Living Dangerously: Why People With A Lot To Lose Make The Best Entrepreneurs

Living Dangerously: Why People With A Lot To Lose Make The Best Entrepreneurs

by | Dec 22, 2018

My interests lean toward the eclectic, and as a result I love to draw business inspiration from unexpected sources. One such unexpected source of inspiration is art.

I recently came across an exhibition called “The Awareness of Uncertainty” by Sebastian Errazuriz that left a lasting impression on me.

The piece was comprised of a piano, suspended about twelve feet in the air by a simple rope. While the piano was currently displayed in a gallery, Errazuriz has originally placed it above his studio desk.

The fascinating thing about the piece is that it posed a very real danger to its creator. The piano could come crashing down at any moment, crushing everything underneath in a spectacular act of violence you would expect from a cartoon.

According to Errazuriz, it served as a reminder that “life could end at any minute.”

It’s a striking image that encourages a deeper reflection on the influence danger has on the human experience. After spending some time digesting the meaning of the piece, I had an epiphany of sorts:  the best entrepreneurs and the ones who have a lot to lose.

Something worth fighting for

By all conventional wisdom, I should never have become an entrepreneur. I was recently married and had just found out that my wife and I were expecting our first child. The prospect of becoming a father loomed large in my mind, discouraging the prospect of taking on unnecessary risk.

I had a comfortable corporate position, a growing family, and relatively little in savings. By choosing to start a business, I was risking it all. However, I couldn’t escape the pull of the entrepreneurial life.

I didn’t have the luxury of venture backing, and aside from my co-founder, had little personal support. If the company stumbled out of the gate, my young family and I would have found ourselves in a precarious situation.

There was no glory in failure, only risk. The piano was suspended above my head, and at times it seemed like it was hanging by a thread.

This very real risk, however, served as a powerful motivator. I had no choice but to push forward and succeed, and that led me to get creative when I encountered challenges.

One such challenge occurred early on in my tenure at BodeTree. Our initial business model was centered on selling our product directly to small business owners. Unfortunately, we were vastly undercapitalized for this direct-to-consumer model and struggled to achieve the critical mass we needed.

It was a challenging time, but I had so much riding on the success of the business that I couldn’t simply give up. The team and I went back to the drawing board and developed the institutional sales model that has served us so well.

Had I been unencumbered and playing with other people’s money, I don’t think I would have had the will to overcome the difficulties I faced. The fact that I had something worth fighting for gave me the strength to persevere.

I suspect the same can be said for the countless other entrepreneurs and small business owners out there who go to work every day as though their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, depends on their performance.

The urgency to create worthwhile work

The looming threat of disaster, be it the failure of a business venture or a literal piano suspended above your head, changes the way you perceive the world.

As Errazuriz noted in his exhibition, “life could end at any minute,” so it’s important that we spend our time, however fleeting, working on things that are worthwhile.

In the case of entrepreneurs with a lot to lose, there is a special urgency to everything they undertake. There is no room for busywork, procrastination, or the languid pace that seems to characterize much of corporate America.

A blessing in disguise

Entrepreneurs are in a race against the clock. It’s only a matter of time before a competitor outmaneuvers you, or you run out of money. Every move, every second, and every thought counts.

This sense of urgency, coupled with the essentialism that is born out of necessity, leads to the lean and efficient style of work that makes entrepreneurial ventures successful.

I will never forget the image of Errazuriz’s piano and what it represents for me as an entrepreneur. It serves as a reminder that I have people who depend on me, that nothing is certain in this world, and that everything can be taken from me in the blink of an eye

Chris Myers

CEO | BodeTree

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Chris Myers

CEO | BodeTree

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