Entrepreneurship for the Soul

Lately I’ve grown used to life offering me the most unexpected insights at the most surprising times. And this week was no exception.

The first special thing that happened was my stumbling on Derek Sivers newly released book – Anything you want. It’s not a thick book – one that you can easily read in one evening. But it’s an inspiring book – a book about passion, about daring to dream and pursue your dreams, about making money without ever having thought about them in the first place.

Derek is a musician, and the creator of CDBaby, the largest website for independent musicians in the world. This is the place where, for a price of 35 $ and a 4$ commission on every album sold, any aspiring musician can sell their music without ever worrying about being endorsed by some major label. It’s a business built with an almost 0$ investment – just with a massive time investment (he built the website himself, after painstakingly learning web-programming from scratch).

Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur of a different sort. He had no business plans, made no sales forecasts or anything like that. He created a  business out of pure passion. He wanted a means to sell his own CD, and later on the CDs of his friends. He never wanted the business to grow!!! Yes, you read right! He was actually terrified by his enormous success, because it felt like CD Baby was stealing away time and energy from his music, and he didn’t want that. He even refused hundreds of thousands of dollars advertisers offered him to let them place banners on his website, because he thought it would ruin his customers’ experience. And his customers were his number one priority. They were his friends after all! Even when they were no longer a dozen, but hundreds of thousands of musicians from all over the world.

So what impressed me so much about Derek Sivers’ story?

Actually, I couldn’t help but identify with his entrepreneurial experience, as it seems to resemble so much my own (with the notable difference that I am just beginning my journey, whereas he is already a seasoned veteran). Reading his book gave me that great feeling you get when you find a mind like your own. I empathized with him even as he described the sleepless nights spent learning how to program his website, as I did the same when I built Mind Learners website and desperately spent hours trying to fix some bug, like my “Romanian language” button not appearing where it was supposed to on the webpage, or my main tabs not aligning properly.

I wasn’t so much fascinated by how he managed to built such an amazing business without any plan at all, but by how wonderful it felt to have the confirmation that “entrepreneurship for the soul” truly is possible.

So, a couple of days after reading this book, a second mind opening thing happened.  I found myself in the middle of a discussion with two other entrepreneurs, with whom my partner and I are building a common project. These two very smart people were strongly, and very reasonably, arguing that we should make some forecasts for the evolution of this project – what will be the income, profit margin, projected number of participants in the project, and other useful, down to earth information any entrepreneur in his right mind would want to have before starting a business.

As I was listening to our partners’ wise comments and arguments, I looked at my friend and saw a reflection of my thoughts on her face – it had never occurred to us to make any forecasts! We were starting that project out of pure passion for the subject and for the value it might bring to those involved. We had initiated it because we wanted to do something good, that would change some lives for the better. It had never occurred to us to worry about it being profitable. Somehow, we were convinced that, if it was valuable for those taking part in it, it would also be profitable! And if it didn’t bring us any money, we weren’t worried – at least we would have produced something worthwhile for those people involved in it!

Had I not read Derek Sivers’ book just a few days earlier, I might have had some doubts as to my own sanity in this situation. Clearly our business partners had all the rational arguments in the world on their side. But somehow I and my equally “insane” friend, felt, in unison, that passion trumps reason! Sometimes, when your soul is telling you something is good and right, and your passion for that idea is consuming, it might just be wise to go ahead and do it, even if you have no business metrics to back that feeling up!

Reading that book and attending that meeting made me realize that I truly believe in “entrepreneurship for the soul“. This is who I am, and I am not alone. Somehow, it seems great ideas and consuming passion, followed by painstaking work get rewarded in the end. The paradox seems to be that, the less you think about money per se, the more money you make and the happier you are making it.

This has worked for me. What do you say? Would you give it a try? And if yes, what would that business idea be, that would move you so much as to dedicate yourself entirely to it and become an “entrepreneur for the soul” in your own right?

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