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.