Updated on 06.10.08

My Entrepreneurial Inspiration

Trent Hamm

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.

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  1. J.D. says:

    Good one, Trent. I’ve said before that my father was a serial entrepreneur. Without his lessons, I wouldn’t have had the guts to try to make it on my own. Also, Soul Shelter recently post a primer on entrepreneurship that discusses the difference in attitudes toward various businesses. It’s interesting.

  2. Chad says:

    That’s a great post.

    Not surprising you received so many negative comments. I always wonder how many people who say those negative comments say them so people never try something bigger. Are they more afraid of you succeeding than failing? I’m not saying the comments you received were made with this intent, obviously I have no idea, but it’s a thought that always strikes me when others tell people they can’t fulfill their dreams.

  3. Jeff says:

    “…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.”

    And a country boy can survive…a country boy can SURVIIIIIVE! :D Sorry to drop a little Hank Williams Jr. on you there.

    Enjoyed this article and thanks for reminding me to call my Dad today.

  4. Frugal Dad says:

    I admire you for pushing through the negativity, and I’m sure you get it from many different angles. There is a negative stigma on stay-home husbands (and Dads), and the concept of a self employed, stay-home worker in general is something most people haven’t yet grasped.

    I used to say I could never stay home with my kids, or not go “out” to work every day. My, how that has changed! I would love to follow your path, but my wife is a stay home mom and without my FT employment we would lack benefits. Of course, if income wasn’t an issue I could find a less demanding FT job, or even a PT job, with benefits and write in my spare time.

    It’s funny how people that don’t understand how something works attempt to scuttle the efforts of others who want to pursue it. I think it has something to do with what the first comment alluded to – people really are afraid of seeing you succeed.

  5. Michael says:

    What do they say when you tell them you make a full-time income from TSD? Or do they know that and say these things anyway?

  6. frugalchoice says:

    Wow, that is really inspirational. It’s so true that you really do build up an “equity” with friends as you do friendly things over time…these days it’s easy to forget about helping everyone else, we are all so hurried. I love how your dad was always looking out for others and then they did the same for him. Humbling to think about.

    Perhaps the people criticizing you are those who secretly have a passion they’d like to follow? All that matters is that you’re doing what’s best for your family.

  7. Cody says:

    Very, very inspiring! This fits with what I’m reading now (thanks to this blog!), which is How to Win Friends and Influence People.

    I’ve always been a firm believer in doing everything myself, but in the back of my mind the idea that we need each other (and have evolved this way to maximize our survival) has been growing. Giving without thought of what you’ll get back I’m convinced is the quickest way to a happy life. I wish I would have learned this as a kid like you did. Your dad sounds like a helluva good guy!

  8. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Michael: they know (roughly) what I earn and say those things anyway.

  9. chris says:

    I found it very cool that directly under this post was an ad for father’s day sales.

    Was the timing of the holiday at all on your mind when you made this post, or was it pure coincidence?

  10. Sara says:

    What a perfect post heading into Fathers Day. One of the biggest compliments I received was from my mom, when I started freelancing: “I never would’ve had the guts to do that. I’m proud of you for going for it, honey.” Of course, I’ve gone back to outside employment since, but her support meant (and still means) the world to me.

  11. Fred says:

    Excellent post and one of the reasons I love this blog…having made my own entrepreneurial transition from corporate life to running my own consulting firm, I know how hard this can be. I agree with you that entrepreneurial pursuits can provide the greatest gift, which is that of freedom to pursue what you are passionate about and hopefully with the potential to make more than a living at it. People often trade their potential for the comfort of expected returns from an unfulfilling job where they are not in control; only a minority of people understand this, and even fewer are brave enough to do something about it, so it is no surprise there are many naysayers. I often equate this philosophy to the story in the Matrix movie trilogy…few are awakened to see the truth of their world, and even though freedome beckons some of those still prefer the comfort of their predictable illusory life while really being slaves to the norm.

  12. Erich says:

    One of the best posts on this blog so far. I think that your writing has improved much since big switch. Thanks Trent.

  13. Mike says:

    I also see this as a great Father’s Day article. As far as those who are knocking your decision, I think they will be congratulating you very soon. Thanks!

  14. Kathy says:

    Cheesy as it sounds, those people are speaking out of fear. Your idea scares them & they are trying to protect you.

    Do it anyways. I know you will. If they love you, they will be happy to be wrong.

  15. Mister E says:

    Well saying you want to write for a living is going to be a tough sell on most people. When you then add “on the internet” it’s that much harder (internet < real life).

    BUT, you claim to be doing ok and I’m sure that if you can make it work in the long run people will come around. I for one think that anyone who can escape the confines of a corporate career and still pay the bills is at least one step ahead of the game.

    And your Dad sounds like a heck of a guy.

  16. Shanel Yang says:

    Wow … Father’s Day is always difficult for me but this post makes it even harder. I’ve always wondered what a good father can accomplish for his kids. There are so few true stories about that, I’m afraid. (I’m no exception as I wrote about in my article “10 Things I Wish My Dad Taught Me.”) But, so far the only nonfiction good father I have come across until now was the one the author of Never Eat Lunch Alone talked about. (I understand the so-called “Rich Dad” in Rich Dad, Poor Dad was entirely fictional.) Thanks for a touching my heart with this wonderful post. I have heard stories about fathers who dedicate their lives to helping others but then they neglect their own families. Your father sounds almost too good to be true. If someday I have children, it’ll help me know the types of behaviors I would hope the father of my children would show our kids.

  17. Salve Regina says:

    Super post-thanks. I currently have three small enterpreneurial endeavors going on in between raising and educating my five kids…your blog is an inspiration, on many, many levels. AND it has piqued my interest in this medium…a possible fourth endeavor for me, perhaps. Keep up the excellent work–it is greatly appreciated.

  18. acwang says:

    It’s great that you have taken this step and your dad as a great role model.

    I am curious to know what your family health insurance coverage is?

    Did you take out a private health insurance?
    Or is it your wife’s employer’s health insurance covering the family?

    I am employed but want to do freelance job. I am curious to know what options you took for health insurance. I’ve read an article from getrichslowly and it looks very expensive.

  19. Lindsey B says:

    I think the comments people make tells you more about their risk aversion than your risk taking. I liked how you described your Dad’s building friendships as equity building that paid off many times over.

  20. Reta Davis says:

    Go, Trent! Your blog is great for the handy hints, the solid advice and the heart that you put into your writing. I can’t wait for your book to be published–I’m buying it for my adult children and wedding presents…and anyone else who needs a boost. Hurray for you on every level!

  21. Fantastic Article.

    One of my favorite quotes from Einstein-

    “Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.” –Einstein, Albert

    Not that your friends are mediocrities in any way but many, many people are followers, and it is difficult for them to understand a different way. Followers will always have a difficult time with change and there is nothing wrong with that, in fact following is much easier, but we cannot be influenced by those ways if we want to become great. The “pursuit” of happiness.

    Restaurant Printable Coupons, Freebies and News.

  22. rob says:

    The biggest learning I got after reading this post is that even if you have a super popular blog such as The Simple Dollar, there will still be doubters and negative feedback from friends trying to scare you from doing what you want. Heck, I get a lot of negative feedback from other people, and I haven’t really accomplished anything yet; while Trent has a gold mine in his computer, and he still gets negative feedback!

  23. WOW, Trent, I’m so psyched for you! This is so inspiring. I’m a writer by trade (advertising). And I’m an entrepreneur (advertising consulting business, partner in new media company, partner in new fashion business). So, I know where you’re coming from. I think what you’re doing is GREAT. And I want to wish you all the best. Go knock ’em dead.


  24. Trent, this was a very timely post and I couldn’t agree with you more. I am constantly amazed when I sit back and really think how my life has unfolded over the last few years and realize that nearly every skill I’ve acquired can be traced back to my step-dad and the values he taught me.

    Here’s to great fathers all over the world! Cheers!

  25. Good for you for following your passions!

  26. What an elegant Father’s Day tribute! And what a neat way to work into it.

    Just let any negativity wash off, as the rainfall on your back. Remarks like those come from small minds that can’t muster the creativity to look at life from more than one perspective. For most people, work is a place, not an activity. As long as your workplace coincides with your living quarters, you will run into people who can’t imagine that you’re actually working.

    Poor wretches.

    Meanwhile, I hope you’ll be just as great a father model for your kids as your dad was for you.

  27. Sandy Naidu says:

    Love the way you have defined entrepreneurship in the end…Perfect…

  28. Unspending says:

    I also had some negative feedback when I quit my fulltime reporting job and became a freelance writer. At first, I was hurt and questionned myself, but then I realized most of the people who were negative were just envious. A lot of people want to freelance or start their own business, it’s just that very few of them have the guts to take the leap. Congrats on the move!

  29. Trent's fan says:

    Great post Trent! It took my father four years to convince me to make the decision to open an independent business. That was twenty years ago, and I don’t regret a single thing. Thanks for your inspiration.

  30. Todd says:

    What a great post. You are lucky, and your kids are lucky too. You sound to me like a great father.

    I’m embarrassed to have to ask this question, but maybe some other poor fool out there doesn’t know either: What is a trot line?

  31. You’re lucky you had such an outstanding example to follow. And I’m sure you’re going to pass a lot of this stuff down to your kids.

  32. Paula says:

    How blessed you are to have a father who invested time in YOU!

  33. deRuiter says:

    How lucky you were to have such a fine and talented father. He taught you to survive on your own, not a popular idea with the left who are fighting to feminize America and give government more control of our lives. My Father was like yours, he worked steady, but he always had a side job: a small nursery, raising livestock for food, a garden plowing business (hard to believe, but in the 1950s almost everyone with a yard had a vegetable garden!), carpentry, masonry, fishing and his own little machine shop. With my Father around you KNEW the bills would get paid and there would be plenty to eat, AS HE DID NOT DEPEND ON OTHERS! LEARN TO SUPPORT YOURSELF, AND YOU WILL NOT GO WITHOUT!

  34. Mimi says:

    I really enjoy your website. You recently commented about producing passive income. Would you write about the various ways to produce passive income, how to get started, etc. Unfortunately I did not start saving for retirement until I was nearly 40; I have been putting 15% in my retirement, but my investments have not been stars! Thanks

  35. I think the best thing we can teach our children is to learn how to be self-reliant and kind to their fellow man. I am friends with people of all walks of life from well to do to people barely getting by and in between like myself. I can relate to them all. I used to live paycheck to paycheck but now we are in a position that we save half of our income. It feels good to pay it forward and I think I enjoy it more than the people receiving.

    I’m a SAHM but I have always supplemented our income with some ways that were pretty unheard of and unique last decade. I started learning how to Mystery Shop, Merchandise, and even selling on Ebay when most people had never heard of it yet. I also learned how to stretch our dollars as much as we could. I just started blogging and I’ve been doing other small things so I know it’s not going to make me rich but it does generate a small income for spending money, gifts, and gas money. That’s more money from my husband’s salary that can go into savings.

  36. One of the best articles I’ve read recently. It shouldn’t surprise you that most people would criticize you. “Get a good secure job” is too deep in our culture.
    To be an entrepreneur requires the courage to build your wealth yourself. Not all become rich, some even fail, but most important thing is to be happy and find your own way. Good luck!

  37. Dean Lund says:

    Take this from a PhD clinical psychologist——Hang in there. You’ve made a choice with the wisdom of Solomon.

  38. Lenore says:

    Hey, Trent, ignore the critics! When I had to quit my job and go on disability, I got plenty of assinine comments from so-called friends. Some said I was “lucky” to be on “permanent vacation” while others called me a “deadbeat” and accused me of “sitting on my ass” all day. If any of them had to struggle with my bipolar disorder, I know they’d see things very differently. At the time their words really hurt, but I eventually figured out they stemmed from jealousy. As hard-working as people can be, the majority would love to quit their jobs. When they see someone on disability like me or self-employed like you, their fantasies run wild about how great we must have it. Never mind that my health sucks much of the time or that you’re probably working as hard or harder as you did before. The other thing they’re jealous of is that you may succeed and make them feel even worse about themselves. So what? It’s your life and your chance to live out your dream. Who cares what anyone has to say unless they’ve been brave enough to pursue one or might help you reach yours?

  39. JMom says:

    I am sharing your post with my husband. He’s a freelance artist and has heard the same comments as you.

    Great tribute to your father. Happy Father’s Day to you too, Trent.

    p.s. Glad to hear you are surviving the floods. I’m praying for the rest of the people affected by the floods and have made a small donation to the red cross already.

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