Without a doubt, our conception of entrepreneurs is misguided. We imagine they start with an idea, but the roots of their success go much deeper. They are embedded in a mindset that allows them to channel their passion in a profound and productive way – the entrepreneurial spirit. The conviction, drive, and persistence necessary to build a company and become your own boss requires a vision that puts others before you. We are all capable of success, regardless of our background or circumstances. Achievement comes through taking risks, searching for opportunities, and questioning the status quo. Which only occurs when our desires fulfill a larger purpose.
Finding Your Drive
When you establish a business, the goal cannot be solely to make money. Money is a byproduct of your true incentive. Unless you are pursuing something you are passionate about, you might earn money, but you will never succeed in a marked way. Success requires persistence. Raising capital, finding customers, generating leads, managing teams, organizing production, coordinating service – there are countless hurdles to be cleared, to say nothing of the long hours. Without a relentless drive to create or contribute, obstacles become headaches to brush aside, not challenges to overcome. However, when the mission is more important than the money, you have better reason to persevere. Ironically, in the long run, working with good intentions towards this more meaningful goal will earn more money than you ever anticipated.
Where to Look
With this in mind, it is best to search for opportunities close to home as possible. Everyone has talents and knowledge that set them apart. Rather than look to the market, develop the skills and insights you already have. They are the surest path to innovation.
At the same time, think back on your experience and education. What challenges have you encountered? What are the problems you read about? Where in your career were you frustrated by inefficiency? Do not be afraid to draw on your friends and colleagues either. In fact, surrounding yourself with intelligent people is one of the easiest ways to spot new opportunities. Their complaints and observations are likely to reflect your own experience and spark startling new ideas.
Whatever happens, never stop looking. Carry on the search, regardless of how difficult it seems, because you never know when inspiration might strike. There are many who struck it big long after most people would have given up because they had the mindset for success. Robert Noyce founded Intel when he was 41. Ray Kroc established the McDonalds chain at 52. Colonel Sanders did not set up his first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise until he turned 62.
Following Your Heart
Before moving into healthcare, I worked with an accountant named Jack in Manhattan. Jack had found considerable success in a safe and reliable profession. Then one day, he announced he was giving it up and moving to Alaska. He loved to fish and, what’s more, loved teaching other people how to fish. But because there were few opportunities in New York, he had decided to head north and chase his dream. Foolish though it seemed, he could not be talked out of it. And, contrary to predictions, he found great success, more in fact, than he had ever enjoyed as an accountant. His charter fishing company is still operating, booked years in advance. That is the power of passion. Never be afraid to follow it. It will help you reach greater heights than a paycheck ever will.
Discovering the Entrepreneurial Spirit at Work
Even if you do not found a company, fostering the entrepreneurial spirit still spurs success, if you view your job as an opportunity to invest in yourself. Every position has the potential to lift you higher, if you use the experience to grow your skills, knowledge, and expertise, (what economists call human capital) the same way as if you were developing a new service or invention.
During the IBM years, employees stayed with a company forever and a day because their lives were more firmly planted. Though some miss the stability that era offered, the volatility we see today gives us an opportunity to discover something greater. Just as exploring our passions can stir new ideas, trying on new companies can stir our ambition. Businesses are competing not only to deliver products but realize a vision. Finding one that inspires us can transform our career, even raise us to chief executive.
Working for Pacific Rail
A parable from the golden days of the railroad provides an illustration of this principle. Back then, the CEO of Pacific Rail liked to walk the tracks as his workers laid new lines. While he was going along, inspecting their progress, he cried out in surprise. One of the linemen was an old friend who had joined the company with him. The CEO stopped, gave the man a hug, and reminisced about the time they’d spent laying rail together as young men. Eventually, they said their goodbyes and the CEO continued on his way. Once they were out of earshot, his secretary asked him why he had risen to become the head of the company while his friend was still hauling railroad ties.
“It is simple,” the CEO replied. “He came to work for two dollars an hour. I came to work for Pacific Rail.”
In sum, entrepreneurs do not work for the wage they are given. They are not satisfied doing the minimum and are not tempted by thinking the grass is greener on the other side. Instead, they look for ways to grow where they are.
So often, what propels someone ahead is the willingness to do what others will not. It is easy to coast along, but hard to go the extra mile. Drive of that sort only comes by looking within, examining your strengths, and building them into something great that others cherish. If your hard work makes the company big, you have made yourself big in the process.
Money & Entrepreneurial Spirit
No one wants to be poor. Therefore, it seems wise to do everything we can to get rich. However, there is nothing more corrosive to the entrepreneurial spirit than the empty pursuit of money. At the end of the day, there is never wealth enough to satisfy someone’s thirst. Even if they start out working hard, they will eventually be overtaken by the temptation of a fast buck.
By contrast, the most successful businessmen in history – Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, John D. Rockefeller – were great philanthropists. They understood the value of giving back and their integrity stood the test of time. To this day, Rockefeller’s companies remain some of the richest in the world.
Ask: what do you want your journey to look like? How much have you given back? Some visions are so big, you will never meet all the people touched by them.
Instilling the Entrepreneurial Spirit
A company’s culture comes from the top and is shaped by how you treat your employees. If you want employees to commit to your vision, you need to show them their success matters to you. Lead by example. Demonstrate honesty, integrity, and loyalty. Reward people who stand up and give their honest opinion. Recognize accomplishments. Give second chances. Most importantly, speak to employees face-to-face. They know your time is valuable and that makes them feel valuable. When you do all this, your good opinion becomes more powerful than the money you spend.
Making your vision a reality requires help. No one can run a company by themself, but not every leader inspires their staff to give their best. In fact, the best leaders do not give orders at all. They set objectives, then make it their job to help everyone meet them. Rather than working for you, you are now working for them. As they grow, the company grows. Your dedication benefits them. Their growth benefits the company. The company benefits the world. And you benefit last – the definition of a servant leader.
Mindset for Success
Success begins within. It is a choice, not an accident. But it takes time. You will not learn what drives you until you experience the positives and negatives it brings with it. Along the way, look for steps you can take to move ahead. Set aside seed money, so you can plant and harvest later. Believe in what you deliver and own what you are delivering. Follow your heart, not what others tell you. Internalize your vision, and the entrepreneurial spirit will carry you forward.
Tarek El Nabli is the founder and CEO of Parentis Health. Through his work, he has expanded access to quality senior care for thousands of older adults in Southern California. His hybrid approach to health focuses on improving patient outcomes through education, wellness, and continuity of care.
Lewis Jackson writes about technology and healthcare. His work provides practical insight into modern medicine and healthy living.