My dad has a t-shirt that reads, “Entrepreneur Life: I’ve got 99 problems, but a boss ain’t one.” He wears it all the time.
When I was young, my dad launched his own business as a web developer and internet marketing consultant. He’s been self-employed for fifteen years. What I took for granted as a kid was the fact that, unlike other kids’ dads, mine had unlimited vacation time and didn’t work the typical nine-to-five. I now recognize this as the hard-earned fruit of his labor.
The entrepreneur I look up to most instilled in me two principles: knowing how to see and having a willingness to fail.
Sapere vedere is my dad’s life motto. When Leonardo da Vinci was asked the secret to his genius, he answered sapere vedere – knowing how to see. Knowing how to see encompasses faith and wisdom. Faith in God is the evidence of things not seen. What most people call taking a risk my dad calls stepping out in faith. Wisdom is derived from an Old English word meaning “to see.” My father’s pursuit of ideas and enterprise is undergirded by faith and wisdom. Sapere vedere is knowing how to see what others cannot, a trademark of entrepreneurship.
My dad embodied the American adage of “take this job and shove it.” The entrepreneurial success story of my dad involved creativity, risk, and responsibility. His success as an entrepreneur didn’t make him a billionaire or corporate executive. To him, success isn’t just the next big promotion or a 401(k). It is much simpler and far greater than that.
As he pushed himself to do better and be better my father, like every entrepreneur, created his own metric for success. Entrepreneurs are not mere innovators; they sustain innovation. There is no finish line for these men and women.
Entrepreneurs see problems in areas they are most familiar with and come up with solutions to those problems. They are mom-and-pop owners, businessmen, and self-employed contractors. They create opportunities and provide value. Winston Churchill once described private enterprise as “the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.”
Entrepreneurs are a driving force of free markets but rarely start as superheroes in business suits. The fresh-faced entrepreneur may appear foolish. Failure is a prerequisite for success but failed business ventures can mean detriment. This is why every internet definition of an entrepreneur comes with the word “risk.” Many new business ventures come to an end. Many ask themselves “is it worth it?”
The value of entrepreneurship is found in creative destruction. Creative destruction is best explained as “out with the old and in with the new.” New innovators create market churns that are necessary for capital transfer.
Traditionally Americans have been open to creative destruction because we challenge the established order. You can’t explain American exceptionalism without entrepreneurs. For most of history, Americans controlled the means of production, owned the fruits of their labor, and flourished freely without government red tape. America’s first entrepreneurs possessed an enthusiasm for small beginnings. They saw an expansive economic landscape full of possibilities like the western frontier.
There is profound truth in the term “entrepreneurial spirit.” In Capitalism in America, economists Alan Greenspan and Adrian Woodridge write of nineteenth-century Americans, “Entrepreneurs were drawn from every level of society but united by their common assumption that every problem was capable of a solution so long as you thought hard enough.” The unparalleled dynamism of nineteenth-century America is a credit to economic freedom, but also simple optimism. Entrepreneurialism is a mindset.
An entrepreneurial spirit is evidenced most in small business owners whose names may never make the history books. Business giants from John Deere to Jeff Bezos have produced extraordinary prosperity and opportunities for Americans, but it is the millions of microentrepreneurs we depend on for continuity. These individuals are shakers and movers. New entrepreneurs keep our economy alive. Teaching and encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit is essential to economic growth.
Watching my father build a business from the ground up taught me self-ownership. He built something which provides for his family and allows him creativity. I share something with author Malcolm Gladwell when he says, “My earliest memories of my father are of seeing him work at his desk and realizing that he was happy. I did not know it then, but that was one of the most precious gifts a father could give his child.”
The entrepreneurial spirit my dad exemplifies is invaluable. Entrepreneurs are not only the key to American prosperity but have much to teach us about life and daring. The American freedom to be your own boss while providing for your family is a great one indeed.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.