“Those who cannot govern themselves are condemned to forever seek others to govern them” – Steven Pressfield
I recently read (listened) to ‘The War of Art
‘ by Steven Pressfield. Great book, filled with a myriad of great quotes like the one above but the one above really stuck with me. Since I began trying to start businesses as an adult 10 years ago, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to put my finger on what separates those who are successful as entrepreneurs and those who aren’t. The stats are there, 9 out of 10 businesses fail. So what separates the winners from losers? I’ve realized long ago that anyone can do what entrepreneurs do, but at the same time, not everyone can. Why?
Why can some people start a business and go on to have success while someone else with the exact same credentials fizzle out jaded and emotionally scarred? Upon reading ‘The War of Art’, specifically that line it all became pretty clear.
The entrepreneurs who make it, have learned to govern themselves and the ones who don’t never did.
Since we’re thrown into the school system just after we barely learn how to walk and talk, we’re taught to do as we’re told. Do as you’re told and you’re rewarded. However once you’re out of school, there isn’t anyone there telling you what to do anymore. So what do most people do?
They seek out new masters.
New people to tell them what to do. Governing your life is now scary because for 18-22 years, you’ve been pounded with the idea of “do as you’re told and you will be rewarded, don’t and you’re punished”.
No one ever teaches you to tell yourself what to do. And this is why some can do it and some can’t.
Because of this it’s easy to seek out a master, leave them the hard decisions and take no responsibility for the outcome. No matter what happens, it can always be master’s fault.
The normal person seeks out masters, and this is why normal people will fail at business. I’ve said it before, business is the ultimate form of self expression. You get to bring an idea, something that exists nowhere in the physical world and turn it into a real creation of your own design. Self expression, not an expression of ideas and input from others. If you run a business, you call the shots, you accept your defeat and you claim your glory. Win our lose, whatever the outcome, it’s because of you.
Self governance is the hardest thing to do and I don’t think its something you can ever truly master. It’s something you battle with every day. Even people who own businesses, myself included battle for this hallowed ground daily. The temptation to put hard decisions on someone else is so tempting, what do the lawyers, accountants, consultants, mentors say? It’s so much easier to do that, often times they may be right, but it should never displace your personal instincts.
Those who learn this win the ultimate prize, freedom, and those who don’t will not even know what freedom looks like.