One of my favorite aspects of attending industry events is getting to speak with entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs about their creations. Not only do I love helping people, but I love seeing and hearing the artistry behind new and reimagined ideas. I see the world as creating and consuming, and I have always viewed the act of creating is much more interesting and valuable.
I recently spoke at an event for Women in Toys and one particular discussion stood out for me. A woman had created a character to teach her daughter key values and life lessons. She had taken the character’s creation further by producing a beautiful full-color children’s picture book, which shared the lessons through a vibrantly illustrated story.
The woman was at a crossroads. She had written and published the book under her own imprint and had mostly just given them away as gifts. She wanted to know how to take the characters and book to the next level, but -- and this was a big but -- she had a lucrative job that she enjoyed working for at a Chicago-based hedge fund.
In asking her some probing questions, a couple of things became clear:
- She understood that making her character-driven business successful was highly risky and would require a lot of work.
- She also understood that the risk/reward tradeoff from staying with her hedge fund job versus trading that in to pursue this entrepreneurial endeavor was a very lopsided one.
Then, I asked her why she needed to pursue it any further at all? She felt that if she left her project where it was, she would be a failure.
I then told her something which, in my opinion, does not get said nearly as often as it should: “Creation is enough.”
I reminded her of her recent accomplishments. She wrote a fantastic story. She found an illustrator and became a published children’s author. She shared her values with her daughter (achieving her original goal), as well as with many of her friends’ children.
That act of creation is a substantial accomplishment and makes her a more interesting and well-rounded person. That accomplishment can never be taken away.
Furthermore, what more does she gain even if she sells a few thousand books? A small amount of money? Some additional status? Perhaps, but those incremental gains didn’t justify her walking away from her career and don’t make what she has created less important.
Not every creation or passion project needs to be turned into a business. People mistakenly believe that money is the only driver of value. The act of creating is valuable enough to pursue on its own -- beyond any sort of monetary gains.
Taking on a business, full- or part-time, can kill the passion of a hobby, artistic expression or other creation.
Entrepreneurship -- in the form of starting up a new business -- is a risky endeavor that is suited for those who have found a problem that needs to be addressed in the market, where they are the best person to do so, and where the opportunity leads to a big enough reward to justify the risk being taken on.
We shouldn’t, however, discourage creation or feel like a failure if what we create doesn’t get taken to the step of being the foundation for a business. We need to appreciate creation on its own merits.
The woman at the event told me that my words lifted a big weight off of her and she walked away, instead of dejected, feeling good about what she had accomplished.
I hope that if or when you are struggling with a similar contemplation, this reminder will do the same for you.