“You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
—Morpheus, in The Matrix
As I grow older, I sometimes imagine how my entrepreneurial drive will change when I reach the age of eighty, ninety, or even one hundred. Will I choose to go into retirement, a life full of rest, travel, and quality time with my grandchildren? Or will I continue to work in search of the next great idea that will generate wealth, working long hours and going into the office? While a leisurely life in retirement is appealing and is the lifestyle most people aspire to when they reach their golden years, I doubt that I will select that option. As I become a centenarian in 2079, I am sure that my entrepreneurial spirit will be just as strong and as ambitious as it is now.
I have learned about the natural, riveting quality of entrepreneurship: Once you catch the bug, it never leaves you. The ambition and will to reach entrepreneurship’s highest levels are no match for common obstacles like age or even failure.
Even advanced age doesn’t matter. I am inspired by entrepreneurs like Truett Cathy, the ninety-one-year-old founder of the quick-service restaurant Chick-fil-A. Cathy doesn’t let old age slow him down. He adheres to his daily routine of getting up early and continues to play an important role in the billion-dollar company he founded sixty-six years ago. In fact, Cathy released a book recently titled Wealth: Is It Worth It? in which he discusses the opportunities and responsibility that wealth creates. We can all learn from Cathy’s amazing drive at a time when most people his age slowed down long ago.
Likewise, it doesn’t matter how disastrous an entrepreneur’s last business was. I have yet to meet someone who has totally written off entrepreneurship after failing at it miserably. No matter how terrible their experiences in business, entrepreneurs have the unique ability to separate the results of their endeavors from the sanctity of the concept of entrepreneurship itself. It could also be that the dream of acquiring financial independence and the ability to determine one’s own destiny has a strong human appeal.
Muhammad Yunus, microfinance pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, argues that entrepreneurship is as natural to our humanity as is our need to eat.
All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves, we were all self-employed . . . finding our food, feeding ourselves. That’s where human history began. . . . As civilization came, we suppressed it. We became labor because they stamped us, “You are labor.” We forgot that we are entrepreneurs.
Perhaps Yunus is on to something. He seems to have figured out the most primal reason to explain why once you are an entrepreneur you are always an entrepreneur. Or as Yunus might say, “Once you realize your natural state of being as an entrepreneur, you’ll never return to viewing yourself as labor.”
Regardless of the reason entrepreneurship is so captivating, we can all agree that it is. Even if you return to a 9-to-5 job, you will never view it in the same way. You are just an entrepreneur in hiding or in transition. Those of us who have taken the “red pill” know this already. But if you are considering entrepreneurship for the first time, know that once you are in Wonderland, it is forever. There’s no turning back.