"I do not choose to be a common man,
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can,
I seek opportunity … not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen.
Humbled and dulled by having the
State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build.
To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life
To the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment
To the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence
Nor my dignity for a handout
I will never cower before any master
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect.
Proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, with God’s help, I have done
All this is what it means
To be an Entrepreneur.”
~Written in 1776 by Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense.
I was reintroduced to this quote by a poster on the back wall of a Walmart on my recent visit to Bentonville, AR. It was a humbling lesson in history to explore the town, and the history of the company that Sam built. He, too, was once a sole visionary, who launched his idea with a single 5 and 10 Cent store. His first decision was to surround himself with great people, that he claimed were smarter than he was.
I reflected on visionaries that I've had the privilege of personally meeting and working with throughout my career. Each company was at the early or scaling stage when I was exposed to it. Emily Cinader (Woods)/J.Crew, Don and Doris Fisher/GAP, Jerry Kohl/Brighton Collectibles, Jake Burton/Burton Snowboards, Lulu Lemon/Chip Wilson, Steve and Nona Barker/Eagle Creek, Marie Meunier/Wild Things Gear. I recall sitting in meetings with each of these visionaries, struck by the spark of intensity in their words, their commitment and their actions. It seemed to come from someplace deep inside of them, that connected to a different universe.
Through the course of my lifetime, each company has grown to become a household name - some on a global scale.
No matter how big or small the business, or it's tenure, I never doubt this intensity spark when I come across it in an entrepreneur. It burns brightest when others can only see the dark. Maybe the company will never be on the scale of a Walmart. But the creed remains the same for every entrepreneur with a vision.
Looking for inspiration? Read about any of these fellow visionaries, or plan a trip to Bentonville, AR (and enjoy the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art while you're there.) Whatever your thoughts are about Walmart, it's history is impressive and it's time to rethink it. They are now one of the leading companies in the areas of sustainability in the world.