southwest are high-profile entrepreneurial examples; but today, let’s consider a more personal entrepreneurial possibility.  

Not everyone is cut out to head a multi-billion-dollar business, but everyone can be an entrepreneur in a very important way: Everyone can be the entrepreneur of their own life. You can survey the landscape of your life, look for things that could be improved, and work toward that improvement.

Graduates inevitably encounter problems as they venture out into the world; don’t run from those problems — solve them, or at least try to. That’s the entrepreneurial experience. Even if you fail, you will learn from the experience and be a little more prepared for the next venture. Failure is part of the deal when it comes to entrepreneurship. If you succeed at everything you do, then you are not pushing yourself hard enough. You are capable of more! You cannot find your limits if you don’t exceed them from time to time.

Because of the potential for failure, entrepreneurship requires courage. Courage is the willingness to enter into encounters even when you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. You start a business — you don’t know whether it will be a success. You climb a mountain; you don’t know whether you will make it to the top. You ask someone out on a date; you don’t what their answer will be.

Risk is essential in any worthwhile effort. If there is no risk, then there is no challenge. Every entrepreneurial venture is dependent upon something you cannot control. Entrepreneurship requires you to have the courage to take some measure of risk. Control freaks need not apply.

Taking a measured risk is not the same as gambling. Risks can be thoughtfully mitigated; when gambling, the odds are almost always profoundly against you. Unlike a reasonable risk, a gamble has no grounding that helps you assess likely outcomes. So avoid gambling, unless you are just looking for fun at a casino.

There is a secret weapon that will help you build your courage and make you stronger in the face of risk. It is something that will help you become the entrepreneur of your own life. It is gratitude.

Gratitude is acknowledging those around you, including your Creator. Gratitude is saying “thank you,” even for small things, or to people who don’t expect to be thanked. Gratitude means not taking things for granted but contemplating them for their real worth. When you spend time thinking about what you have, you spend less time thinking about what you don’t have. Gratitude, like rest, fresh air, good food and fine drink, rejuvenates and makes all challenges seem less daunting.

The world needs great entrepreneurs, like Jobs and Kelleher. But even more, the world needs personal entrepreneurs, the kind who may never get an article in the newspaper. The world needs people courageous enough to be entrepreneurs of their own lives. Problem-solving starts with you. If you see something that needs improving, work on it. Whether that something is you, your community or your country, don’t leave the work to someone else.