Why do people really become entrepreneurs? It’s not about money. It’s about creation.
We’re delighted to have a repeated guest: Danny Schuman, Founder of Twist Your Thinking, and author of the #1 bestseller: The Worst Business Model in the World: A New Kind of Guide for a New Kind of Entrepreneur.
There’s a convenience store in Mexico City worth five million dollars.
It looks like any other convenience store. Candy bars, beef jerky, beer, potato chips, all the stuff you need for a last minute party or a late night craving.
The products are your ordinary convenience store products. It’s the labels on those products that are extraordinary.
Their value starts at $60 and goes up to $15,000.
They’re the work of Mexican conceptual and installation artist Gabriel Orozco, one of the most successful contemporary artists in the world. He got the idea to turn a convenience store into an art gallery when he was living in Tokyo, what he calls “the capital of convenience stores.”
According to the New York Times, “He gained recognition while living in New York in the 1990s by making humble or ephemeral artworks, finding value in the disposable. For the 1993 work ‘Home Run,’ he arranged for neighbors in high rises facing the Museum of Modern Art to place oranges in their windows, so the bursts of color were visible from the museum.”
You may think he’s just an out-there avant garde-y artist making art for art’s sake. But artists need to eat too (especially if they live in Tokyo and New York City), and Orozco has done a brilliant job of managing his works so they’re now worth thousands of dollars and in incredibly high demand.
When I read about Gabriel Orozco and the way he balances art and commerce, I thought about the entrepreneurs I’ve been interviewing for my book, The Worst Business Model in the World. I’ve been talking to dozens of what I call UDOTS, my acronym for Us Doing Our Thing: the people out here on their own, doing what they’re good at and passionate about, without a regular paycheck but driven to succeed. Designers, lawyers, accountants, scientists, nurses, custom clothiers; owners of logistics companies, fast casual dining restaurants, businesses in the cannabis industry. Highly organized left brainers and seat-of-their-pants right brainers.
I run each of the interviewees through a 15-question survey that takes about 45 minutes. One of the most unexpectedly fascinating questions has been #7: “How do you measure success?”
The vast majority of the UDOTS answer the question by proudly talking about the things they’ve built: The products and services and systems, or the work environments where their people are flourishing in a culture that sets them up for success.
They do talk about money. But seldom do they talk about it first.
I’d suggest this about entrepreneurs; see if you agree. They aren’t all that different from artists like Gabriel Orozco. What’s most important to them is what they create. Of course, making money is crucial. Unless you’re the heir to a family fortune—and I’ve talked to entrepreneurs who are—you can’t exist without it. But for the majority of UDOTs, it’s not just about stuffing a bank account full of stacks of money. It’s about making enough money to create and maintain and grow something you love. It’s proof that you can love something into existence, as I’ve written about before.
Crucial to chasing an entrepreneurial dream is having the freedom and flexibility to create. To not have to waste full days in meetings or report to somebody. UDOTs are more than happy to trade the potential for security for the luxury of letting their brains roam, to fashion something that could make the world a better place. They believe the money will come. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t (but really, eventually, it does). In either case, they treasure the opportunity to make it on their own.
Before I became a UDOT, I found time for side hustle projects that enabled me to pursue my passions. But it wasn’t satisfying. There weren’t enough hours in the day to do both. Now I get to create full time. Sometimes the money comes in tidal wave-like torrents, sometimes it drips like a rusty old spout. But at all times I’m doing what I love: Writing and thinking and creating. How can I come up with better methodologies and techniques for people to solve problems and come up with unexpected ideas? This is what drives me, what I love to do, and what ultimately helps other people.
When you get UDOTs talking, what they talk about most is what they’ve created and what they’ll create next. Similar to artists like Gabriel Orozco.
He’s figured out how to turn something simple into something with great value. Things you’re familiar with, things you interact with every day. He changed them in a way that only he could do it and made them 10, 100, 1000 times more valuable. You can do it too.
If you’re asking yourself whether or not you could go off on your own and do what you love and become a UDOT, start by asking yourself:
What can I create?
Danny Schuman is Founder and Head Twister at Twist, a marketing and innovation consultancy in Chicago. He’s spent his career partnering with smart marketers to solve sticky challenges with ideas that connect consumers to brands. Danny’s book The Worst Business Model in the World, featuring tips and tools gleaned from successful entrepreneurs, was a #1 bestseller on Amazon.