I love the renaissance. A period in time when the foundation was laid for all of the progress the world has seen in the past 400 years. And one of the critical aspects is that it was a time when art and science and spirituality were not separate, but wholly integrated, to the point of being embodied in the same person.
A striking example is Leonardo Da Vinci, who famously cut open dead bodies in order to figure out exactly how they were constructed inside, so that he could better paint and draw them, thereby time vastly expanding what the world knew about the human body. And he seemed to be dedicated to his spiritual life as well.
A famous entrepreneur who’s also a renaissance man is James Dyson with the eponymous vacuum cleaner. He’s both the engineer who invented the cyclone method of vacuum cleaning, as well as the designer of the casing. Form and function blends together. Design isn’t merely a superficial skin that’s added to the this thing, it’s an integral part of the construction of the thing, whatever it is, from the inside out. Art and science is part of the same whole.
One way to look at it is that science is about the rational mind, whereas art is about the heart and the intuition. Both are critically important to the success of any project, to the success of a human life. They must work together in the same person. You can’t just outsource art to “the art department”. Everyone has to be an artist, in their work, as well as in their lives.
That’s one of the things that I really enjoy about my work with zenbilling. I’m the only person in the business right now, so I get to be the architect, the programmer, the user experience designer, the graphic designer, the customer service department, the strategist, the marketer, and even part time sysadmin. And I love every part of it.
I love talking with customers, I love getting to know them, I love what they’re trying to achieve, I love how wonderful and grateful they are. I love designing new features, I love dreaming about how to design the interface, or how to implement something.
I love getting better at my craft, while also getting better at life. I’ve noticed that I can’t grow in my work without also growing mentally and spiritually. And I can’t grow mentally and spiritually without also growing in my work. Honing my skill at work is really honing my skill at life.
I love that because I do customer support and design and development, and because I’m also a user of my own product, I know everything that’s going on and can make informed decisions on the spot. I love just being me.
Many people would say that makes me a bad entrepreneur. That it’s an example of the “entrepreneurial seizure”. An entrepreneur should want to scale, to create a mold that can be replicated. I say I don’t give a shit about that. I don’t give a shit about other people’s definitions of what is or is not an entrepreneur.
What I give a shit about is creating something in the world that gives pleasure to me and other people, and something that I can truly be proud of. Check. I’m doing that.
My definition of a successful entrepreneur is someone who’s fulfilling his or her creative potential. If you’re creating what you’re truly capable of creating, at this point in time, then you’re a great entrepreneur, even if you aren’t making any money. On the contrary, if you’ve just had a gazillion-dollar exit, but you creation is now lost in the corporate wasteland, I don’t give a shit. Or if you’re making tons of money, but you don’t have a whole lot of pride and love in what you’re doing, I pity you.
When all is said and done, I doubt we’re going to ask ourselves, “did I make a ton of money?”. I think a more important question is going to be “did I express what I had inside of me?” Here’s to living a life that will let us answer with a resounding “yes”.