Back in the nineties I was conducting a business congress in Central Europe with Nicolas Hayek, the rumbustious founder of The Swatch Group. At the time, Nicolas was probably in his mid-seventies, had singlehandedly rescued the entire Swiss watch industry, and was a billionaire at least four times over. Not that any of that had mellowed him any.
We were conducting a press conference to promote the event when a young reporter asked Hayek when he was planning on retiring. Nicolas looked at him as though the man had called his mother a whore. Then in his gruff, irascible style, he proclaimed,
“Entrepreneurs are artists. And artists never retire!”
At that very moment, I was struck by two fundamental truths.
One, I knew I would spend the rest of my life wishing I had been the first person in the world to utter those words.
And two, I now had a label to define my angst. (Nicolas never did retire, by the way. He died unexpectedly of cardiac failure while busy at work in the Swatch corporate headquarters in 2010.) I had tried to retire once when I was 40 and had my first mid-life crisis. I thought I would do nothing but play softball, race cars, and drink out of coconuts. That lasted nine months. The inactivity drove me crazy so I got back in the game. I never understood why I needed to be back in the game. But the instant Nicholas made his declaration, I knew.
Entrepreneurial artists don’t solve problems as much as they reveal or create possibilities...
Think of all the memes we have circulating about art: from starving artist to writer’s block, from appreciated only after death to tortured genius. The parallels with entrepreneurs are many.
Like the writer hunched over a keyboard, staring at the flashing cursor, an entrepreneur trying to make a payroll might occupy the loneliest place on earth. Admittedly, entrepreneurs won’t usually cut off an ear like Van Gogh did. We’re much more neurotic than that.
Having a dream. Raising capital. Employee issues. Doubt from family and friends. Getting to market. The market yawning. Employee issues. Skepticism from your peers. Making payroll. Product development. Employee issues. Growing pains. Jealousy from family and friends. Attacks from the media. Branding concerns. Cash flow problems. Employee issues. Inventory nightmares. Government regulation. Did I mention employee issues?
It takes vision to see something that hasn’t been invented yet. It takes guts to go after that vision in the face of doubt, criticism, and even ridicule. It takes resiliency to stay the course in meager times. Being an entrepreneur requires a mindset that few possess – because bringing a concept to market is as much an emotional rollercoaster as writing For Whom the Bell Tolls, sculpting David, or composing La Bohème.
So what about you?
Are you ready to make art? If so, pick up a copy of Mad Genius, my new book out today. This post was excerpted from the book and I hope it can be a catalyst, to help you unleash the mad genius in you!