Leaps of Faith

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Starting a business. Investing in a new venture. Launching a new product. Greenlighting a new marketing campaign. Hiring a new key team member. Partnering with another company. Designing a new website. Updating an old logo. Opening a new location. Telling the truth. Saying no when you know you should. Doing the right thing, just because it is.

These are all leaps of faith.

The entrepreneurial spirit is nothing without leaps of faith. Especially when it comes to creating not just new businesses, but new types of business.

For whatever reason, I keep running into courageous entrepreneurs lately, and I have to admit that their energy and focus are infectious. Some have already established their businesses while others are just getting started.

One thing that these folks all have in common isn't what you'd expect. It isn't a sense of unbreakable optimism. It isn't unshakable confidence. It isn't the drive to make loads of money someday or be their own boss. It has nothing to do with living the American Dream.

It is simply courage.

What strikes me about every single one of them is that they aren't going for the tried-and-true business model. I am not talking about franchises here. None of them is looking to copy existing businesses. They are all creating something new. Something different. Something no one (at least down here in South Carolina) has done before.

(And they're all giving me a pretty serious dose of "why didn't I think of that" syndrome to boot.)

What's also striking about them is the fact that they're all - without exception - fascinating people. Not in an excentric sort of way, not in a cosmopolitan jetsetter sort of way, but in a quiet, conversational, beautifully down-to-earth sort of way. These are people you enjoy having lunch with, just because they have interesting things to say. These are people you want to have drinks with, just because they are kindred spirits. They are well-adjusted, inquisitive, friendly, honest, candid people whose egos don't get in the way of everything they have to offer. They like what they like. They speak their minds freely. They are not restricted by conventions or hindered by other people's expectations.

They are willing to put everything on the line - their finances, their homes, their careers, their dreams - everything, because they believe in something that strongly. Because they are that determined to contribute something cool to the world. Something useful. Something good. Something that will either help businesses become more productive or make people's lives a little better.

Something they feel is needed, whatever that may be. A faster computer. A better business service. A stronger online community. A more memorable shopping experience. A more comfortable fabric. A sexier haircut. A lighter running shoe. A more delicious dish.

Their courage is fueled by a sense of purpose, not just financial gain.

How refreshing is that?

Taking a true leap of faith is - more often than not - a good measure of character. Leaps of faith are what you see on football fields with twenty seconds to go and just one last chance to take back the game. Leaps of faith happen during firefights when one shot or one grenade toss can mean the difference between victory or defeat. Life and death. Leaps of faith happen every day. Some people welcome them, and others shrink from them.

People and companies who never take leaps of faith play defense. People and companies who take occasional leaps of faith play offense. Think Apple. Think Starbucks. Think Newman's Own. Think Pixar. Think Michelin. Think HBO.

Sometimes, you have to take chances. You have to stand on your own. You have to risk it all, because not doing so and being haunted by regret later is just out of the question. And because great ideas are well worth fighting for.

True entrepreneurs are groundbreakers. Innovators. Rule breakers. Agents of change. They are leaders, even if they don't realize it. When it comes to business, they are the embodiment of courage.

Make no mistake: There's no glory in same as. There's no future in also in. Not really. Not unless you want to look down the barrel of a price war. Not unless you want to watch your company or career spike for a while, then die a fast, ugly death.

It takes courage to be great.

Just remember that fortune does indeed favor the bold.

Or as the French would say: "Qui risque rien n'a rien." (He who risks nothing has nothing.)

Have you taken a leap of faith lately? If so, how did you feel afterwards? How were you changed? How did surviving affect your confidence? Were any of the changes negative?

Think about this: What kind of effect do you think an occasional leap of faith would have on your company? On its direction? On its image? On its innovative spirit? On the energy driving it forward?

On its competitive advantage?

Think about it.

(Your competition is.)

Note to anyone catching this on an RSS feed: Sorry about the triple posting. I had trouble with my browser today. :)

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