Oh, how much I keep up with the world by reading the news, aggregating information from Facebook, feedly and other sources. I have noticed the abundance of courses and seminars on how to become an entrepreneur. Or the abundance of entrepreneurial coaches. Or “entrepreneurship workshops”. Or books, or many other “or”s like that.
I inevitably think of the ’90s, when all us who started our own company were entrepreneurs, and those who have survived since then have remained entrepreneurs. Ever since then, none of us – the entrepreneurs – have received any salary from anyone, we have not had any pocket money from our fathers, we have restarted our engines from scratch at least two or three times, we have not played “safe”, we took the risks in regards to legislation, the so-called “business environment”, full of screw overs, sleepless nights, worries about employees’ salaries (not ours), deadlines, (sometimes) negative cash flow and perhaps, first of all, of the ideas that we thought (or knew) would carry our business forward.
I want to give you an insight: when I started my company in ’94, the profit tax was 45%! I almost cried when I received my first bill and transferred almost half of it to the state. And yet, I survived and moved on. We were passionate about finding our own way in life, we were passionate about doing something we liked and that represented us, and many of us succeeded. No books, no classes. Someone a little more foul-mouthed would say that it is a “thing that requires b***s”.
And I agree – to what a free-mouthed person would say – because they do tend to have a sense of observation. We were the ones who kept quiet, gritted our teeth and kept going without heaps of speeches, lectures, workshops, and everything else under the sun. I would translate that word that starts with a B and ends with an S, which we wouldn’t find in The Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language, as vocation, desire and “power”.
The other day, I was enjoying a coffee in the sun on a terrace – that is, I was wasting my time in a very anti-entrepreneurial way, lately I’ve been able to afford it from time to time – and I was listening not very attentively to the clever and ultra-informed speech of a 22-year-old who was explaining to a young lady, in an admiring and very emotional way, with neat phrases, impeccable pronunciation and rare expressions taken from foreign dictionaries, about how “somebody hit the jackpot, another hit something else, some other guy succeeded somewhere” and how “I don’t know who started three companies at once, working on their laptop at the beach, if you can imagine” and other such scenarios that invariably subscribed to the Facebook hashtags #entrepreneurship and #creativity. Redundant, repetitive, obsessive to the point of exhaustion and empty of meaning. Empty of meaning, like this kind of an entrepreneurship workshop.
That young man forgets, or doesn’t know, or doesn’t realise that at his age he could – maybe – turn the world upside down if he really wanted to. Instead of hashtags, he should get to work. Instead of giving speeches of admiration in regards to others, he should take action. Instead of reading the memoirs of someone’s so-called great success in life – even this is relative, he should start writing his future memoir and do it every single day. Instead of spending his father’s money on smartphones, 3G, coffee and lemon water at random coffee shops, he should save to fulfil his dream. Instead of 100 euro original polo shirts, a 30 Romanian lei T-shirt. Instead of non-action, speeches, courses, social media and the like, he should strive to achieve something. Lots of work, sweat, anger, anxiety, fears, risks, intelligence and talent at stake. And a lot, a lot of real and raw passion, taking into account the responsibility for possible failure. If you’re drinking coffee on the terrace, with your dad covering your back, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to do anything. Something is missing: real motivation. The word of a smarter man than me: you can be anything, but you are useless if you have no use value.
I think, in general, the main problem today is not taking responsibility; the potential failure is just a particular problem. We want to succeed tomorrow, if possible, without risks and without sweating too much. We want results now; we are not investing in the future. Everything is short-term and, if possible, in three years we would sell “our shitty idea” for a lot of money to an investment fund, to then be glorified as great entrepreneurs. I do not think that is possible and statistics support my statement.
Entrepreneurship and creativity have become the new mantras. But you don’t acquire and learn to have b***s in “workshops”, you are either born like this or, if not, you find a way to go to classes to learn how to grow them. You can’t change or buy your DNA. The reality is cruel, and those who use hashtags in their speech avoid looking it in the face. And others, who are smarter than them, have become motivational workshop presenters, start-up pre-accelerators and other such things, are making money by “teaching them”.
And something important about “old people” like me, who still are still breathing fine in the Romanian economic, political and social chaos. We did not need success, nor public recognition, nor to become “teachers” of entrepreneurship. We wanted to fulfil a dream, to live with passion and to put an honestly earned bread on the table.
I also want to quote my friends, who often say: “Deeds are more important than words”.