Owning your own business is often the hallmark of a capitalist. Visionary founders of companies created all the great fortunes of the world.
The best companies also solve a problem. That is why we willingly give them our money. They are not inherently evil, and they are not the enemy some make them out to be.
For all the many flaws of capitalism, at their best, companies are suffering-prevention machines. Invent a new blockbuster drug, a productivity app, or a better mattress, and you've found a way to make money and solve a problem for people. That problem could even be where to find a good cup of coffee.
Entrepreneurship is the most powerful money-generating investment in the history of human civilization. But it also carries the highest risk because risk and reward are correlated in economics.
Owning your own business isn't for the faint of heart, but if an entrepreneur is successful, they can create wealth for themselves and often for others too.
It isn't easy to be an entrepreneur. Fifty percent of new businesses fail in the first five years, and only a third make it to ten years or more. That shouldn't discourage you too much. Instead, it should set realistic expectations.
However, here is the hard truth: Most people shouldn't start their own company as a full-time gig. They don't have the time, resources, or talent for it, just like most people don't have the talent to be a professional athlete.
Being an entrepreneur is a calling, like being a monk. If you feel the call, nothing will stop you. If you aren't sure, hold off a while and think about it. Better to do it right, with mindful intention, than jump in too fast and take a beating.
Here is a cheat sheet on how to start a successful business:
1. Find a pain point. Is there a problem that causes suffering that you can help solve?
2. Build or find a solution to the pain point.
3. Make sure it is a profitable solution.
4. Nail your solution and scale it out as much as possible.
For example, many of my friends and colleagues were exploited by financial predators or struggled to find investment advice aligned with their values.
At first, I got angry at the abuse and neglect I witnessed. But then I realized I'd found a pain point and could develop a profitable solution that would help people. That's how I became an entrepreneur, and it's been a great adventure.
However, it wasn't easy. The failures along the way were demoralizing and deeply humbling, so be ready for lots of setbacks. They are always the first steps to success.
The problem with many budding business owners is that they start by looking for what will feed their soul. It's a well-meaning place to begin, but it's often the wrong foundation. Instead, look for the pain around you or the crack in the world that makes you angry.
If there is a problem that upsets you, it's likely a problem that annoys other people too. Find a solution to that problem, and you are on your way to becoming an entrepreneur.
I've always appreciated Joseph Campbell's famous line, "follow your bliss." But what that cliché leaves out is that your bliss as an entrepreneur comes partly from making money. So, your solution must be profitable and scalable.
Your bliss might be in creating art and writing poetry, but most artists starve. However, there is a shocking lack of well-written birthday and sympathy cards. Birthday odes may not be the most glamorous form of art, but I have a friend who makes good money doing it.
The trick is to align your talents with the market's needs, solving a problem in a way that is meaningful to you and helpful to others.
So, what suffering-prevention ideas do you have that could make the world a better place?
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