Ricky Nelson wrote a hit song called Garden Party in 1972. The chorus and conclusion of the song goes like this:
“You see, you can’t please everyone, So you got to please yourself.”
I mentioned last week that I don’t consider myself a very good businessman, but my many business deficiencies have been compensated for over the years by the associates who have been drawn to work at my company and in the business community I have made in 17 years as head of my outsourced executive sales firm Corporate Rain International.
However, while I am a flawed businessman, I am a wildly successful entrepreneur. How is that? Well, it is because I have achieved exactly what I intended through my adventure in entrepreneurship. It can be judged by time and by others whether I have created a long-term viable capitalist entity, but I genuinely don’t much care whether I’ve created a profitable institution for the ages or not. I’m in business because it makes me happy and free. It’s a gas. It’s a joy. It’s an ecstasy of self-discovery. It’s infinitely not boring. It is healing and whole-making.
My personal goals have never been financial, though I’ve made more than a living through the years. What I knew when I started my company in 1996 were my personal values and the tone of service I wanted my company to emanate. I knew I wanted to create a community I could comfortably live in, a horizontal company inhabited by peers and fellow travelers, both in my associates and in my clients. I came out of a two decade personal history of failure in four different careers before founding my firm. I had also had issues with three different addictions. (In fact, my entrepreneurial success came directly out of disciplines developed and informed by the recovery from these addictions. Finding a comfortable center in my work was an essential part of that recovery.)
If truth be told, I’m not especially interested in business, per se. I have no desire to be a master of the universe. What I desire is to be happy, centered, and whole, while running a healthy enterprise with integrity and freedom, and offering a real needed service to the world. Those are my reasons to be an entrepreneur and if I went out of business tomorrow it would in no way adumbrate my personal sense of success and achievement as an entrepreneur.
(If you get a chance and are interested in this topic, take a look at a recent book called The Big Enough Company (Portfolio/Penguin–2011) by Amy Abrams and Adelaide Lancaster. It’s written for women, but I loved it.)
So for me, entrepreneurship is, fundamentally, non-quantifiably personal and spiritual in its rewards, particularly in its ability to impart freedom and inner wholeness. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said so passionately at the end of his “I Have a Dream” speech, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
Amen, Brother Martin.