Meaning is the Bitcoin of entrepreneurship.
Bitcoin, for those who don’t know, is a growing open-source and digital payment network that is trying to become an alternate option for world commercial valuation and exchange. It is controversial because it is potentially an option to problem-plagued national currencies, since it can be used as a hedge against inflation, capital controls, and international sanctions. It is also looked on askance as a potentially useful tool for a plethora of criminal activity, especially by drug dealers and money launderers.
Bitcoin may or may not be a viable, long-term option for future transactional enterprise. I do not know. But it brings up an issue that is near and dear to my heart. And that is the idea of an alternately viable option for measuring the value of entrepreneurship itself.
Most successful entrepreneurs I know fall into two categories:
1. The disruptive, ambitious, aggressively growing entrepreneur.
2. The lifestyle entrepreneur.
The first is the widely recognized and admired heroic entrepreneur exemplified by the life and work of risk-takers like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, et. al.—Ayn Randian figures creating big financial and disruptive payoff. The second is the more sedate, though still successful, businessman, who is interested in creating and sustaining enough innovation and differentiation to insure a comfortably dependable cash flow and ROI, but who is less interested in visionary, precarious business adventure.
But I would submit there is a third type of successful entrepreneur. This is the entrepreneur who lives for the coin of “mattering”, as well as of lucre; for being whole and worthy of the privilege of having lived freely, yet meaningfully. (The Conscious Capitalism movement of John Mackey and Michael Strong is an attempt to formalize this third way.)
Frankly, I believe that entrepreneurship is becoming less financially lucrative. The fertile seedbed of freedom, ideal for thriving creative business, is being eroded by an encroaching hegemony of the triumphalist oligarchic state—a state well-intended but innately inefficient and hostile to the economically disruptive, independent, and seminal. (Note the effect of Obamacare on small business.)
Steve Wynn and Bernie Marcus have recently unequivocally averred they could never have created, respectively, Wynn Resorts or Home Depot if they had to begin in today’s increasingly suffocating, bureaucratic control economy.
But there is another, a third, way to measure success. This third class of entrepreneur measures her success not on the soulless tundra of pure wealth-seeking, but on a business’ ability to create community, meaning, dignity, independence, and happiness, as well as fortune. This reward is a richness of being, not merely a worth of wealth.
The hidden secret value of entrepreneurship is vocational, in the religiously foundational sense of that word. Meaning a life lived effectively and meaaningfully, as part of the great oneness of all existence and truth which is often called God. This the the Bitcoin of significance, an alternative valuation and measurement of success. It is a measurement of autonomous well-being offered uniquely to the entrepreneur willing to risk treasure of soul, as well as finance.
Henry David Thoreau advised, “Pursue some path however narrow or crooked in which you can walk in love and reverence.” That’s what I want my life to be about as a businessman. I want to be measured in the alternative Bitcoin universe of quantified meaning, as much as of worldly accumulation.
Or, as Peter Drucker puts it so trenchantly, “Make your life your endgame.” Thanks, as always, Brother Peter.