This Being an Entrepreneur

Treat every moment
as if it is not
preparation for something else.

— Shunryu Suzuki

Contrary to the popular startup mythos, entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes (and we’re seeing a wide range of them hit especially hard this year). Bands, artists, authors, stylists, the local garage door repair company, gift shop owners, and the doctor who just bought a telemedicine practice. The thing that drove these folks to venture out on their own, to start their own business, is part and parcel of the same fire that drives them through it all. 

This being an entrepreneur is a guest house; every morning a new arrival. Even when you do it all right, the less desirable things can happen. 

As author David Sax notes, the subtitle of his new book The Soul of the Entrepreneur could have been “The Shit and the Gravy.” “As an entrepreneur,” he notes in this conversation with Jerry, “You own the shit and the gravy.”

Withstanding this rollercoaster of an experience is what good entrepreneurs do. It’s what they sign up for. They have taken the risk and the freedom of doing their own thing their way. At the intersection of freedom and risk is their lived experience–sometimes turbulent, sometimes terrifying, sometimes lit up (in a good way). The range of emotions for the varied experiences that show up on any given day can be a wild ride, but it’s what the soulful entrepreneur shows up for.

See, the soulful entrepreneur doesn’t leave their experience: they are in it. They’ve traded the risks of full catastrophe living and working for their freedom and autonomy. They face things head-on and get on by going through whatever it is that’s coming their way — be it cash flow, communication issues, press coverage, or COVID. There’s no transcending here. 

Back in the day, I learned that the soul is not something outside of us, nor is it something we leave our experience for. Soul is what flows through us and in our experience of the world. The soul is diving in, going in deeper, not rising out and above your experience, by bypassing it. Soul is right here with you, in you, and right in front of your nose. It is your complete lived experience. 

A spoonful of chicken soup for the entrepreneur’s soul might be this: This is hard. You are alive doing this thing that calls for living intensely: The burn of embarrassment, the anxiety of losing control as the company grows, the dread of looking at the PnL of the down months, the pit in your belly, the racing heart from that email bomb, the thrill of the sale, and the places in our body that carry our tension, worry, fears, excitement, and elations. Soul includes the whole of your life – the messy along with the tidy. Living these moments is embodying the soul of the entrepreneur.