Going Where There is No Path: Entrepreneurship Defined by Ralph Waldo Emerson
I don’t know what it was about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writing that struck a chord with me when I was first introduced to it in high school. I just remember he, and others like him including Henry David Thoreau, had a profound impact on me when I was a student. Well, it appears it’s time for me to start reading – and learning – again!
The other day, I happened to notice a quote from Emerson. To be honest, it wasn’t the language that caught my attention first. It actually was the imagery of a beautiful river and nature scene. Once I started paying attention though, I then read the words “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Pretty advanced thinking from an American lecturer and poet in the 19th century! I’m guessing nobody had a formal definition for what entrepreneurship was at that time. They surely weren’t offering countless graduate programs at top-notch business schools around the country. Reflecting on my journey for the past 10+ years though, I would offer this is the perfect definition of what it means to be entrepreneurial.
I officially launched Plus Delta Consulting in June of 2002. That was after at least a year of seriously considering what I wanted to do post-Big firm consulting, talking to a few different people about joining forces with me, and finally crafting my marketing message and building the initial company website. I can’t say that it was Emerson’s words that moved me to leave PricewaterhouseCoopers. I definitely did feel that calling to go where there was no path and leave my own trail though.
Chris Gardner, author of the 2006 autobiography turned into Hollywood motion picture “The Pursuit of Happyness” once defined entrepreneurship as paying payroll out of your back pocket (see Hello, My Name is Jeremy, and I’m an Entrepreneur for more on that). That may be another powerful definition of what it means to be entrepreneurial. Without taking Emerson’s first step off the common path, this downstream experience, however, would never occur.
In line with Emerson’s teaching, I invite anyone who has that yearning to take that first step. There are those who follow and those who lead. Neither is right or wrong, good or bad. It’s about knowing thyself and living up to one’s full potential, being who you are meant to be. All it takes is a vision, personal commitment, and at times a healthy constitution.
If your path has not been paved yet, be prepared for some bumps along the way. Don’t let that shake your confidence or stop you from pursuing your “happyness” though, whatever that may be. Go find your path and create something from nothing. Others will follow if you show them the way!