Throughout the highs and lows of my entrepreneurial journey during the last seven years, I have attributed my ability to overcome adversity to three critical qualities. I’m a firm believer that everyone arrives on Earth for a reason. Each possesses special gifts and talents to contribute to society. Our biggest challenge is determining our gifts. Some find them early; others find them later. It took me 35 years to figure out mine and how to harness them to make a difference for others.
I can’t tell you exactly how to find your gifts, but I can offer some advice for harnessing them when you do. They are the three P’s necessary for entrepreneurial success:
Passion: Without passion, you may as well forget your mission. Passion separates winners from losers. If all else is equal, bet on the team or individual with the most passion.
Why is passion important? People feel strongly about things rooted in their passions. You know you are truly passionate about something when you are willing to do it for free and take on significant risk. Many years ago, a fellow Wharton alumna was so determined to succeed in the music business that upon graduation, she decided to reject a lucrative investment-banking job and accept a position as a secretary at a record company. Sixteen years later, Sylvia Rhone, W’74, became the first African-American woman to head a major record label—now that’s passion.
[Editor’s note: Rhone was head of Elektra from 1994 to 2004, served as president of Universal Motown Records until 2011 and now leads Vested in Culture at Sony.]
Patience: Patience enables you to stay the course even under the most difficult circumstances. There are no shortcuts to success. Be patient, stay focused and stay true to yourself.
For me, it all started with education followed by a series of career opportunities, which allowed me to accumulate a unique set of skills and expertise that complemented my education and life experience. The common thread throughout is my ability to connect with people. I was fortunate to have mentors to call on for advice. That advice and my learning helped me gravitate toward those opportunities most compatible with my personality and with the best long-term growth potential. As I look back at each individual career move, none make sense individually. Collectively, over 35 years, those moves make sense given that I am now innovating at the intersection of procurement, technology and emerging business development.
Perseverance: Be persistent in pursuit of your goals and dreams.
I have found that the hard work of entrepreneurship can only be sustained by more hard work. Things always develop slower than you expect, entrepreneurship always takes more capital than you think, and Murphy’s Law—whatever can go wrong will undoubtedly go wrong—will be with you.
But is there better way to go through life than waking up every morning to do what you absolutely love, while simultaneously making life easier for others?