Entrepreneurship As A Practice

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Most people look at entrepreneurship as a project.

You start with an idea, then turn it into something real, build a business around it. And all is well with the world.

But that’s the wrong approach. Because entrepreneurship, in the wild, doesn’t work that way.

What really happens is you get an idea, it may have some nugget of viability, maybe not. You dig deeper, do research, flesh it out, create prototypes, get feedback, dirty-test interest and value, find out you were dead wrong. So you start over, come up with a new variation, refine it, tweak it, put it into peoples’ hands, learn it’s even more off-course. You curse, kick, scream, fret, whine, run, meditate, breath, sing, dance, whine some more and try again.

Somewhere between iteration numbers 3 and 1,003, you either get proven so wrong that you realize the heart of the idea just didn’t have legs, or you get proven so right that everything starts to click, people show up, trade value for what you’ve created and you start to build something real. Until it all breaks again. Which it will, because even successful businesses and ideas outgrow the structure, processes and even people who gave rise to them.

Entrepreneurship isn’t a discrete event or even a project. Truth is…

Entrepreneurship is a practice.

One that occasionally yields mondo rewards early in the process, but far more often reveals the fruits of your labor in bits and pieces that add up to gorgeous awakenings, rewards and impact over time. One you commit to. Until you don’t. Just like artists, athletes and any other person pursuing a level of mastery in any field.

And that’s something a lot of people miss. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about moments of insight or killer technical skills. It’s about building a level of mastery over the very process of entrepreneurship. Over your ability to plan, but remain open to serendipity, to act without perfect information, to read social dynamics and move people, to harness resources, think in ways others don’t and see things nobody else sees. Some of that comes naturally to some people, most, if not all, is trainable over time…if you’re willing to invest the effort.

San Francisco entrepreneur and founder of the famed Samovar Tea Lounges, Jesse Jacobs, knows this firsthand. He’s lived through it, building his business into three locations, globally-sourced product and online retail and more.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Jesse to talk about his remarkable journey in this week’s episode of Good Life Project. We dive deep into the concept of entrepreneurship as a practice, what that really means and how it unfolds in real life, especially when you’ve borrowed yourself into business and have a family in the mix.

Click here to check out this week’s episode with Jesse now >>>

If you’d rather listen to the mp3, just subscribe to Good Life Project and you’ll get instant access to the mp3 vault.

With gratitude,

Jonathan

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21 responses

21 responses to “Entrepreneurship As A Practice”

  1. Jonathan, this is one of the best posts you’ve ever done.

    It’s much more than a post – there’s a book in here.

    I’d love to see this seriously expanded. I think you are on the threshold here of the Zen of Entrepreneurship.

    Again, great great post and Happy New Year my friend.

  2. Shelli says:

    Love this. Entrepreneurship is a practice. In my own humble experience, owning and building a business has been like living on the frontier, waking up every morning in the Wild, Wild, West, with no maps, guidebooks, and very few other people. Just a whole lot of new territory, full of obstacles and unknowns — and discovery. As an entrepreneur, my only real tools are are curiosity, commitment, heart and resilience.
    Thanks for this perspective, and for the awesome interview and conversation you had with Jesse Jacobs, and for sharing it with the

  3. Mark Jean says:

    Great article. I’d like to throw out a few thoughts on “practices” vs. “living dangerously.”

    Without high fixed costs, entrepreneurship is a practice alright – like hitting the gym every day with friends. So long as the supply of oxygen is freely available, enjoying the gym is easy.

    However, if you’ve set yourself up for a $120k monthly fixed costs, and your paying customers are fickle or your friendly investors skittish, it isn’t a “practice” like going to the gym any more. It’s “living in the danger zone” where very real risks exist.

    For entrepreneurs with payroll & other fixed costs, a multitude of statistics show that most will face “the decision” – whether to keep the burners lit, or shut off some engines (lay people off) & coast as efficiently as possible…hoping for that next infusion of customer or investor cash. EG, jet fuel to power out of the danger zone.

    Founders who set themselves up to meet payroll & other fixed costs MUST know in advance how their business will get from pt A to pt B, on the cash available. Why? >90% will fail.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Mark – great points. Challenge being, entrepreneurs will never truly know how they’re going to get from point A to point B until they’re in the thick of the journey. Even the smartest serial entrepreneurs and the VCs and angels who fund them have to work on a lot of assumptions and leaps of faith.

      Many will be right, but many others will be proven wrong. The real practice is not in trying to lock down the future, but in learning how to lean into and prepare to act without knowing how it’s all going to end.

    • This may sound selfish and comes from my limited standpoint of never having had paid employees before. But at the end of the day I feel that an entrepreneur can only be responsible for himself and how he acts in the face of adversity. He can have compassion for those he lays off and for people that feel disappointed in his failure (investors, spouses, et al.), but he has to stand tall and do what’s best for the goal or vision of his creation.

      I guess the real concern I have with the mentality you’ve presented is that it seems to require the opposite approach (opposite stress and fear) to really calm down enough to see the long road.

      So what if you’re business fails, you lay off 1K employees, lose all your money, get divorced, and end up a bum on the street? You’re still a human and you still tried something viewed as impossible for most people. What’s more, you always have the opportunity to get back up and try again, on a much smaller level sure, but it’s still possible.

      If anything, I side with Steven Pressfield when he says, “No one is born a pro. You’ve got to fall before you hit bottom, and sometimes that fall can be a hell of a ride… Becoming a pro, in the end, is nothing grander than growing up.”

  4. Dan Shure says:

    Can’t agree more. There’s a hidden spiritual side of everything most people miss. And who can blame them, it’s so elusive, especially in today’s society – and personally I struggle with this balance all of the time. The balance between intellectual and calculated vs. being in touch with something greater and thinking with your heart, reacting in the moment and being able to change course (and not being afraid of that).

    That was a really long sentence… but I know you get this from Yoga, Jesse gets it from tea – personally I “get it” from the practice of improvised music. Teaches you so many lessons that I apply everyday to business.

    You HAVE to check out a book called “Free Play” -> http://www.amazon.com/Free-Play-Improvisation-Life-Art/dp/0874776317

    -Dan

  5. Hi Jonathan,

    Wonderful post that puts me at peace with the journey as I see it in this light. Love this! There seems to be a whole new presence I can bring into my business with this beautiful perspective.

    Thank you and Happy New Year!

  6. Jonh Book says:

    Straight to the point Jonathan,

    Only practice puts you in the real world. A ton of theories are worthless in a drawer.

    Let’s get to work!

  7. Truly inspiring post, Jonathan. I am in that practice, practice and practice some more process right now:) One thing I noticed is that at some point, those road blocks, although still frustrating, don’t seem as heavy to pick up off the ground and clear off the road ahead. Something happens and it is like it is familiar.

    I had the honor of speaking with Jean Beliveau ( the man who completed 11 year walk around the world), he said something that really stuck with me. “…you slowly enter an environment and you develop an instinct inside of you to deal with those situations and let them control you…”

  8. By the way, Jonathan, I loved the video. I think I’m at the point where I check GLP every day to see if there’s a new video up. You probably have an actual schedule, but have I looked for it? No.

    I’m looking forward to more writing on entrepreneurship as a practice. It resonates with me.

  9. Hi Jonathan,
    Thanks so much for this wonderful interview. I felt myself destessing only a few minutes in and it was a real treat to see it pop up in the BizSugar community. I think seeing entrepreneurship as a learning experience is a great approach to help you discover the full potential in your business. Focus is important but don’t let it keep you from seeing all the possibilities.

  10. Jonathan,

    Thank you very much for this interview. It gives me fuel for my soul. I am a tea enthusiast and I had a meeting place in Gothenburg, Sweden, some years ago. I can resonate with Jesse Jacobs quest for creating a special place.

    STL tweeted on December 28:

    “if you’ve ever made an important change in your life. Tell us what it was. The best responses will be published in our social media.”

    I RTed & replied:

    “It is (high tea) time to take my vision for #teaFTW onto the track of doing biz w/ other tea enthusiasts.”

    I look forward to the day when I will have the opportunity to visit STL in SF!

  11. […] Practice makes perfect. Not all new trends involve the Internet, at least not directly. For example, one of the first steps Jesse Jacobs, founder of Samovar Tea Lounges, took was to eliminate WiFi from his establishments to create a place of contemplative peace for his customers, many of whom, ironically, are part of the tech industry. Jacobs preaches a new approach to entrepreneurship and to living that may become a dominant trend in the New Year and beyond. Jonathan Fields […]

  12. […] Practice makes perfect. Not all new trends involve the Internet, at least not directly. For example, one of the first steps Jesse Jacobs, founder of Samovar Tea Lounges, took was to eliminate WiFi from his establishments to create a place of contemplative peace for his customers, many of whom, ironically, are part of the tech industry. Jacobs preaches a new approach to entrepreneurship and to living that may become a dominant trend in the New Year and beyond. Jonathan Fields […]

  13. The underlying tones of this post are so huge.
    There are literally millions of people who believe all they need is THE IDEA. Once they get that magical silver bullet, their problems will be over. Even the great Stephen Key treats his idea manufacturing like it’s a business that needs constant involvement and development.
    Like your post suggests, at least from my view, the ability to plan, diversify, adapt, and learn while you build is what separates successful entrepreneurs from the wisher and dreamers.
    Thanks for sharing this. I appreciate it.

    • TOTALLY agree. I’m curious about what you personally do when you wake up to days you just don’t feel like doing it. This morning was one of those days for me. Trying to get back in the swing of things after the holidays.

  14. Dnyanu says:

    Awesome writting. keep it up!!!

  15. Louise says:

    And entrepreneurship is also a matter of chance, but it will be a great opportunity if you work hard for it.

  16. […] grow a business. I understand that intellectually. But it’s hard to put into practice. (See Entrepreneurship Is a Practice by Jonathan […]