I literally got to give my "Last Lecture," on Wednesday at the Convocation for my college. Here are the thoughts that I would share with my fellow classmates. Many themes relate directly to what we learned in Intro to Entrepreneurship.
I count it an honor and a blessing to be able to speak on such a night of celebration. Tonight, we are celebrating 2 graduations of sorts. The first of which is the graduation of our dear friend, teacher, and mentor, Brother Stephen Stokes who graduated to begin his post moral work, and who better qualified to help those in spirit prison. Though there are undoubtedly many who knew him better, I have a great admiration for the life he lived. His kindness was unmatched, and the stories I’ve heard of him since have given even more prestige as to just how much of a disciple of Jesus Christ he was. Brother Stokes contributed greatly to the influence of the Spirit that can be felt here, and will be sorely missed. For those who don’t know, Brother Stokes taught classes that dealt with many dark, unsavory topics. The way I was able to feel the Spirit through him even when discussing such heavy topics filled me with hope, that even though evil is all around us, we can find peace and comfort, and our works can contribute to the light that is in this world.
The second graduation, the progress from our time here at Brigham Young University - Idaho on to any number of new ventures. As I reflect on my time here at BYU-I there is one theme that threads them all together - and that is sweat.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. I will only say that it’s only appropriate that the end of my career here ends with sweat once again.
In the scriptures, there are two references found in the topical guide in association with sweat. The first is when Adam, after being removed from the Garden of Eden is told, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” This application can easily be applied to what we’ve been doing for the last 4 years. As we have gained knowledge and experience “in the sweat of our face,” we have been given the ability to go into the world and “make bread,” though I prefer the analogy to “bring home the bacon.” I had a basketball coach in high school who would regularly get after us when we would try to make fancy passes or an advanced type dribble. He would say things like “Grow here thinks he’s Magic Johnson.” But then he taught a valuable lesson. He taught that the reason Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were able to make such advanced plays is because they worked so hard on the fundamentals. They began just as we did, basic chest passes, bounce passes, layups, dribbling with each hand, until they had perfected them. Here at school, we’ve had the same opportunity to learn and perfect our fundamentals. As you continue to hone your skills that you’ve developed, I challenge you (including myself) to become the Michael Jordan of our field. Begin to challenge just how much you can accomplish.
Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” You’ve done much to gain knowledge, now allow your imagination to take that knowledge that you’ve gained to bring your hopes and dreams to fruition. Challenge norms. Fly past expectations. Give yourself the permission to do things that are uniquely you. The great philosopher, Jim Carrey, in an address similar to this one, addressing graduating students, told of his father who could have been a great comedian, but instead chose to become an accountant, because of the safety and security it would bring. He made a choice out of fear disguised as practicality. After 10 years, he was fired from his job. He failed at something he didn’t even want to do. You might as well take a chance on doing something you love. Try things. Fail. We have so much time left to leave the world with the music we have inside of us.
The second scriptural reference to sweat is that of our Savior, “And he being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” It is interesting to me that no matter how much we will toil and sweat in our lives, that sweat will never amount to anything if we don’t allow the sweat and sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ to enter our lives. While we’ve received a great education at this school, hopefully the most important resolution that we have made is to honor the covenants that we’ve made and to live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. His sweat is the only way that we will be able to partake of the Bread of Life.
I was extremely impressed by the video we watched in our class this week featuring Stan Christensen. Much of my mental energy has been expended on trying to find out what I'm going to do for my career. This proposition is especially daunting with my impending graduation on Wednesday. Stan reassured me, many don't stay with their first job out of school. He also taught that the whole idea of a 30 year career is one that is largely changing. It is becoming more common for people to work for multiple companies or try many ventures through their working life. One of my biggest fears int he working world is getting stuck in a rut, being settled, especially in one where I am unhappy with the career I'm involved in. So, hearing that multiple ventures is a refreshing idea to me.
One of the other most comforting things, preparing me to step into the next chapter of my life is Christensen's counsel to not try and guess what future employers want from you. Find the areas in which you're passionate about and along the way you'll find like minded people and find a place where you fit in. There is so much pressure to find a job where we get paid a nice salary, or ones that our in-laws will be impressed with. I'd much rather be bombarded with comments like, "I can't believe you get paid to do that." or "You're so lucky to be doing something you love." These would mean I'm following a path that will allow me to remain happy in my work life.
One of the greatest lesson I have learned through the readings and videos and experiences of this week is that there is so much more to entrepreneurship than money. When money is your focus, you are likely to get it, but just as likely to lose a part of yourself to it, a part that my or may not come back.
Instead, entrepreneurship is a service. It is a means by which I have personally been able to see people look at the problems that we face as a society or even as the human race, and do their best to improve the lives of as many possible. It is so much more than having a job. It deals in the currency of purpose and passion. It allows those dedicated to its cause to do things that they believed to be outside their capacity.
I wonder what I have to offer up to the world. One of the many things that I've kicked around in my head, something that I'm passionate about, it recreation. Everyone has to work. Its almost a certainty in life. Often the stresses of that work can be attempted to be dulled by things that are detrimental to future success, such as alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuousness, the selfish use of time, unplugging from those around us. My dream it to create a camp for families, where recreation can be a positive, energizing, family building time. If I could dedicate my time, effort, and means to such a cause (while being able to provide for the needs of my family), I would sign up in an instant to dedicate my life. That is more important than all the money in the world. Such an endeavor would pay me handsomely in a purpose and passion, and I intend to be blessed as a set out on such a cause.
This week has provided me with a lot of time to reflect. One of my professors, Dr. Steven Stokes, passed away on Thursday. During each of my classes on Friday, we all had the opportunity to reflect on his life and in turn our own lives. Brother Stokes taught me much about balancing the various aspects of life. He taught classes with many heavy, difficult topics such as Social Problems, Juvenile Delinquency, Race and Ethnic Relations, Law and Society, and Drugs and Society. He seemed from a student perspective, that he was always learning, and by so doing, he was showing an incredible amount of love and compassion for people caught up in unfavorable life situations. From what I've learned, he truly lived a life that was focused on helping others. He adopted children that he knew would be able to have a better life. He truly found balance in his work and family life.
My point in sharing this is that I have reflected on the life of this great man. I look around at how many people's lives I can see that he's touched and can only imagine the unseen number. It has caused me to reflect on how I can live a life that has meaning, that can influence people around me. I realize that there are many important things that are going to compete for our attention. I must strive to make sure that I'm taking care of the most important, like my friend and mentor Brother Stokes.
Now on to answer the questions assigned from the reading "Attitude on Money."
1. My attitude on money isn't really strongly that its good or bad, but much like the article, that money is a reflection of who we have already become and what priorities we've established in our lives. I would like for my money to be able to allow me to provide great experiences for and with my family.
2. The way you view money is everything. If money is at the top of your priority list, you may not give other aspects of your life the attention it deserves. Your family life, your health, your happiness, and spirituality may all suffer if you have an unhealthy expectation on the power of money. While powerful, money still cannot buy everything. Money must be something we do prioritize, just now above some of the essential things mentioned above.
3. The rules for prospering are as follows:
1. Seek the Lord and have hope in him.
2. Keep the commandments, including the temporal ones of paying tithing and fast offering.
3. Think about money and how to become self-reliant.
4. Take advantage for chances of learning so you will not be ignorant.
5. Learn the laws on which the blessings of wealth are predicated.
6. Do not send away the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, or the sick or those who are held captive.
This past week has held a lot for my by way of pondering on the future. I from the time I'm writing this, am 3 weeks away from finishing my college career. While there is plenty of excitement for that day, I also harbor a bit of apprehension and anxiety about what the future holds. One of my biggest fears is getting stuck. Many call it security, being able to work for the same company for 30-40 years, but I don't know if I could accomplish that feat. It sounds suffocating.
This week's videos talked about dreaming big. We learned about Google's understanding of what happens when you provide an environment of trust and imagination to a group of people. If you don't know what I'm talking about, each Google employee has 20% of their work time that they can dedicate to working on any project that they'd like to create. It was later told that of the new product launches, 50% came from that 20% time. That is the kind of stuff that I'm looking for in a future career. I want the ability in my job to dream big, to be able to take limits off what I can accomplish and see what my imagination is able to accomplish. I would much rather fail at dreaming big than succeed dreaming small.
One of the messages from this section of readings that stood out, quite significantly, was the idea of execution. This quote from "A Message to Garcia" gave my mind a lot to ponder. "The ability to execute is more valuable than education or talent, because it is far rarer." The entire idea brought back to my mind a talk that I had heard last year at a TEDx event held here in Rexburg, Idaho. The speaker Bill Crawford spoke of his time as a pilot in the military (a more full report of what I learned from him can be found here). He reminds us that execution is sandwiched between two other very important factors - planning and debriefing.
He spoke of mission he flew for the US military and how the execution of these missions started long before and lasted long after their time in the aircraft. Most people understand planning is an important part of having successful execution. The point that stood out to me and the point Mr. Crawford emphasized was the portion of debrief that often gets overlooked. Often when I set forth to accomplish a goal and am successful, that is often the end of my time with it. It was explained that the real nuggets of learning were found in the time after execution was complete, the debrief, an account and questions that were answered while the events of the execution were fresh in your mind. This is when you can point out what things went well, what went poorly, how to fix things for the next go around, all these things feed directly into the next planning session. So, the principle of planning, execution, debrief is one that anyone who desires to accomplish a goal, whether it's starting a business, flying a mission, or accomplishing any other goal in life. We can become extremely valuable if we strive to label ourselves as an 'executor'.
"If your eyes are always on your shoelaces, if all you can see is this class or that test, this date or that roommate, this disappointment or that dilemma, then it really is quite easy to throw in the towel and stop the fight." -Jeffrey R Holland
These words begin where I left of in last week's journal entry. This week many of our videos and articles focused around the concept of pressing forward, or never giving up. The entrepreneurial journey is one that is lined with blood, sweat, and tears. It doesn't seem like a path for the faint of heart. However, I've heard many stories where through that struggle, entrepreneurs find themselves in that journey, or find a lesson that forever alters their life. They are able to build the life they want, and not be kept under the thumb of others. The costs are great, but the benefits are even greater.
One line that came to mind as I was reading this week comes from Dave Ramsey's book "Total Money Makeover". He repeatedly states, "You have to live like no one else so that someday, you can live like no one else." Right now I feel extremely overwhelmed at the prospect of graduating and having to find a job/career that I can fit into. However, I've learned through these last few semesters that I truly want to "live like no one else." My wife and I have a vision of a perfect life, and one of the principle aspects of that vision is freedom with our time. We want to have the time to be involved with our children's lives, to pursue worthwhile adventures, and to have the resources to accomplish dreams and goals. For me, the first step in that life is to become an entrepreneur. If I am to do that, I must think bigger than the stress or frustration that is sitting right in front of me. Zeroing in on such will make it easier to throw in the towel.
"That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the things has changed but that our power to do has increased." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mastery has been the focus of our studies this week. In our society, if something isn't quick or easily accessible, it is often tossed aside as something we can do without. As I ponder on how I fall into the trap of living a life following the path of least resistance, and how when I'm doing that in my life, I feel less enjoyment and successful. Its because when I'm following the path of least resistance or looking for a quick fix, I'm not challenging myself.
Think of the goals we set for ourselves. I have a goal to become a good father to my children and a good husband to my wife. There is no quick way to become either of those things, but often we think that if we buy a book, or watch a video with the "5 Marks of the Perfect Dad," title, we will somehow be able to handle all the stresses and frustrations that come along with it. It takes study, application, intuition, persistence over a long period of time in order to be able to become a good husband and father. If I am willing to make small, incremental changes and continue to strive to give 100% effort, I will begin to realize the truthfulness of the Emerson quote that I shared at the beginning of this post.
I believe it all starts with a vision. Whatever we want to become, whether it be a perfect father, a successful entrepreneur, or better in a skill or hobby, we have to be able to imagine a world in which we have perfected that skill. We will then, mentally, be able to recognize if the effort to get there is worth it in the first place. If it is, we will have the why behind it all, ready to assist us when we are met with resistance and struggle to move forward. It will allow us to persist for years, because we've seen the end, even if only in our minds.
Plato said: “The first and best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile.”
Self-mastery is one of the most important goals that we can adopt for ourselves. Without it, we won't have the integrity, work ethic, or perseverance to accomplish anything worthwhile in this life. It's a simple concept but it isn't an easy one. It takes a lifetime of dedication and refinement, striving each day to make yourself better. The mastery has so many levels - it can work on a moral level, a knowledge/learning level, but rarely, if ever, comes without a conscious, focus effort in order to become master of something.
One of the goals that I have for myself is to use the free time that I have for more important purposes. I would like to use more of my free time to read books that will 1) fire up my imagination, or 2) help me think in different ways and with various perspectives. This week we learned that time the true currency that we spend. How often do I spend that precious currency on insubstantial, sometimes even worthless, things. I desire also do develop other hobbies in my life that will allow me to grow as a person. Today, on Memorial Day, my wife and I plan to beautify our yard by growing plants and flowers in it. It's our first time really trying to garden. We may fail miserably, but that's part of mastery that I think is essential. We all want to become masters of something, but don't want to pay the price of failure to get there. Failure needs to have the negative connotation removed from it in our minds. Failure is the learning process. Watching my 1 year old daughter, I recognize that. She will try walking, but fall down. She doesn't lay there saying, "Well, I tried that walking thing, didn't work out. Guess I'll just crawl the rest of my life." No matter how many times she stumbles, she just keeps going. We must continue to get up, brush ourselves off, and move forward if we want to become the masters of anything worthwhile.
This week, we examined a case study that gave us a glimpse into the decision on whether to have a business follow a slow growth pattern or move it at a faster pace. Personally, I chose slow growth and the reason comes down to one of the other reading that we had this week.
In an experience given by Jeff Sandefer, he spoke of sitting in front of a group of entrepreneurs to ask them about what contributed to their success. Among the many things that were born out of that conversation, the one the stood out most to me was the reason many begin their entrepreneurial ventures. Here is the excerpt that really had me thinking:
The used car tycoon agreed, “Entrepreneurial success isn’t about money; it’s about freedom. The goal isn’t to make more than you need, it’s to spend less than you make. Because that way your free time belongs to you.”
Whether I knew it or not, this was the reason that becoming an entrepreneur has become so enticing to me. I've been going to school for 4 years now and have worked the entire time, minus one semester. As my wife and I started our family, I felt sad when I would have to leave them for large chunks of the day only to see them for a half hour or so before leaving for work that evening. I imagine a life where I'm working full time for a company and imagine either being so pressed for time, that I can't see my family grow, or being so drained by the soul sucking work that can so often take over lives, that I wouldn't be able to enjoy the time that I do have with them. In contrast to this grim reality that I paint in my head, the freedom of entrepreneurship excites me.
My name is Brian and I have a voice and something valuable to say. I'm on a quest to discover myself and the world around me. Join me and together we can do good in the world.