Last Lecture

I have a lot of life left ahead of me still, so this last lecture lacks the morbid overtones of some. This last lecture looks back at the lessons I’ve learned this semester and summarizes those lessons into some key ideas that I want to share and remember.

I came into this class not knowing what to expect. For years, I believed that I didn’t have what it would take to be an entrepreneur. Like many, my mental image of an entrepreneur includes people like Rockefeller, Ford, Gates, and Zuckerberg. These are people who took a small idea and spun it into a billion-dollar industry, and whose names are synonymous with success. Entrepreneurship, to me, was this idea of finding some gem of a novel idea that the world has never seen, shining it up, and building a fortune from it.

But what I’ve learned is that this isn’t the case. Most entrepreneurs will never be known. They’re the guys who run a lawn business, or a store in a strip mall, or a charity that changes lives. Entrepreneurship doesn’t require a brilliant new idea. It requires, instead, a person with a skill who wants to make the world better and works to make that happen. And that’s something that anyone can do.

Why aren’t we all entrepreneurs then? Because the road to successful entrepreneurship is long and arduous. The ingredient that makes entrepreneurial success isn’t the idea; it’s the perseverance that turns that idea into a reality. It’s the willingness to see obstacles not as roadblocks, but as opportunities to heroically clear the way for others. It’s the determination to pursue a dream across a plateau when there is little obvious progress until you find the payoff on the other side. It’s the readiness to face your personal dragons and sacrifice something of yourself to win the day.

In short, entrepreneurs recognize that God has given everyone gifts, and we all live in a world filled with danger and adventure and an opportunity to serve, and they take up their swords and run forward into that adventure not just once, but over and over again, day after day until they win. In one word, they persevere.

And what is success? It isn’t wealth – though wealth might come with it. Success is to have made the world a better place for your fellow man. It’s to have used all that talent and perseverance not to glorify yourself, but to have given others a glimpse of the glory of God. It’s to lift up others through service. It’s to have lived an ethical and moral life that sets an example and inspires others.

When I recognized the idea that entrepreneurship is a combination of service and perseverant application of my God-given gifts, I realized that I could be an entrepreneur whatever my circumstances. All around me are opportunities to serve. Even if I’m working for others, I can reach out to others – to coworkers and neighbors and family and friends – and say, “I see you have this problem. I have this skill that could help. Let me lend you a hand.” In time, some of that service might turn out to be a hidden business opportunity that I can turn into something bigger. But whether that happens or not, I will have made a difference if I have helped others.

What is true of me is true of us all. We can all be entrepreneurs in this way. God has given us all gifts and expects us to use them to help others; it only takes a willingness and dogged persistence on our part to do it. That is entrepreneurship, and that is the sum of what I have learned, and that is my last lecture for this course.

Last Lecture

Summary for Week 12

This is the penultimate week for the class, and I can feel it winding down. This week, there were two articles we read that really intrigued me. They both dealt with some of the practical matters of embarking on an entrepreneurial career, whereas most of the class to date has reflected on the spiritual and emotional aspects of entrepreneurship.

The first article, Identifying and Exploiting the Right Entrepreneurial Opportunity…for You, dealt with the practical matter of finding an entrepreneurial opportunity. As with other readings and videos this semester, it identified that opportunity as the intersection of three circles; in this case: Personal Satisfaction, Economic Feasibilities, and Societal Needs. In other contexts, opportunities have been shown to exist at the intersection of Skills, Aspirations, and Market Realities/Needs. I think that these two views align nicely: Personal Satisfaction = Aspirations, Societal Needs = Market Realities, and Economic Feasibilities = Skills. Basically, an entrepreneurial opportunity exists where what you can do overlaps with what you want to do and what the market needs.

What was more useful to me, though, was the article’s definition of and approach toward ideas, possibilities, and opportunities. I’ve struggled until now feeling like I couldn’t come up with good ideas. Really, though, coming up with ideas is the easy part; we do it all the time. Any time we run into a problem and say, “Wouldn’t it be great if…” or “I sure wish that…,” we’ve come up with an idea. The challenge is filtering those ideas to see if there really is an entrepreneurial possibility there, and then filtering those possibilities further to see if they are really opportunities. Ideas become possibilities when there is a Societal Need for an idea/solution and it is Economically Feasible. Possibilities become opportunities when they give us Personal Satisfaction. The article gives advice on business questions to ask about your ideas, and personal questions to ask about your possibilities. This approach is something I can apply not just to entrepreneurship, but to my traditional career as well.

The second article, Recognizing and Shaping Opportunities, continues the theme of finding entrepreneurial opportunities. It provided concrete examples of the approaches a few entrepreneurs used to turn ideas into real opportunities. It showed that ideas can come from many different places and the process of turning an idea into an opportunity can differ from one idea to the next. In some cases, ideas come from adapting an existing business; in others, they come from transplanting a business from one market to another; in yet others, they come from transforming an existing or failed idea into something better. The process of turning an idea into a business might be deliberate, but it can also be organic. In any case, it is not common for an opportunity to come into being; there is a transformative process that must go on.

With this in mind, I realize that ideas are not the challenge; they are abundant. The challenge is working with them and shaping them into something that can work, and then having the guts to give it a shot.


Summary for Week 12