My father was a blue collar guy. He was a good provider, but hated his job as a welder in my great grandfather’s construction business. My father’s true passion was big band music.
In fact, he had his own band, The George Moyer Orchestra. From the 1950’s through the 70’s, the sound of my father’s orchestra filled dance halls across the Philadelphia area. While dad loved his music, and he made money with it, that was just a hobby. To my father, no man could ever truly make a living doing something he loved by following a dream.
I inherited my dad’s penchant for performing. However, shortly after college, as I was pushing to earn a living doing my stand up comedy act, dad lectured me. “Son, you’ve got to realize that it’s time to get a real job.”
I looked at my dad square in the eye and very matter of factly replied, “You know when that time will be? That time will be when they are turning the crank to lower my casket into a grave.” Much to my father’s frustration, I quickly dismissed what he said. I was going to make my living my way, on my own terms.
Years later, when I read the text of a commencement speech that Steve Jobs delivered at Stanford University, I recalled the commencement speech my dad had given me. Jobs’ speech was considerably different. Jobs told the graduates, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking… Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Great advice for entrepreneurs, coming from a great entrepreneur. It’s more relevant now than ever. The United States is supposed to be the land of opportunity, but we are lagging behind other countries when it comes to entrepreneurship. America is now 12th among developed countries when it comes to startup rates.
Do you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? Here’s a list to find out:
Strong Leadership Skills
According to lifestyle entrepreneur Lewis Howes, these are the pillars of leadership for entrepreneurs:
- “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” In other words, plan your work and then work your plan.
- Say "yes" to every opportunity that comes your way. The time and means will follow. As Ester Bloom, editor at The Billfold, says, “Say yes first and figure it out later.”
- Don’t write any checks you can’t cover. Just another way of saying “say what you mean and mean what you say.”
- Your time is finite; use it wisely. When you are running a startup there are many people depending on you -- be sure you’re doing the things that only you can do, and delegate the rest or let it slide.
You Are Not Somebody Who Is Risk Averse
Timothy Sykes, a successful entrepreneur with penny stocks advises, “There comes a time when every startup business has to jump out the window and build wings on the way down.” That’s about the same as ‘no guts, no glory.’
Basic Ethics and Integrity
Author J.K. Rowling wrote: “Be nice to everyone on your way up, because you’ll meet them again on your way down.” And even if the Wheel of Fortune doesn’t bring you down again, it’s just good business to earn and maintain a reputation for honesty and dependability.
Consumers quickly learn that while bargains abound, with shady startups there’s ultimately no savings for them.
If at First You Don’t Succeed . . .
Thomas Edison tried and failed one-thousand times before hitting on the right filament for the electric light bulb. If it wasn’t for him, we’d still be sitting in the dark. Or more likely, somebody else would enjoy that legacy along with all the wealth that came with it.
President Calvin Coolidge once wrote: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
You’re Not Afraid of Change
Innovation is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship. Paul Sloan, an inspirational speaker, has broken this down into these characteristics:
- Have a vision and comprehensible plan for change.
- Never accept complacency. Enjoy shaking up the status quo.
- Be open to suggestions from anyone, from anywhere. Listen to the janitor just as carefully as you would to your CFO.
- Challenge everyone with two jobs: first to do the job they were hired to do, and second, find a way to perform the job they were hired to do in an even more streamlined and proficient manner. This only works, obviously, if you do it yourself as well. Basically, you want to leave something better than you found it. Call it innovation, thinking outside the box, what have you. Don’t worry that having a job and fine tuning it so well, that it could be eliminated completely. There will always be a job for the innovator.
- Don’t debate it, test it. Less talk, more action. See what works by working, not talking.
You’re Not a Lone Wolf
If you’ve found something interesting in this post, but don’t bother to share it with anyone else (maybe you think you don’t KNOW anyone else to share it with) you may not be entrepreneur material. Peer networking is essential to the success of any entrepreneurial startup. The rate of change in technology and every other aspect of business is continually accelerating; you need a steady group of peers to help you sift through it all.
My father didn’t appreciate my response that I gave him way back when, after I graduated college. I ignored his advice and continued to pursue doing what I loved. I found a good living in a career among the creative arts, both as a performer and writer. I love my old man, despite our differences. He passed away a few years back.
Once however, during a performance of mine on stage, I heard a familiar laugh echoing from the back of the room. I looked underneath the lights of the comedy club stage and there was my dad. He snuck into the show, not wanting me to know he was there, but his laughter gave him away. That laugh was all l I needed to know about where I stood with my dad. I had his approval. It was his way of telling me to keep it up and live my dream.