Must we all be entrepreneurs?

This week I was thinking about how to define “transition.”  It brought to mind one of my favorite movie scenes of all time, a scene from the Dead Poets Society.  In it Robin Williams plays a high school English teacher, Professor Keating.   At one point he has each child walk to the front of the classroom and stand on top of his desk – looking out at the class.   It is a powerful moment that allows the kids to see that one can get great energy by taking the time to use another lens to look at something familiar.  The story’s  two stars are taught think differently…ultimately leading with their hearts.

Truth be told the desire to define transition was really triggered by my recalling an interview that I read long ago with Len Schlesinger, a founding member of the Au Bon Pain bakery team.   His basic slant in the interview was that the company or person who defined the problem correctly, won.   Always.  Hands down.  No argument.

To bring this point home, I immediately thought of James Carville‘s, “It’s the economy stupid.”  He defined the problem correctly and won the race for his client, Bill Clinton.  While this example is a gross oversimplification, I won’t bore you with countless paragraphs on businesses that demonstrate that in fact Len’s right.   Anyway, how to define “transition?”  Is it a problem?

Honestly, I must be avoiding this definition thing.   Instead of taking out a piece of paper and penning a few drafts I chose to search for the electronic reference to the above interview.   I know that my Novofemina readers hold me to the highest literary standard so off I went…

I couldn’t find the reference but stumbled onto the fact that Schlesinger now serves as president of Babson College.  Babson recently published contrarian research on the nature of entrepreneurship — which oddly enough helped with my definition.

Babson’s Business Innovation Lab released Elements of the Entrepreneur Experience in late September 2011.  Tidbits include:

  • “The construction of networks that drive entrepreneurial ventures looks exactly like a crazy quilt — fabric scraps that come together into something beautiful.  It’s radically different from what many people think to be the construction of an entrepreneurial enterprise.”  pg 58
  • Individuals and institutions are beginning to think of entrepreneurship as a vital life skill that extends far beyond the ability to launch a venture, a life skill that prepares individuals to deal with an ambiguous and uncertain future. Entrepreneurship embodies methods for thinking, acting, identifying opportunities, and approaching problems that enables people to manage change, adjust to new conditions, and to take control of actualizing personal goals and aspirations.  ..Taken together, these are skills that, yes, enable one to start a venture, but they’re also skills that enable individuals to distinguish themselves in a variety of traditional and nontraditional life paths. To be entrepreneurial is to be empowered to create opportunities for oneself.  pg 78

I didn’t get far on my transition definition – so by Len Schlesinger’s thinking it will be tough to win this one.   Here goes.  I think transition is a process that challenges one to rethink the reference points in your life; those points that allow you to know yourself.   It is a period between two conditions where one needs to suspend judgement of oneself.  It is a time when iteration and testing become the norm while still paying the rent and making sure the kids have lunches packed for the next day — or whatever your world requires of you.

This blog post was written before the news of an extraordinary entrepreneur’s death, Steve Jobs.    One of the many articles that I read featured an excerpt of a commencement address he gave at Stanford University in 2005.   “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered ….Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important….There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

So whether you buy into the Dead Poet’s Society’s Professor Keating’s approach or Steve Jobs’ incredible words…transition needs to leave space for the heart.  What else would you add to my fledgling definition?

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7 responses to “Must we all be entrepreneurs?

  1. Thanks for this thought provoking post. I’m enjoying thinking about the similiarities between ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘transition’. Both seem to need space for the heart, a great deal of self knowledge and faith that you can create the future that is calling you.

  2. I liked the part of the definition that requires the suspension of judgement. This is really necessary to allow the transition to happen. However, I know I haven’t been that good at this during my transitions, often second guessing myself. But I thought it was a really good inclusion; one that is not seen in many standard defintions. My question is how do you know when the transition is “done”? Perhaps it is in hindsight, when you recognize you are now in a new, less tumultuous norm. In my experience, this happens more often than the proactive happening of “ok, I’m making this my new norm” and it sticks. Thanks

  3. Pingback: Risk & Transition | NovoFemina

  4. Pingback: Does Action Trump Everything? | NovoFemina

  5. Pingback: Those elusive 21st century female role models | NovoFemina

  6. Everyone loves to read other peoples success stories. It provides us with evidence that amazing things do happen to normal people. By learning what they did to succeed we come one step closer to success ourselves. Such is the case with the ten stories told in Net Entrepreneurs Only – 10 Entrepreneurs Tell the Stories of their Success by Gregory K. Ericksen and Ernst & Young.”

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