I’ve spent a lot of my life being called names. As a kid of mixed heritage, even the most polite of children struggled to classify me based on anything more than my gender. To some I was a brown kid, others a black kid, and, painfully—to those too sensitive to use colour—a kid of no colour.
It was, to say the least, a complicated way to spend a childhood.
But as I grew, I realized how important it was for people to use classification not just to better understand where someone else fits, but to better comprehend where they are able to see themselves. The silly catch phrase at any networking event, “So what do you do?” can score ones chest like a century-old blade, as if you offer the world nothing else but that one thing.
I understand why we do it. And because of that, I struggle to find what term would suit me. Maybe that’s why it stings when I hear it.
“I am an entrepreneur.”
Not bad, I suppose. An “entrepreneur” is quite literally an “undertaker” of risk, moving potential from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. Normally, this means goods, money or services.
But shouldn’t it mean more? Is that really the extent of the entrepreneur? When the term was coined in the 1800s, it’s likely that the material meaning was assumption of risk.
But my work goes so much farther than that. This week I have seen the fruits of my labour yield a crop of epic inner joy. Two of our clients came back to us proclaiming that we nailed our descriptions of their best work. They came to us energized, excited and ready for the next steps.
And this week I have felt that same connection with a difficult client who is embarking on a moderately risky journey, and we are charged with much the same task. Our duty is to bring him the confidence to present his best work clearly to his best people, and facilitate that passion and warmth for his best work—even if it hasn’t yet come.
So, “entrepreneur,” as I struggle to determine whether or not you truly define what it is we do, I resign myself to you—for the time being. I hope that if you do acquire those deeper meanings, you hold tightly on to them. They represent more of us out there, and we all want to know when you’ve become our representative.
We’ll be waiting.
Forever choosing his words carefully,