Summary of Week 5

The readings and videos this week had a lot of practical advice. An article from the Harvard Business Review, How Entrepreneurs Craft Strategies That Work, in particular provided direct advice and encouragement also; I’ve feared that entrepreneurs are all of a certain breed, possessing certain attributes in common, and if I don’t have those attributes then I’ll never succeed, but the article notes:

Our evidence suggests that there is no ideal entrepreneurial profile either: successful founders can be gregarious or taciturn, analytical or intuitive, good or terrible with details, risk averse or thrill seeking. They can be delegators or control freaks, pillars of the community or outsiders.

The article points out that it doesn’t so matter what the entrepreneur’s attributes are; what matters is what the entrepreneur does with those attributes. If I can be honest with myself about my strengths and weaknesses, I will be more successful at finding and acting on the right opportunities for me.

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Summary of Week 5

Summary for Week Four

This week the lesson is perseverance. It was a thread that stretched through much of the reading and videos. The road to entrepreneurship can be long and challenging. We have stars in our eyes and imagine we’ll start a company that will be wildly successful, and then we’ll sell it for millions of dollars and retire. This happens very rarely, but it’s the story we’re told, so we believe it’s common.

The reality is that many businesses fail, and those that succeed often have only modest success. One lesson that rang out to me this week was the idea that successful entrepreneurs aren’t successful because they’re wealthy, they’re successful because they’ve learned to live within their means so that they have the time to do what matters to them. This is the essential idea that drove me towards the path of entrepreneurship, but it can be easy to forget if I am not careful.

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Summary for Week Four

Summary for Week Three

The material this week was more diverse but the focus was on a life well lived. I mentioned my thoughts on one article, Clayton Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life?, in a separate post. As I said there, I read Christensen’s book of the same title awhile back and it had a profound impact on my impression of business; it’s part of why I’m pursuing a degree in business management. My key takeaway from that article was one of Christensen’s final comments: Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. That comment nicely sums up what I’ve learned so far in this course.

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Summary for Week Three

Measuring My Life

A year or two ago, I read Clayton Christensen’s book How Will You Measure Your Life? It was a transformative book for me not only because of its good advice but because it helped me see that business can have a moral impact. Until that point, I had eschewed ideas of a business degree and viewed business’s focus solely as money-making, but after reading it, I saw that I could apply theories and models from business to help me make decisions in my life that have nothing to do with money and everything to do with living a meaningful, impactful life.

This week, I read Christensen’s article of the same title in the Harvard Business Review. I assume the article predates the book and is likely the basis of the book. Regardless, the article was a good refresher on the content of the book and a reminder of the importance of people in all that I do. In particular, he concludes his comments with this note:

Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.

— Clayton M. Christensen

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Measuring My Life

Summary for Week 2

As I go through my entrepreneurship class, I’ll need to post these weekly summaries of what I’ve learned over the course of the week. Occasionally, there will also be specific topics or questions I need to address in the post.

In this second week, we’ve looked more closely at the question of business ethics. If I could summarize the message in two words they would be people and integrity. What has become clear to me throughout my reading related to this class and what was reiterated this week is that business and entrepreneurship center around people. As an entrepreneur, I strive to help people; and to succeed, I rely upon the relationships that I build with others. An ethical business places people before profit.

The strong relationships required for a business to succeed are built upon a foundation of integrity. As an entrepreneur, my actions are consistent with my values, and my values derive from a strong moral compass. My moral compass is based upon my Christian discipleship. My compass sets me on a course defined by traditional values of respect, honesty, service, fellowship, work, and charity. As I remain true to these values, as I have integrity, the people I work with grow to trust me.

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Summary for Week 2

Summary Post for Week 1 of Class

As I go through my entrepreneurship class, I’ll need to post these weekly summaries of what I’ve learned over the course of the week. Occasionally, there will also be specific topics or questions I need to address in the post, as in this case.

As the class really got off the ground this week, I learned the most from the lecture by Jeffrey A. Thompson, What is Your Calling in Life? One of the things I struggle with as I consider the idea of entrepreneurship is seeing how it might apply in an employment setting such as I’m in right now. What Thompson’s lecture taught me is that my calling in life derives from the spiritual gifts and talents I possess, and those can be exercised in any setting. As I use those gifts to bless the lives of those around me, whether as an employee or even outside of work, I am living my calling in life. Over time, too, as people grow to understand and appreciate my talents, they may open up new professional opportunities for me. Going forward, I hope to gain greater insight into my particular gifts and how I can apply them in everyday settings.

There are three questions I’m asked to answer about Randy Pausch’s lecture, but before doing so, I’ll point out that Pausch is a great example of what Thompson taught. Pausch had gifts and talents that he used in every setting, even settings that weren’t necessarily what he dreamed of as a child, and by using those talents, doors opened for him that allowed him to realize his childhood dreams and that created professional opportunities for him based on his talents.

Now onto the questions…

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Summary Post for Week 1 of Class

Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture

I recall watching this lecture a few years ago and being deeply moved. It struck a chord with me because I too had wanted to be an Imagineer. For me, the message that resonated the most at the time was the idea of a brick wall being an opportunity for us to show how badly we want something. The idea has come back to me occasionally in the intervening years.

In watching this summary video and in skimming the speech’s transcript, a second message came through to me, and it is one I feel touches me more at this point in life: if we wait long enough, people will surprise and impress us.

I do not know how often I’ve become frustrated or upset with somebody at work. What a failure it is on my part to paint them with the color of that frustration. To take a person, a complex creature with a history, dreams, problems, emotions, desires, stress, and all the spectrum of life inside them, and paint them the color of the upset I feel at a single act on their part is a failure on my part. People are good, and if I am patient and give them the chance, they will show it.

Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture

What is My Calling in Life?

This is the fundamental question, and my effort in this entrepreneurial course is to find the answer to this question. There are many different ways to go about it, but a key seems to be understanding myself, my values, and my talents.

There is a second aspect to answering the question, though. Once I’ve discovered my talents, what do I do with them? How do I find a job or an opportunity where I can use them? The talk, What is Your Calling in Life, by Jeffrey A. Thompson addresses this aspect of the question.

In the talk, Professor Thompson speaks of the religious basis for the notion that work is a noble and good thing. He notes that prior to Martin Luther, work was seen as – at best – a distraction from more noble efforts such as philosophizing or studying religious texts. It was Martin Luther who recognized that work was a righteous pursuit, and later, it was John Calvin who saw that it is in exercising our God-given talents in our work that we will bless the lives of others.

But the religious roots of work have been stripped away by the world. Without those roots, the effort to find one’s calling in life and at work has become daunting and confusing. It’s when we dispel the “heresies” (his words) of the worldly view of work and go back to the spiritual roots that we will find our calling. Thompson enumerates five heresies, and he reintroduces the spiritual element to each to rediscover the truth. I’ll not reiterate them here, but summarize the core of what I learned from this article.

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What is My Calling in Life?

Stars & Steppingstones

What is my aim in life? What do I want to have done by the time I’m 70? And what are the checkpoints along the way that will tell me I’m on track? Stars & Steppingstones is the title of an article written by Jeff Sandefer, and it speaks to this idea of looking ahead to the future and plotting a course to where you want to be.

The idea isn’t new to me. Stephen R. Covey teaches a similar principle in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea is to begin with the end in mind and have a vision of where I want to be. Once I have a vision, I can derive the values and goals that will guide me in my day-to-day decision making.

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Stars & Steppingstones

Introduction

Me

That’s me. Matt Burr. I was born and raised in Southern California and now I live in Texas. I’ve been working with databases and business intelligence for the last 18 years, and I’ve been pretty successful at it.

But somehow, I don’t think I was meant to do just this. I’m after something better, something greater; I’m after a life of purpose and meaning. I believe that to accomplish this objective, I need a greater degree of freedom than I can attain as a “captive employee”.

Don’t get me wrong! I’ve had a great adventure and been tremendously blessed over the years. I’ve worked at corporations large and small, in start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. I’ve enjoyed the blessings of a steady salary and great benefits. I’m grateful for all I’ve experienced and learned.

But to accomplish what I’m really here to do in this life, I need to be the master of my fate. I believe the best path to do that in business is the path of the entrepreneur. On this path, I will strive to discover my purpose, what I was uniquely sent here to do in this life, and then use the talents and gifts I possess to serve others. I want to look back at the end of my life and know that I’ve changed the world for the better.

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Introduction