But Everyone Else is Doing It

If everyone else was jumping off the bridge, would you do it, too? 

Somewhere, in some far-off conference or seminar, parents decided that this adage should mean something to us as children. My father used it on me, and I in turn used it on my own children. The odd thing is that where I grew up, there weren’t any bridges, so I could never really figure out what bridge he was talking about.

Most recently, in listening to the news media intently and watching the continual dismal economic news, this much overused phrase has come to mind. Maybe because all I hear is, “everyone else…is losing money, laying off people, looking for government bailouts…” The list of excuses for poor strategic focuses, not looking forward, only backward, and greed continue on, all rolled up into a political economic crisis.

Entrepreneurs however, are survivors. Not just because they are tenacious (some would call stubborn), but because by their nature they are not mindless followers that simply go where others travel. Entrepreneurs look for the opportunity in the vast sea of sameness and doom and gloom. That is why, in the midst of some of the worst (at least as reported by the media) economic times in recent history, I hear of entrepreneurs seeking new avenues to the market. Examples include:

  • I am going to take this time to teach my teams what real customer service means.
  • Now, more than ever, I need strong and capable leaders with skills to adapt to changing times.
  • How can we help our customers through their economic struggles? I will talk to them and find out.

These statements are not the doom and gloom of economic uncertainty that plagues the too-large, entitled workforce we have given way to. Rather, it’s the ingenious capacity of countering the masses: of traveling the path often ignored by followers who do not think twice about jumping off the bridge simply because everyone else is.

So when you hear people with new ideas in these economic times, give notice.  They are the rare few who know better. They are the insightful who know business is the art and science of figuring out what others need and then providing it. And when you do that well enough, the finances take care of themselves. Entrepreneurs are the inspirational who can vision beyond “being told what to think” whether from the media or politicians. They know better. They know that even if everyone else is crying in their beer, they have more important things to do. They have customers to take care of; team members to prepare for change and transition; new investments; a renewed focus on the market. The choice is ours to make.

I am not in denial about the reality of the losses of many of our 401(k)s and other investments that have been recently affected. A glance at my 401k  statements and other financial investments make my heart skip a beat. I am not sure I will live long enough to recover what has been lost, much less build it back up. But I surround myself with innovators and insightful entrepreneurs who I trust will help to recover from the losses of despair and the seduction of handouts. During this time of media and political doom and gloom, the greatest risk of all is the potential loss of innovative initiative… the chance to figure out what works in this new world and build the businesses to make it happen. That is what real entrepreneurs do. Beyond any political icon, I put my trust and faith in those who have always seen us through the ups and downs of social and economic cycles. I also put my trust in this new breed of entrepreneurs. The under-30 group who do not have the need to watch the daily demise of the stock market but rather are trying to figure out how they can use what they know and are willing to learn in order to make a rent payment. I have a daughter who is a recent graduate with two degrees. She has three jobs and runs a small marketing consulting business to pay for her rent and health care. We have an entire generation of workers who we are challenging to “do it their way” because our old way just may not work anymore.

So I put my faith of economic recovery not in Washington, D.C. and the political entitlement and rhetoric but rather in those who still generate a majority of all the new jobs and new wealth in this country every year. Those who we call the entrepreneur – of all generations. They don’t need to be reminded not to jump off a bridge just because everyone else is. They have a greater mission. They have the vision to see past the struggle to a new day. They have much work to do…but that is not new to them either.

Thus the call to all entrepreneurs – of all ages, backgrounds, and educational status – is to step out from the masses. Become aware of the needs of other businesses and consumers around you. Find a way to meet the needs. 

Any finally: stay away from crowded bridges.

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