Posted on December 9, 2013 @ 09:11:00 AM by Paul Meagher
Entrepreneurs can find numerous resources online aimed at inspiring you to become a better entrepreneur. Today I want to share with you one unusual resource that I find often includes useful inspirational content for entrepreneurs, namely, obituaries.
The number of magazines and websites on entrepreneurship has exploded over the last few years as we become a more
entrepreneurial culture either by choice or by economic circumstance. You can spend days on end reading about
entrepreneurship and all the things you can do to become a better entrepreneur. You can quickly become overloaded
with suggestions and the question then becomes one of priority - which is the most important advice to
Nothing focuses the mind on what is important like death. It is for this reason that I often like to read the obituaries
of successful entrepreneurs to see what were the absolutely most important motivations in their careers as
entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs I'm talking about are generally not leaders on a world stage, but local business people
who have done well for themselves. They may have started several businesses and were recognized for their achievements
by local business organizations. Their obituaries do not necessarily stand out from other obituaries in terms of
length or embellishments. In fact, sometimes the shorter the obituary the better. Some obituaries want to list
every accomplishment a person ever had in life and this makes it difficult to identify the critical pieces of philosophy
that guided the entrepreneur. As Blaise Pascal lamented, I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time
("Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.").
Many newspapers no longer carry a daily list of obituaries. Fortunately, mine does and I am in the habit of reading the
obituaries every day. I got into the habit when my own father died and I had to help in putting together his obituary for
the same paper. It made me appreciate this genre of literature more and since then I feel compelled to check if anybody
in my hometown has died, and if not, I do a quick scan of the other obituaries to see if anything stands out as potentially
worth reading (e.g., someone who died young, someone who lived a long time, someone who looked attractive in the day, etc...). Today
I was attracted to an obituary of an older man who I did not know because he looked very strong and muscular and reminded me
of my uncle who served in WW2 and had a similar physical presence (my uncle is 95 and still living). I was curious as to
what occupation he had that left him in such excellent shape as an older man.
His career trajectory involved a carprenty certificate from trade school (top honors) after which he spent 13 years working
for a cement company. He then formed his own cement construction company and over the years started 5 other businesses
related to construction. His physical bearing was probably a result of heavy work in construction. He lived by a couple of
motto's which were shared in his obituary and which I will share with you in case you can find inspiration in them as well.
If you keep your sleeves rolled up, you will never lose your shirt.
People need to be capable, connected, and to contribute. With this combination, you'll only have success.
That is it. A successful life in business boiled down to two mottos that he lived by. Two mottos that rise above all
the other advice and guided him in his business life. You could write essays about each of these mottos but you can't
carry an essay around in your head like you can a couple of simple mottos. As an entrepreneur, one of the keys to reading
an obituary is to be on the lookout for the mottos that successful business people lived their life by.
Many obituaries have been written about Nelson Mandela since his passing. I don't have much to add except the observation that
many admired him for his tenacity and persistence, he never gave up hope or his goals for a free South Africa where many would
have given up after 27 years of incarceration. This lesson in persistence from Mandela's life is played out in the lives of
many people who do not achieve the greatness Mandela achieved. To achieve anything significant you need to "keep your sleeves
rolled up", otherwise you will not achieve what you set out to achieve. You can find your lessons in entrepreneurship from
the death of exemplary people like Nelson Mandela, but you can also find them closer to home in the obituaries of those who
have achieved success in your own local communities.