“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
My friend Tom Raun had t-shirts made with this quote on it for our graduating class of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business program. I freaking love it and I know every single one of the entrepreneurs in that group feels a true connection to the words.
Lately, though, I can't help but think, why is it considered so "crazy" to create a new business?
When I look back at that crew, the 40 small business owners that I’m so proud to now call friends, I can’t say that any of them are all that “crazy.” In fact, the entrepreneurs I know are some of the most driven, organized, intelligent, and creative people I know.
And yet, if you’ve ever announced a dream of starting your own business, even to those closest to you, scratch that, ESPECIALLY to those closest to you, I would bet that you heard one, or all of the following in return:
“Oooh, are you sure you want to do that? In this economy?”
“Running a business is hard, you know.”
“Who would buy that?”
“No one will spend that kind of money on that service/ good. Especially not around here.”
“That’s a big risk. Where would you even start?”
“Don’t you need a degree for that?”
It’s no wonder that potential entrepreneurs feel completely “crazy” for following their dreams.
In college, I changed majors four times in the first four semesters. Nope, not a typo. You read that right, I changed majors every, single, semester for two years straight. Each time that yet another career path that aligned with my interests and talents didn’t work out, the answer was always the same, “Try another.”
What I desperately needed to hear at that time was, “It’s ok to create your own path.”
Instead I spent the next several years trying to be something, and someone, that I simply could not. And the harder I tried to force myself down a path that wasn’t my own, into a box that didn’t fit, the more awful I felt.
It all came to a head when I was called into the corporate offices of the bank I worked at after graduating college and was given a promotion. In response, I sobbed. Sobbed, I tell you. I could tell by the shocked and confused look on the HR rep’s face as she awkwardly handed me a kleenex that this was not the reaction she was expecting.
What the hell was wrong with me?
I had done all of the “right” things. I forced myself to finish college, took an internship, got a “good” job afterwards, and within a year was offered a promotion. I should have been ecstatic. Instead, I was ugly crying in a glass walled office in front of a near total stranger.
It took that moment to uncover just how unhappy I was. How much time and energy I was expending trying to shrink myself, my dreams, my potential into a position that was more palatable to the world. A position that those around me could understand. A position that felt “safe” for others, but utterly oppressive to me.
I turned down the promotion, and later that year returned to school to become a massage therapist. And while my husband, parents, and grandmother didn’t fully understand the path, and it didn’t feel nearly as safe or sure or clear, they were supportive.The confidence I gained from that experience, from being fully true to myself and my dreams, became the foundation of my entrepreneurial career.
I learned to trust the calling of my soul, even if I didn’t know exactly “how” I would make those dreams become a reality.
Entrepreneurship has come a long way in the 20+ years since I graduated. Many community colleges and universities, and even some high schools, have entrepreneurial programs and courses. The current gig economy means that more people than ever are able to create income doing work they love.
But we still have work to do. We need to normalize entrepreneurship as a legitimate career path, not an exception to the career rule for misfits and troublemakers. More than ever, our communities need creatives and creators, innovators and inventors. And rather than writing them off as crazy or trying to push them into safer professions, it is our responsibility to encourage them every step of the way.
I hope you'll join me for Part 2 of this conversation next week when I'll discuss simple, real world, tactical ways we can support the development of entrepreneurship in our schools, communities and each other!
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Cheers friends, and here's to chasing those small business big dreams!