Archives For July 2016

Imagine how great it would be… you have your own personal jet that flies you anywhere you’d like. You can get tickets to the toughest venues, and most of your stress comes from deciding which summer house to visit (Hamptons or Aspen). Imagine…

No, WAIT, stop imagining that!

It’s our imaginations that are making us broke! We imagine living a life we can’t afford, but then we actually buy things that we can’t afford. That’s why people are house poor, or car poor or going out to eat poor. They want to see themselves in this lifestyle.

Note: this thought originated from the father of Economics, Adam Smith – so don’t blame me if you don’t like it!

In one of my favorite books, How the Scots Invented the Modern World, the author Arthur Herman presents many ideas of great philosophers from the Scottish enlightenment, and I think this is one of the most powerful passages in the book. In fact, I’ve reread it three nights in a row because it struck such a powerful chord with me. Here goes:

And here imagination turns out to be the driving wheel of that system as well. Our imagination, the inner picture of ourselves being as rich and comfortable as the Duke of Argyll or Bill Gages, spurs on our efforts, focusing and directing our energies toward a single purpose. “It is this deception”, (Adam) Smith adds, which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind. it is this which first prompted them to cultivate the ground, to build houses, to found cities and commonwealths…”

This “deception”, as Smith called it, is major driver of our career ambitions as well. We want to leave a lasting mark on society and one of the easiest ways to do it is by becoming rich and famous. Or it might be the reason so many people willingly throw their current lives away in hopes of “making it to the top”.

I was well on the way after graduating college. I wanted to be a big, powerful CEO of a global company. In the first few years after I graduated, I worked tirelessly in this pursuit and small rewards starting coming. A promotion here and a raise there made me feel like I was on track to becoming what I wanted. But then, only five to seven years in, I found my career ambition waning, and I wanted out.

My deception was possibly identified as I realized what it would take to make it to the top. I realized I wanted to live my life now instead of sacrificing current time to chase bigger dreams that would only take me further away from what I wanted now – a lifestyle where I could enjoy my time and time with friends and family, and make a difference to others.

In the beginning, my imagination fed my ambition which in turn, fed my consumerism. I went $50,000 in debt two years out of school, and I felt like I was working just to pay for my crap and continue living the concept of the company store – even if it was through my own choosing.

I get it, we need jobs and we need careers. There are families to feed and babies to clothe. Also, some people really need the career pursuit to feel successful in life. But don’t make bad financial decisions that continue you down a path you don’t want to go. Don’t let a picture of success painted by society or the movies deter your way of life. Think about what’s most important to you and ask yourself if you’re working towards it, or if your deception is pushing you in the wrong direction.

As you might know, I quit my job a month ago and my wife is quitting soon as well. We hope to set off in a month or so for another adventure. We couldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for making sacrifices and saving and investing hardcore over the last 10 years. Maybe our imagination to travel with complete freedom will one day make us broke, but we’re willing to take the risk!

Somewhere along the line, we’ve all been tricked. We’ve been tricked into thinking only certain types of people with well developed skills and a professionally vetted plan can become entrepreneurs. We think we need a license to entrepreneu (I made that word up) before we can become entrepreneurs.

Actually, it’s not even that we’re tricked, it’s that we’re trained to think like this. School doesn’t teach us how to become entrepreneurs, but instead how to be good employees. As I mentioned in the five things I never learned in school, we’re not taught how to assess ourselves, take action, question authority or even manage money. These are things most entrepreneurs do well. We’re taught to wait for the next assignment to be given to us, so we’re always dependent on being told what to do.

When we traveled the world in 2013, we realized most people in developing countries were entrepreneurs. This wasn’t because they attended Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” seminar, it’s because there weren’t other jobs! They couldn’t log on to Monster.com and apply to 50 different openings for a financial analyst. No, they just needed to be able to eat, so they found a way to make some money.

They’d set up little stalls in the market selling their goods, or save up enough money to buy a car and give tours of their city. They’d figure out how to get by, even if it was only by selling a few camel-skin purses a day. This has been going on for tens of thousands of years – ever since humans coexisted. In my mind, there are only a few basic requirements to become an entrepreneur:
1. Be a human
2. Ability to interact with people
3. Know the local language (optional)
Some people get by with only the first requirement! We all interact with people and know how to carry a conversation. This is the very basic requirement for entrepreneurism.

So why does entrepreneurism seem so hard to most of us in the US?

I think a lot of it has to do with what we see on television or the interwebs. We see news stories on guys like Zuckerberg or Larry Paige who invented freaking Facebook or Google! We try to compare ourselves with people like that, and of course our ideas aren’t going to look grand enough. We think we can’t start being an entrepreneur until we have a brilliant and original idea.

When I interviewed my entrepreneur friend Chris, he talked about how every app idea has about ten people working on it (yes, that even includes your awesome app idea). He said about 6 of those people have moved just beyond the idea phase to talk to some people about getting it started. Two have started the design and are building it out. The last two have already brought it to market and are working their butts off day and night to make it succeed.

A brilliant idea isn’t what makes an entrepreneur successful, so don’t let that hold you up. We’re seeing new companies pop up in old industries every day, and just when we think a market is tapped out, we see a new company come in and succeed. Look at the beer market. Ten years ago it was monopolized by about four companies and we were all forced to think Bud Light was a good beer. Now, there are new craft beer companies popping up everywhere, and it’s not like they’ve reinvented beer!

Entrepreneurism is possible, you just have to want it enough. And yes, this is coming from an unemployed guy who spends all day fixing up his Airstream!! However, I intend my next paid for venture to come from my own work, so let’s do this together, and I’ll keep you updated as I move down that path.

Also, feel free to print off the awesome certificate below so you can have your license to entrepreneur!!!

 

Entrepreneur License