I believe that if you can see it, you can get there. I was reminded of that notion this morning. I was on my porch early this Sunday morning enjoying the crisp silence of this last day of summer. I looked up and saw a beautiful half moon staring down at me against a sharp blue sky. I stared at it for a moment and remembered how close the moon really is to us, no matter how far away it might seem. But it’s all relative isn’t it? I imagine that during the Apollo missions NASA said the same thing to itself – “We see it. It’s right there. We have the ability, we have the technology. We understand the laws of physics. All we have to do is get there.” And sure enough, one step at a time, they not only got to the moon, they not only orbited the moon, they not only landed on it, they walked on it. Then they drove vehicles on it. Not once, but several times! All it took was some technology, some ability, imagination, innovation, teamwork, and belief in success.
(Wow I just made the Apollo missions sound really simple didn’t I?)
I was raised to believe that anything was possible. Both of my parents are good like that. No matter what crazy idea I had, they supported me, as long as it wasn’t harmful, but they didn’t indulge me too much either. When I wanted to be a fighter pilot, they supported me. I’d study the G force and read about Chuck Yeager. When I wanted to be a major league pitcher, my father taught me proper form and challenged me during little league practice. I could go on. The point is, I tried, and I worked at it very hard. No matter how far off the destination seemed, I believed in myself and I had the support of my parents. I may not have been capable of being a fighter pilot, because of my poor eyesight, but that didn’t matter – anything was possible. My fastball was pretty nasty, but that was all I had. Yet I had the potential.
Entrepreneurship is very much the same way. You have to believe in yourself to a point that others may even laugh at you, think you’re ridiculous, out of your mind even. But hopefully, if you’re fortunate enough, you have people around you who also believe in you. I have my wife and my parents.
My sister, Jodi, put herself through school at William and Mary University in the early-mid 90s. She studied psychology at W&M, and studied a bit about entrepreneurial psychology. We got to talking the other night about entrepreneurship, and what drives an entrepreneur. It was a fascinating conversation, one that, once again, I found myself talking about objectivism and existentialism and ‘the bigger picture’. One thing she kept trying to drive home with me was that something else is driving me. My philosophies may be a nice justification or rationalization of my efforts because I happen to be an entrepreneur, but there’s something else driving me. We struggled to figure it out but we were able to arrive at this conclusion, at least temporarily: I believe that anything is possible. Nothing is in my way. I have nothing to risk and everything to gain. One way of explaining this is my perspective on bad luck. When shitty things happen to me, I don’t say “hey, things can only get better from here.” Actually, what I say is “hey, things can get a lot worse from here.” I never really analyzed this until this conversation with Jodi. One attitude indicates a passive attitude, one that says “its OK, things will work out for me and I’ll be happy.” The other attitude indicates an active attitude that says “shit, this isn’t good, and it could get worse, let’s get going!” There’s a huge difference in attitude. And I don’t think that’s an attitude that can be learned. That is, perhaps, my best definition of an entrepreneur.
I meet other entrepreneurs all the time, naturally, but I find myself associating best with entrepreneurs who have that same energy. There’s a sort of pie-eyed optimism that we share, an almost ignorance that we carry around with us that masks our refusal to quit, our denial of failure. I could name a few of these entrepreneurs, and perhaps I will another time. I could also name other entrepreneurs who seem to have what it takes, but behind the skill, the technical know-how, there’s something lacking – that spirit, that pie-eyed optimism, that ignorance.
Another thing that I was taught as a kid, by both of my parents, was that all you have to do is envision the goal, see it happening, and you can get there. I can hear my father now, “See the ball go into the catcher’s mitt” and “see the ball go in the basket” and “see yourself getting into the Air Force Academy.” I still use that visualization technique today. I might be golfing, and I’ll see the ball soar through the air and land, well, not in a bush! I’ll see CitySquares getting to the next milestone, a milestone towards the ultimate goal, which I also can see. I can still see the moon too, from my window next to this table. I believe I can get there, because I can see myself there.