Recently, at a dinner party, we were discussing the TV show The Apprentice and eventually the subject of the conversation turned to entrepreneurship more generally. A couple of observations were expressed that everybody seemed to agree with: entrepreneurs are driven by the subject of money to the extent of it becoming something of their god; and entrepreneurs often succeed through luck, rather than ability. In this post, I would like to present my own thoughts on these observations.
There is no question that I was in the minority in expressing my view that the first generalisation did not only apply to entrepreneurs. They may be driven by the desire to make money, but then so too are many people who are not entrepreneurs. You can equally well find such people on the factory floor. Similarly, you can find entrepreneurs who, whilst they are concerned with the business of making money, are not consumed by it and do not make it their god. Certainly, some do, but then so too do people employed in virtually all jobs and professions you would care to mention.
Money is simply the token employed by the mechanics of an economy. We all need money and we all have choices with regard to how we go about acquiring it. It is no more noble, in my opinion, to work for somebody else to acquire money that it is to create a business that makes money in some way. It is the use to which the money is put that is the mark and measure of the human being, not the process by which money is accumulated.
With regard to the role of luck, I think it was an interesting comment. We are all exposed to the same circumstances and conditions. Entrepreneurs, I think, are inherently no more lucky that the rest of us. But then, I suppose to some extent, that depends upon what you mean by the word luck. Personally, I like Deepak Chopra’s statement that luck is what happens ‘when preparation meets opportunity’. It is such a lovely observation.
The wind of opportunity is blowing constantly for us all. As Jim Rohn once said, ‘it’s not the blowing of the wind, it’s the set of the sail’. The ‘set of the sail’ represents the necessary preparation. There will be people who prepare but for whom the wind is not right, just as there will be people who don’t prepare for that set of circumstances. In that situation, those who worked hard do not get their reward and their efforts go unseen. But there will equally be those who prepare, and those who don’t, when the wind is favourable. Those who are prepared are the people who are often described as being lucky.
James Allen makes this same point in his lovely little book, As a Man Thinketh i.e. that other people do not see the sheer hard work, sweat and toil that went into constantly being prepared and waiting for the right circumstances. They are not generally aware of the repeated failures, when an idea may have been good but the timing was not right. They only see the success and so, without a proper view of the process, conclude that the individual was lucky.
From the perspective of the successful entrepreneur, luck is not a factor. They might fail repeatedly, but the knowledge that they will ultimately succeed through sheer persistence, even if they don’t know how, is what drives them to reorient, time and time again following repeated failure, to be in a position to try yet again. Eventually, the ‘set of the sail’ is just right for the wind and the desired outcome is finally achieved. Yes, they were in exactly the right place at the right time – that’s why people perceive it as luck – but that was always going to happen sooner or later for someone with enough determination.
Personally, I am not sure that you can teach this stuff. Entrepreneurs seem to have certain, common characteristics; they are risk-takers, for example. Having said that, with the opportunities that the internet presents for the modern entrepreneur, perhaps you can. With a web-based business, the risks are very low indeed. Sure you run the same risk of failure, but a web business can be built in your spare time, just as I have built mine. Certainly, you might fail, but even if that were the case, you would lose very little in terms of money because you can start a web based business for very little outlay. If you fail, all you really lose is your time and effort.
Many people will not be prepared to put in all that time and effort with absolutely no guarantees of success – that’s the entrepreneurial spirit – so when the opportunity presents itself, they will not be ready. Some people will start and then get discouraged because of their poor results. But the true entrepreneurs will continue when the others fall, they will keep trying. They may change their approach, but they won’t change their goal. They will invest their time in learning how to sail better and eventually they will manage to get their sail just right for the prevailing wind.