Getting the entrepreneurial fire back

When pessimism about entrepreneurship starts to sink in, look to young people for unbridled optimism

Eric Albrecht / The Columbus Dispatch / AP / File
Sinead Fyda poses with purses created by Tanzanian women in Hilliard, Ohio, on June 16, 2011. Fyda started a business in Tanzania, Jishike Social Couture, where 21 women create handmade purses and bags. Even though times are tough for entrepreneurs, it's still possible to see the glass as half full, writes guest blogger Jeff Cornwall.

I made a commitment a while back that I have slacked off on of late. I promised that no matter how rough things got, I would always try to come back to the entrepreneurial mindset in this blog...that the glass is always half full.

I realized recently that I have been a bit more, well, a bit more of a half empty guy of late. In retrospect, that may be why my blogging has been less consistent. It takes more energy to write about the top half of that glass. How many different ways can a scream from the mountain top, "High taxes, complex regulation and reduced property rights are killing the entrepreneurial class in the economy!!!!!"

The good thing about my job is that anytime I get into a half empty funk, I have my students to pull me into the refreshing half that is full. Full of ideas. Full of unbounded optimism. Full of creative energy. Full of hope for the future

The really cool thing is that there is not just one of them. We have dozens and dozens of them in our program.

Our students tend to fall in two basic categories. The first are aspiring entrepreneurs who are full of energy, but have no specific clue where they can or should focus there entrepreneurial energy. What makes them fun is that by helping them discover where opportunity comes from -- mainly change, that creates pain and chaos -- you can see them transform. That potential entrepreneurial energy explodes as their eyes open to all the opportunity that has been right there in front of them all along.

The second type of students are the ones with entrepreneurial A.D.D. There problem is not finding opportunity -- it is focusing long enough on just one of the myriad of ideas swimming in that half full glass long enough to get traction. What makes them fun is that they are like a wild horse. Once you finally break them, you can saddle them up and watch them run with a purpose.

Case in point is Ross Hill, who transferred to Belmont from the University of Kentucky. Every time we meet, I walk away exhausted! He never has one idea or new business to talk about. He has three or four or ten!

In addition to being involved in more start-ups and student activities than I can possible keep track of, he has also begun to blog about it all. He made a post yesterday that made my day. Here is part of it:

I remember when I got my first Swiss Army Knife, it amazed me how it could solve any problem you came across. I was about four year old when I received my first one, so if I had a bottle of wine, I could open it with the cork screw (Mother, THAT WAS A JOKE), I could chop up some onions, the possibilities were endless... Like the swiss army knife, many start-ups are bogged down by over-complication. These start-ups focus their attention on having the most features, or solving the most problems. I am always fighting the urge to do this, like many entrepreneurs; but I believe that by practicing a few simple exercises, I can help myself stay focused on one idea and sharpen my blade, rather than dull it.

He goes on to offer some really good practical advice for any entrepreneur who has the tendency to chase any shiny object that comes along. It is well worth a read.

Some professors dread the coming of the fall. The impending arrival of yet another round of lectures and grading seems to weigh heavily on them.
Me? I can't wait for the fall semester to come around again.

Even though the glass is not overflowing with opportunity at the present time, I am counting down the days until I can dive with our students into the half of the glass that is full.

So thanks to all of my students past, present and future. You help me focus on all of the opportunity that is out there, rather than the half of the glass that is void of hope and optimism.

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