Somewhere along the way, I made the decision that I would only write about what I had directly experienced, concluding that was the only thing at the end of the day I felt I really understood. In other words, “I know only what I experience.”
That doesn’t mean I no longer read. I do; in fact, I’ve made a profession out of reading and digesting facts. But, I do realize there is a material difference between reading about something and experiencing it directly. There is no substitute for experiencing events firsthand.
With that, here are three lessons I’ve learned from the firsthand experiences I’ve had from creating and owning businesses.
Creating something that has economic value is the closest thing anyone can participate in which results in better understanding how the everyday world works.
In my mind everything in this life has an economic value attached to it, whether that be something tangible like a car or abstract like religion. I did not fully understand this, until I was forced to be involved in each and every step of creating a new business. I realized that if the venture was to survive I had to become aware of the value of every component by understanding its cost and eventual return. As a result, two things happened to me. One, I became much more tuned into measuring and calculating the value of most things I was coming in contact with, personal as well as professional. As this occurred I sensed myself becoming more pragmatic. For me this was good news.
Indeed I have gone through a whole range of phases in my life: idealist, liberal, conservative, zealot, but never would I say pragmatist. But with the step by step creation and overseeing of my own business, a kind of no non-sense quality emerged in me. I more quickly narrowed in on key issues, I used fewer words to get to my point, and I became much more action oriented. I wasted less time on the trivial, and was much less inclined to judge people and events from an ideological point of view. As this has occurred, the relative value of most things, tangible or abstract, began to clarify in my mind.
And two, an unintended consequence of this newly developed pragmatism emerged. The whole process resulted in me becoming far more aware of what the needs of others were, especially their consumer and professional needs. By working to understand the cost and economic return of every component of a business, I was forced to ask a profound question. “Is all this work going to meet a need someone has?” I had never quite thought in those terms before. I was more aware of meeting my own needs than working at understanding and meeting someone else’s. (And, even more sinister, I had spent much of life telling people what their needs should be.) Turning outward and asking people what they needed and wanted was not something I was used to doing. But as I did a remarkable thing happened: my business grew. Experiencing this was like finding the hidden Ark of the Covenant. “So, this is what it’s all about”, I would say to myself. Soon enough my motto became, “find a need, meet it, and don’t go broke doing it.”
From my view this is all good. A mixture of pragmatism and learning how to meet a need has resulted in better understanding how the everyday world works and how I best fit into it.