BY CHRISTOPHER GERGEN & GREGG VANOUREK
Q&A with the Authors
How does life entrepreneurship show up in your lives?
: Life entrepreneurship is a way of life. It was this revelation that led us to write this book. As I shared my entrepreneurial experiences with others (especially my students), I began to realize that entrepreneurship should not be relegated to a specific professional experience. Rather it is a mindset. By being clear about who we are and awake to the opportunities that are ever present in our lives—in every facet of our lives—we can create extraordinary lives for ourselves. This philosophy has become integral to how I show up in life everyday—and I love it!
: I endeavor to integrate all the elements of life entrepreneurship into my life. It begins with a return to first things. To me, life entrepreneurship is a frame of mind and adventure, one that is rejuvenating, restorative, and inspirational. It starts with uncovering my purpose and centering my life around what's important, with a deep grounding and the humility of seeing my life in the larger picture. It also shows up in appreciating what I have and in taking more risks and making mistakes.
What are the most important elements of life entrepreneurship to you personally?
: Part of the point we make in the book that it's a coherent system, so it's hard to pick out one or two elements in particular because they all fit together. Still, for me personally the foundational elements that I try to build from are core identity, the courage to try, renewal, and pervasive service. Those are absolutely essential.
: We can all be dreamers but it is the life entrepreneur who musters the courage to GO FOR IT. We have to give ourselves permission to stumble every once in a while. In the book we talk about the cost of going for something and falling short vs. the cost of regret for never going for it. The cost of regret is much greater. I truly believe this. If we play it safe throughout life then we are ultimately leaving so much of life unlived.
What are the most common traps you see people fall into?
: I think many people deny their dreams because they are afraid of failing. I see this with my students all the time. They have lived a life or relative security and, ironically, this seems to increase risk aversion. When I compare this with some of the remarkable people we interviewed in the book who had nothing (such as Leila Velez, cofounder of Beleza Natural in Brazil) and yet mustered the courage to pursue their passions, this fires me up to help others put risk into perspective, set aside their fears, and put their dreams into action.
: Unfortunately, there are many. One of the biggest is ego—believing that it all revolves around us. That's such a common trap. Also, following the crowd—being externally driven and living our lives according to the priorities of others—parents, friends, colleagues, society—you name it. Related to that is having a short-term horizon and not "planning with our whole lives in mind," as Aristotle urged us to do. We all fall into traps. The question is what we do about it.
What do you hope to achieve through this book?
: To help people lead good lives. It's an amazing gift that we have hold of, and I'm hopeful that we can be worthy of it.
: If even a handful of people read this book and come out of it inspired to actively pursue their passions then I will feel that we have succeeded. Life is too short to sit on the sidelines.