Heroes are people who accomplish extraordinary feats under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, such as the firefighters who marched into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 in an attempt to save lives while everyone else was scurrying to get out.
But there’s another kind of hero — one who makes a living accomplishing extraordinary feats under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, day in and day out. The hero I’m referring to is the individualist known as an “entrepreneur.”
In our current age of envy, the entrepreneur is perhaps the most misunderstood, underappreciated, and reviled human being on earth. He represents everything that thug-infested groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter hate. The truth is that the entrepreneur is not the greedy, win-at-all costs monster that haters like to portray him as.
On the contrary, it is the entrepreneur who is the primary driver of a healthy economy, not only by creating products and services but, in the process, jobs. And through the invisible hand of the marketplace, he improves the lives of people (sometimes millions of people) whom he will never even meet.
It should not be surprising, then, that many of our Founding Fathers were entrepreneurs, perhaps the two most famous examples being George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They are also good examples of just how far apart the results of individual entrepreneurs can be.
Though they were both farmers, Washington was one of the richest men in America, while Jefferson struggled financially throughout his life and died broke. But Jefferson’s financial difficulties never dampened his enthusiasm for entrepreneurial pursuits, which resulted in the building of his beloved Monticello estate and the founding of one of America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, the University of Virginia.
It’s important to understand that there are no guarantees for the entrepreneur. On the contrary, he labors long, hard hours without the luxury of a safety net. Either he gets results or he starves. And that’s what makes the entrepreneur unique — his willingness to shove all his chips to the center of the table and bet everything he owns on the farm, literally.
Plain and simple, the entrepreneur is a risk-taker who is willing to risk losing everything if he fails. By everything, I’m not just referring to his savings, stocks, collectibles, and even his kids’ college education funds. I’m talking about his house, his furniture, his cars — everything he owns. Not to mention his credit, his self-esteem, and, all too often, his “friends.”
The willingness to risk everything is just part of the price the entrepreneur pays for having a big upside potential. He fully understands that if he fails, he will get hurt — often badly. One of the things that makes the entrepreneur heroic, then, is that he is not afraid to risk failure — and perhaps look foolish in the process.
Those who look their noses down on entrepreneurs who have failed have no understanding of how treacherous the road to success can be. When things go south on the entrepreneur, his employees have the luxury of moving on to another job, while he is left behind to face his creditors. And that can get pretty ugly.
But those who are in the risk-taking arena day in and day out know that going broke is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, Silicon Valley wouldn’t be what it is today if young dot-com entrepreneurs didn’t have a propensity for failing one or two times before hitting it big.
Unfortunately, in our current age of envy there are many people who actually believe that everyone should be protected from failure. They do not understand that in a free society, people must be allowed to fail, because when you take away the right to fail, you also take away creativity and resourcefulness. If no one ever took risks, nothing would ever be created. Just as death is a part of life, so, too, is failure.
Thus, the true entrepreneur embraces failure because he understands that each failure brings him one step closer to success. That’s why the entrepreneur does not see failure as the end of the line. Rather, he sees it as a learning experience and has the mental toughness to pick himself up, brush himself off, and move on to the next deal. And when he moves on, he does so with an arsenal that contains a considerable amount of newly acquired knowledge and wisdom.
Finally, I should point out the obvious — that anyone can start out as an employee (and most people do), then, when he believes he’s ready, choose to leave his job and go into business for himself. The advantage of taking this path to success is that when he leaves, he takes with him all the knowledge and skills he has accumulated — free of charge — while being paid to do his job.
Thus, everyone is a potential entrepreneur. Striking out on one’s own is a risk-reward choice, and it’s a choice that is open to every employee. Each person’s life takes unique twists and turns that result in his being an employee all his life, an entrepreneur all his life, or some combination of the two.
But regardless of the success or failure of those who try their hand at being an entrepreneur, never lose sight of the fact that in a free society, the life of an entrepreneur is open to everyone. In other words, the entrepreneur is not stifled by a caste system. Under capitalism, it’s possible for anyone to start out as a low-level employee and rise to the top through his own efforts.
Which is just of the many reasons why I love capitalism. How sad that the Bernies of the world will never understand the moral sanctity of this powerful subcategory of freedom.