Entrepreneurs and Adventurers

I am writing this sitting on a hill.

Well, not a hill, a mountain. 8,400 feet above sea level in one of the most serene places in northern Pakistan.
Pakistan Adventure Mountains
The internet here is dodgy but I have managed to upload a few pictures for those interested in seeing pictures of very tall pine trees.

People are scared of Pakistan these days, especially the northern part. But I am here to complete my yearly ritual of seeing the mountains, breath fresh air and get some perspective.

This time, I went for a light run on the extremely mountainous roads. Runners call this hill work, I call it “what the hell is happening to my legs” work. My muscles and lungs are aching from the high-altitude, low-pressure air. Conclusion: I need to do more of this.

I am also getting some serious writing done, for the two small eBooks that I am writing. I plan to release both within this year, God willing. One is a guide on how to decide which business to start, and the other is a manifesto that I’d like to keep under wraps for now. But it has a lot to do with the following dilemma.

The Trailblazer or the Good Son

The word “Entrepreneur” gets thrown around a lot these days. Someone who starts a business, someone who runs a family business or someone who has a string of businesses are all called entrepreneurs.

The word “entrepreneur” now seems diluted and perhaps too generic.

Imagine two people, both are running their own businesses. Both are – of course – called entrepreneurs.

One of them is a photographer who now owns and runs a studio. He once held a job at a bank. His passion for photography saw him saving money to buy the best equipment and then touring the country on weekends to take “that one awesome pic”. Everyone knew he was crazy about photography. His pictures started selling online via Flickr, and he found himself earning enough on the side to seriously consider quitting his job. He quit his job, has already exhibited his photographs in three different countries and is in the process of expanding his studio.

The other runs his father’s shoe store. He sits in the office and looks after the business when his father is out of town. He is good at maintaining records and talking with customers. He is good at selling shoes.

Both of them are called entrepreneurs.

One has:

  • broken through hardened moulds of stereotype,
  • has pursued his interests,
  • poured in countless hours to perfect his craft,
  • has taught himself the art of selling his work,
  • and has built a community around his work.

The other has not. Yet he played a very important part; he carried his father’s legacy. He stood up to the responsibility. He also made hard decisions and a lot of people rely on him.

Both are called entrepreneurs yet both are worlds apart.

Entrepreneur Or Adventurer

Please I do not want to caste the wrong impression here: both are possibly doing great work, both contribute positively to society and both are exploring new ventures.

If you are carrying forward what was given to you (like joining the family business), that too can be a big adventure. It may require you to get your inspiration from somewhere else but you can venture into the unknown and come up with remarkable, world-changing products.

On the other hand, an adventurer starts something (and finishes it too of course). That requires breaking of stereotypes, of doing things that weren’t done before, and more importantly, discovering your own limits. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, “do not go where the path may lead you; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” I think he was talking about the adventurer.

“Who Am I”

I think it was Jason from 37 Signals, writing in their book Rework, who said that entrepreneurs should be called “starters”. I agree that there is a difference between someone treading a path and someone making a new one.

Many of us call ourselves entrepreneurs because we don’t have any other “tag” available to us. That’s OK, tags don’t matter at the end of the day. The whole idea behind wholesome, adventurous living is to not pay too much attention to what others think of you.

But what we think about our own selves does make a difference. It helps you focus and make important decisions down the road.

For me, I now know, doing businesses has always been means to an end. A tool to be used to earn my financial freedom. I am not an entrepreneur, I am an adventurer.

Over to you: Are you an adventurer? Or an entrepreneur? Or somewhere in between? And what do you want to become? Leave a comment on this post or email me to let me know. Your thoughts will help mine.

Thank you so much.

Update from the LifeETC Basecamp:

Thanks to the wonderful community of LifeETC, we have met the fundraising target for our flood relief efforts. On Saturday I will join my friend in Lahore and finalise our purchases and delivery plan, God willing.

Thank you, you know who you are. 🙂

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