"If something is important enough, or you believe something is important enough, even if you are scared, you will keep going." -Elon Musk
The process of entrepreneurship can be truly magical: an idea, dream or even epiphany is hastily scribbled onto a napkin, developed through spreadsheets and documents, and finally given life as a business. A singular thought is a seed which, if properly germinated, can grow into our wildest dreams (regardless of whether your goal is to run a small startup or industry-shaking corporation). In order to properly nourish this seed, we need to consistently water it with a healthy dose of risk and hope. Undervaluing one of these partnered elements creates an unsafe environment for growth.
Fundamentally, to be an entrepreneur is to take risks. A lot of risks. Every single investment, every single phone call, and every individual you hire or choose to work with comes with inherent risk. Investments you make might have unpredictably poor returns, meetings may not go as you’d hoped, perhaps a fair-weather business partner leaves you to shoulder all the problem-solving, and the list could go on forever. For this reason, it might seem a much safer route to avoid risk altogether, especially if you’re just starting your first venture, or are purely self-funded. However, playing it too safe will limit opportunities and can severely impede growth. Besides, if you find yourself shying away from any significant risk, perhaps you aren’t as invested in your own idea as you thought!
Conversely, as entrepreneurs we don’t want to take too many big risks; that’s akin to a gambler putting all their chips on the table, and we may just put ourselves in an unrecoverable position. How then, do we find the boldness to take risks, yet maintain some level of safety? The way to go, my friends, is planning. We take calculated risks. Before making a purchase, having a meeting, or anything that can be considered a risk, do your best to be as informed as possible. Crunch numbers, review key information and stay organized! Let Microsoft Office be your secretary, and Excel be your accountant. Those that remain intimately informed on their market and their own business will be much wiser when it comes to assessing, analyzing, then taking risks. Don’t be like the crew of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek, who risk sporting nothing but tight linens when landing on a new planet... Have the foresight to bring a spacesuit, or helmet, or knee pads? Anything? Jeeze.
Finally, I’d like to briefly discuss the other component of our business... fertilizer (?). Hope, similar to the previously written blog on effervescence, is all about attitude. Hope helps to keep our minds positive, especially when taking dozens, hundreds or even thousands of risks. Being hopeful can manage our stress and keep us in a mindset of growth and success, which, to use a word I’ve come to despise, may in turn manifest (cough) actual success. I’d like to draw on Star Trek for one more useful analogy here: While the crew consistently take comically uncalculated risks (at least in the original series) they do show a splendid example of optimism and hope for the future: their mission, “To boldly go where no man has gone before” is predicated on the hope that each venture to a new world will result in new knowledge beneficial to the future of mankind. It’s this hope, this idealistic picture of the future, that drives them forward.
While the topic of entrepreneurship could go in dozens of different directions, I knew right away that I wanted to talk about the importance of risk and hope. They truly do form the foundation of what it means to be an entrepreneur, and I sincerely hope you do your own rumination on how they apply to you. Staring down yet another lockdown in the midst of a pandemic, what better time do we have to consider risk and lean on hope?