We are a strange breed, humankind.
A breed full of paradoxes. We yearn for stability but as a species, it is our collective and individual restlessness and desire to do more, to be more and to have more that means we have evolved from the swamps to the caves to the urban and technological splendour that is the twenty-first century.
Business people and entrepreneurs probably embody that particular paradox more than most for they are the engine room of change.
They love it and they thrive on it.
It was Peter Drucker, business educator and author, who defined the entrepreneur as someone who “always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” Which is not to say that entrepreneurs, like the rest of us, don’t yearn for things to stay the same every once in a while.
Someone pointed out to me that other mammals don’t have the same desires. We don’t witness a pack of lions trying to take out the fastest gazelle because it is more of a challenge, or foxes trying to nab the most elusive chicken just to prove their worth and yet as humans if there isn’t a big enough challenge we will go out and create one.
It is the way we are wired and the entrepreneurial business person is an extreme example. Why else would they shun a steady, well paid and safe job to occupy a precarious position on the edge?
It doesn’t make sense and yet at the same time, it makes perfect sense.
We, humans, are challenge seeking entities. We rise to a challenge. We are at our brilliant best when confronted with a challenge. That is when humanity really sparkles and shines.
But anyone living on the edge would be foolish to not recognise the dangers. To take a risk is often admirable, but to deliberately put yourself in danger of lasting harm is daft. When running a business, we must become friends with failure. If we are not failing we probably aren’t trying hard enough, but that doesn’t mean that we should court failure, that we should deliberately skate on thin ice. Failure often occurs because our understanding of how business works, relationships work or life in general works is incomplete.
Your understanding will get you so far, but at a certain point, you will reach the limit of that understanding.
Help and support is out there
The good news is that we don’t have to rely on our understanding alone.
There are friends, mentors and coaches to help us on our way. Someone who can hold a mirror up to our thinking. Someone who can provide a secure base so that we can stretch further. Someone who can be a compassionate and yet unreasonable friend who will support and challenge us in appropriate measure. Someone who can help us maintain perspective and equilibrium.
The challenges of driving on the edge are many. Seek as much professional help as you can. There will be plenty of well-meaning people prepared to give you their opinion, which may not be worth much. I think it was George Burns, comedian, who cynically asked: “How come all the people who know how to run the country are cutting hair or driving a cab?”
You can learn from others
You don’t have to learn everything from scratch. The ancient people of the Arctic created stone figures called inukshuks which were intended to help guide others to find their way. They might sign safe passage or a store of food. They said, ‘pass this way. It is safe. Others have been this way before.’
In the world of business, inukshuks are badly needed. They are not common but they can be found. What makes successful people is often that they have found their inukshuks.
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