Since quitting my “real” job to become a full-time writer, I’ve heard many rather negative comments from friends and family who seem absolutely shocked that I’d quit a stable, solid-paying full time job to hide in my home office every day. The comments went all over the place, ranging from a general idea that I just decided to start being a jobless derelict who is relying on my wife for income to anger that I would put my children at such financial risk.
In reality, this is actually a move towards being an entrepreneur, and I wasn’t surprised at all to find out that the biggest entrepreneurial inspiration in my life was one of the people most in favor of the move once I laid out all of my plans.
A sidebar: Is being a writer being an entrepreneur? Definitely. The modern era, especially with the advent of the internet, is changing the role of writer quite a bit. The internet gives writers a platform upon which to sink or swim themselves, based on their own merits. When I publish on The Simple Dollar, I’m using a platform I built myself, not just submitting a written piece to a publisher somewhere. This platform required me to have a lot of skills: technical skills, marketing skills, and so on.
Those skills, combined with a lot of passion and a lot of readers who support what I’m doing (and without that support, this wouldn’t work), have made it possible for me to swim, and also made it possible for me to open all sorts of interesting doors: writing a book, for starters, and several other very interesting things that hopefully will be coming down the pike soon. Even writing a book alone is much like any other form of entrepreneurship: I create a proposal, shop it around to publishing houses, and try to fish out a book deal.
So who is this entrepreneurial inspiration who gave me the thumbs-up to make the leap and actually gave me the inspiration to even think about it as a possibility?
I call him Dad.
My father was a born entrepreneur. He worked at a (somewhat) steady job for thirty five years, but that was just his regular income. He devoted much of his free time to other pursuits that earned money: small-scale commercial fishing, small-scale commercial gardening (growing what we needed, plus quite a bit more), welding, and other tasks that earned him a fairly steady side income through thick and thin.
When I was young, he was often laid off from his job – the company he worked for had serious economic problems in the 1980s and would often temporarily lay off large chunks of their work force. We persevered, mostly thanks to my father’s entrepreneurial bent. As soon as he was laid off, he’d throw himself heavily into the fishing and the gardening, employing me and my brothers as helpers in the activities. Thanks to my father, I know how to grow a garden, I can run a trot line, and I know how to hunt for deer and trap wild game.
These were activities that were self-directed, that led to us having the things we needed to survive as a family. But it went beyond that, too.
If a friend needed a helping hand or some food on their table, my father would make sure they had it. He’d stop in, see them, and leave behind what they needed. We never talked about it, but I saw him do it many, many times, and it left a lasting impression on me.
He would also take the time to befriend everyone he met, from the president of the local bank to the ragged jobless guy living in a shack down by the river. He knew them both by name and treated them both as friends. When the time came and he needed help, the guy at the bank would lend him money, no questions asked, and the guy down by the river would help him run trot lines, no questions asked. He spent his entire life building friendships and equity in other people, and that has paid off many times over.
In short, all of the elements I needed to know to be an entrepreneur, I learned from him. Do it yourself, because no one will do it for you. Follow something you’re passionate about, because that will make the work into play. Invest love and care into the people around you, because that care will pay dividends for the rest of your life. The more income streams you have available to you, the more likely you are to easily weather any storm.
I didn’t have all the things I wanted growing up, but I had most of the things that mattered: a loving home and a set of parents who genuinely cared for me and wanted me to succeed in life. When I look back on my childhood now, I realize that most of the tools I needed in life came from there.
Entrepreneurship isn’t about starting and building a giant corporation. It’s about the freedom to choose what you want to do – and when you’ve found it, chasing it yourself and building it into whatever you want it to be. My dream is the freedom to write whatever I want and earn enough from that endeavor to give my children a wonderful childhood and to grow old gracefully with my wonderful wife. Entrepreneurship means I’ll figure out the plans to make that happen, and my own father is my inspiration for doing just that.