The Loneliness of The Entrepreneur
This is the second in a series about my speech to the annual Christian Economic Forum in Jackson Hole Wyoming, a gathering of entrepreneurs, economists, philanthropists and non-profit leaders from around the globe who gather to challenge the dominance of a secular outlook in other business forums such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, TED Talks, the Aspen conference and the annual Fed conference also held in Jackson Hole. One of the key themes from my speech is the lack of support, and too often outright suspicion, for Christian entrepreneurs, from religious leaders.
“In my world, [almost] nobody thinks like me. I think that’s true of a lot of you, too. You know, I was a radio host for ten years — I actually did financial work and did radio at the same time — but I was a daily host for ten years and I met all sorts of people. When you go on the radio, the first people who call are almost always the fools of the community; the mockers, the scoffers, the gotcha-guys, the gotcha-mamas, the people who want to trip you up, the people who are angry, the people who have some really weird cause – whatever it is – that they’re going to push. And they just fill the airwaves with toxicity and I found it debilitating emotionally.
“But there was this tiny group of people, maybe 5% of my listeners or 5% of my callers, and after the fools quieted down a little bit I started to hear from them. It’s almost always the same story: If it’s ‘he’, he’s forty or older and runs a business, or he has management responsibility, and he’s a decision-maker. If it’s ‘she’, almost always she’s a retired school teacher or a retired librarian, a pastor’s wife sometimes, occasionally a physician who is intellectually and spiritually thirsty, because they’re the only one in their world who has a pile of books this high and who reads them and who talks about ideas. For the business decision-maker (he could be for-profit or not-profit), he or sometimes she – they’re the decision maker, they stand alone in some sense, they’re the entrepreneurs.
“So what happened is these entrepreneurial types – some in business, some in nonprofit – started to gravitate towards what I was doing, and what I noticed about them was that they were lonely. Not lonely in that they didn’t have friends; they had more friends, in many cases, than they wanted. I mean, people of influence have a lot of people who want to be their friends. I’m not trying to be arrogant about that, it’s just a matter – if you run, say, a Fortune 500 or a Fortune 5000 company, people want to be your friends. If you’re the pastor, people want to be your friends. If you’re on TV or radio or if you’re an author and famous in some way… But it’s not quite the same; a friendship involves something in which we are to some degree equals, which means that there’s something you have to be a little better at than I am; you have to bring something to the table and I have to bring something to the table for us to actually be friends. There has to be some reciprocity, there has to be some parity for friendship. There has to be some joint intellectual interest. So, as I look back over my life in the past twenty years, doing a lot of radio and television and speeches, what I’m interested in is and what I want is that 5%. I’ll wade through the 95% if there’s a good chance [to find] the people who are actually trying to make decisions to be wise, and to solve problems, not to raise themselves up…
“At that moment in history along comes Crown – a ministry, not a huge ministry, and not super well-funded, [but] they say, “Alright, we’re just going to gather some Davids together.” I see Goliath tottering over there and I see some Davids and I say, “I know where I want to be. I want to be with the Davids.” You’re the Davids. Entrepreneurial Christians — power that comes from the bottom up, rather from the top down — through love and service is what defeats Davos Man and what revitalizes the economies of the world. That was a long answer to your short question. That’s why I’m here and I think that’s why some of you are here, too: Because you’re lonely for people who can talk to you and who you can talk to, and who will actually understand what you’re saying. And they’ll say something back to you and you’ll understand what they’re saying. And you’ll teach them something and they’ll teach you something – you don’t get enough of that. I’m not going to put words in your mouth, I’m just going to ask: Raise your hand if you don’t get enough of that in your life… Okay. Well, thank you to Chuck Bentley and thank you to the board of directors of Crown, thank you to those who are present and those who aren’t, and to the sponsors of this event and to you, for actually giving us that thing that we want the rest of the year; where we actually can talk to people with whom there’s genuine leadership/spiritual/intellectual compatibility. There’s a click, a lock, where something happens that’s important.”
Article originally published on Forbes.com.
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