Pixar Big Chair

Sitting Alone in the Big Boy Chair

I love Entrepreneurs.  They are some of the most interesting, exciting folks around.  They often have a great idea, and they are actively involved every day with trying to make sure that dream or vision comes true.  Like the picture on the right, enterpreneurs get to sit in the “big boy chair” and make all the decisions, but it might take some time to grow into the role.

The problem entrepreneurs face is that often, you need outside help to make your vision come true.  You find out that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything it takes to run a business and make a profit.  So that means you have to learn how to scale and how to trust others to make your dream come true.  That means sharing your dream, and sometimes it may mean making compromises as well.

Compromise can be pretty tough when your mission from the start was to see your vision come to life.

SlashDot, the great tech news blog, featured a great interview with Jonathan Coulton this morning.  The part that struck me most was this excerpt:

Jonathan: Up till this new album I’ve recorded everything at my home studio, really just a room in my apartment. …  Like most people, I’d imagine, my ears and skills are a bigger problem than the weaknesses of whatever gear I’m using – if you don’t know how to mix (guilty!) then the fidelity of your monitor speakers is the least of your worries. …

This new album is a completely different experience – there’s a producer (John Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants) and an engineer (Pat Dillett) and I’m paying for studio time and hiring professional players to play on it. I’m doing this because I’m tired of my imagination being beyond what I’m able to make happen, and I’m in the fortunate position of being able to pay for it myself. Obviously it’s going to mean a smaller profit for me at the end of the day, but it feels great to be collaborating, and making things in a way where I don’t have to compromise because I’m not personally good at something. I wanted to see what that was like (it’s great). [emphasis added]

Like many entrepreneurs, JoCo has gotten to the point where his ability to execute his dreams goes beyond his skill set, and he has to rely on the skills and advice of others to make his dreams come true.  This is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.  In order to grow and become more sophisticated as an artist, he has to share his vision with others who can help him make it become a reality, bringing their skills and experience into the mix.  In the end, everyone wins in this equation, even if JoCo has had to bear the expense of adding extra folks into the dream, and had to share his vision with them, making it more public.  The end product will be better for the collaboration, even if it seemed more laborious to deal with others rather than just compose music and record tracks as he has time or interest in his bedroom.

Entrepreneurship is awesome.  It brings new, creative ideas into the world.  But execution is a team sport and requires an additional set of skills all together.  We may all be capable of writing the next great american novel, yet if we never have the guts to let others read it, comment on it, and help us refine it, it will never be more than a pile of pages or word files sittin around in a proverbial drawer somewhere.  This is why phrases like “Good ideas are a dime a dozen” are popular- ideas are cheap- execution and teamwork are where the gold resides.

Why?  Because as much as we want to, we can’t scale as individuals.  There will never be more than 24 hours in a day, and even an hourly employee knows that if you don’t show up to work, you don’t get paid.  Solos and freelancers are at the mercy of their own good health and good fortune.  If they get sick, go on vacation, or simply have a bad day or personal crisis, that effects their ability to pay rent, eat, or do anything else in the future.  That can be fun and exciting for a time, but in the long run, it starts to wear people out.

Businesses form and hire folks so they can scale, but also so there’s backup and everyone can share the burden.  That means they share the benefits as well as the burdens of work.  In the end, it means if you are going to be a really good business person and entrepreneur, you have to go back to those simple “kindergarten rules” written down by Robert Fulghum:

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Source: “ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN” by Robert Fulghum.  See his web site at http://www.robertfulghum.com/

The more we try to make things sophisticated and esoteric, the more it comes right back to the basics.  Even in business and entrepreneurship, we need to be reminded that sharing and playing well with others is as important as anything else we do.  And sometimes, it really is all about watching out for traffic, holding hands and sticking together.  Even if it means we have to share the glory at the end.  And surprisingly, sharing the glory with those closest to us and those that helped in big and small ways to make it possible is what really makes the journey worth making in the first place.