I should be writing the articles I haven’t finished. (My editor is actually sending me direct messages on Twitter, and I am guiltily responding to each one with smiley faces.)
I should be editing the articles that were sent in for the magazine.
Instead, I find myself spending my break scribbling this down on some paper, my half-eaten lunch next to me. I already know it will be an odd fit on both blogs, but I NEED to write about this.
Last night I found myself at an event; a talk about startups and for startups. I was there for Homegrown. The main speaker, Peter Cauton, is a serial entrepreneur and startup champion. He is also a blogger, and his blog, Juan Great Leap, which started as an attempt to pay things forward has garnered quite a following. He started it hoping that the blog would help people find themselves and help them with their startups.
After introducing myself to Peter, I started looking at people’s name tags. Under each name was an occupation.
“Java Software Engineer.”
Casually, I asked a guy what he was expecting from this talk. “To network,” he said. In that conversation, I learned that the panel speakers all had techie startups. My eyes got big. There is nothing like being in a room full of techies to make someone like me, someone who is techno-bobo, feel really out of place.
So I sat in the back.
While I was fully prepared not to understand bits of the talk—and there were some parts that confused me—for the most part, paying attention was not a problem. Peter is an engaging speaker and the panel was a trio of funny guys. All their stories are worth telling.
As someone who owns a startup, hearing someone else talk about their story, being able to relate to that story, and listening to them talk about their success is inspiring. Like all good speakers, Peter sold me an idea. He sold me something to believe in. He made me believe that I too can get there one day.
There were several points that really stuck and that I continued to think of on the way home, while having my nighttime tea, and as I put my head on my pillow.
1) I WANT TO BE A SAMURAI
Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind.
Peter talked about feudal Japan, and how there were rice pickers and samurai. Now the rice pickers had an important job. After all, they grew rice! They provided food, which is important in any society. But not everyone could carry out the methodical, diligent—and in its own way heroic—task of rice picker. Some had a different calling. Some wanted to defend, to save, to make a difference, and to champion their society. These were the samurai. Brave men who had courage and passion, two of the things you need to be an entrepreneur with a startup.
Between the two, I want to be a samurai because as Peter said: “If you aren’t a samurai, you are a rice picker.”
2) I NEED TO BE A PHILOSOPHER
To be an entrepreneur is to be a philosopher. Before you make that leap, before you decide to leave that brainless job that is sucking the life out of your soul, you have to ask yourself that ever-famous existentialist question: Who am I?
The answer to this question will help you discover what it is you want to pursue. If you don’t know yourself and what you want to do, then any business you start will just be like “buying yourself a job.”
Like all things people are passionate about, it has to start within, and starting within means philosophising. Answer the question. Find what you’re passionate about.
3) PEOPLE FOLLOW PASSION
It’s cliche to tell people to follow your heart and pursue your passion, but when it is really meant, it never gets old. Because when you are passionate about what you do, it will show. People can tell. When you can work tirelessly for what you love until you get it right; when you can “back it up by bleeding for it,” when you are willing to “keep improving a good idea until it becomes a great one,” then you have found your passion, and that is something people respond to.
“It doesn’t guarantee success, but it does give you a chance.” – Peter Cauton
4) I NEED A SOUL-DENTIST
Taking that courageous great leap to follow your passion is only the beginning of your battle. As the panelists colourfully put it: “At some point, you get punched in the mouth.”
Startups are not just about business. They’re about your blood, sweat and tears. You have to be ready to fail and fail and fail and fail, and just when you think you’ve made it, you’ll fail again. In fact, the failures may never stop. The punches will keep coming, and you’ll have a lot of broken teeth. Even when your business is already up and running and making money, you will still encounter failure every now and again. That is something you have to try to be prepared to face.
On September 3rd, my startup, Empresario Manila, will be exactly one year and six months old. My partner and I are babies in the startup world. Attending Peter’s talk put a lot of things into perspective. He reminded me of things I’d forgotten. He said things all young startups need to hear. I wish everyone entering the startup world could’ve heard him speak. I know I’d love to hear more. So until his next talk, I’ll be reading his blog.