Big Idea Blog
“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” ~ David Bly
This quotation has been a model for me and is now something I carry throughout my life. I stumbled across this quote my senior year of high school when a teacher assigned us to find a quote that we could use to explain ourselves. I chose this one. When we want to make an impact on someone’s life, it is important to make sure our intentions match up and are compatible. Then we can better see how our own experiences can be integrated into theirs to form one new team that can work together towards a goal. This idea plays into the word that has so much meaning and power, GRIT. Grit is courage and resolve, the idea of strength of character.
My experience with grit is portrayed through the purpose of the backbone. The human body has 206 bones at adulthood that all serve a significant purpose and are used at different times of activity. For example, the human jaw, the mandible, is what allows us to talk and communicate our thoughts and ideas. Our carpals, bones in the hands and wrists, help us to have the strength to swing a hammer or conduct an orchestra. But one of the strongest and most important parts of the body, and the one that connects the central nervous system, is the thoracic vertebrae or the backbone. The backbone is composed of 33 individual bones, each of which serves a unique and different purpose. This is true grit. It is the ability to work together and share true passion.
Entrepreneurship is a shared passion. An entrepreneur is someone who will go above and beyond to make a difference in something they have a passion for. We all have a vested interest in making a difference, so why not share a passion? God created the body to be able to form together and work together. When we partner together, we can create grit. We are able to put a backbone into an idea and make it become a reality. Being able to go above and beyond for a project and making it a passion and never giving up on it is why the University of Nebraska’s Engler Entrepreneurship program is breeding success. The program is nurturing entrepreneurs and building enterprises that encompass true grit--all with the idea of making a difference.
I had it all planned out. My senior year was going to be a year all about enjoying my time, really committing to the things I was passionate about and finally starting my own business: Buffalo Bartending.
Buffalo Bartending was an idea that I had been tossing around for some time. I saw that most college students know nothing about bartending and just order the cheapest, terrible tasting drinks at the bar. I was going to create a company that offered quick, fun, cheap classes teaching college kids about different types of alcohol and how to drink it. I had a business model worked up by the time that August rolled around and was ready to start really working on it.
But then things got busy.
First it was just class, but then it was a couple weekly organization meetings, then it was a part time job, then it was an impromptu trip to the movie theater, then it was a few more obligations that I said yes to. And before I knew it, I was back to the regular college-kid schedule of just trying to get to my meeting and wanting the next weekend to get here.
My business idea went nowhere and my senior year flew by very quickly. And many of the college students I talk to now are doing the same thing. Having been through this, my suggestion is to focus more on starting something, instead of just getting involved in a huge number of organizations or wasting your time away. I really wish I would have started my Buffalo Bartending business. Part of me still really wants to - I think it's the 'fire in your belly' that causes the desire to start something of your own. But when we run the regular college-kid schedule and fall into the same bad habits, we never give ourselves a chance to live out a dream of starting our own venture. So I've listed a few resources and philosophies below that could help you avoid this common time trap.
1. Block your time. Get your calendar in front of you and block off 2 hours everyday. These two hours become your time to think, innovate and get real work done. I've found these are crucial to actually making progress on my business goals. I like using the Pomodoro Technique to manage this time chunk -http://pomodorotechnique.com/ This is hard, and I'm not very good at it yet, but we've got to find a way to fiercely protect our time. If you let other obligations or people control your schedule, you'll always find yourself working to fulfill their mission, and not your own.
2. Don't go it alone. This keeps you accountable and motivated. Pick out a group of 2-3 people who want to build this with you, and make sure you are all focused on a similar mission. A goal becomes 50% easier to accomplish when you tackle it with a partner at your side. (Not scientifically proven, but that's what my experience has taught me.)
3. Pick one big thing. Based upon The One Thing by Gary Keller, pick one big thing that would make everything else you do easier or unnecessary and attack that thing each day. This may seem impossible, but it makes a huge difference for you when you can find that narrow of focus.
Use these tips, and don't repeat my mistakes. If you live your life in college a little differently now, you can live your life much differently later. I'll end with a quote from Seth Godin that sums up what I'm trying to get across.
"The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something at all."
So get going!
Intentionality has always been a word that I honestly never stopped to think about. You can intentionally do something, but what if you were to go out of your way every day and be intentional about your goals, with people, and with your time.
Engler has taught me that in order to build and establish your dreams, you must never rely on something to simply. . . happen. Enterprises do not just bloom out of an idea without being shadowed by pure passion.
So what does this have to do with intentionality?
Freshman year, Tom Field said something in my entrepreneurship course that I will never forget. He told us that being realistic is the most commonly traveled path to mediocrity. After thinking about what this meant to me, I decided to purposefully build a network of people who not only pushed me, but invested into what I loved doing.
For me, it took Tom’s words to understand the value of intentionally or purposefully reaching likeminded people. Going out of your way to deliberately increase interaction and purpose behind these interactions.
The Engler community has exhibited this purposeful interaction with conversations and will forever impact the way that I view talking with people. Potential partners, potential investors, or potential clients; every interaction should hold to this idea of intentionality.
Morning starts early (4:30 AM), it’s going to be a good week! Over 160 boxes of flowers came in over the weekend that need to be processed, but, someone is sick and cannot make it to work today. A customer 90 miles away needs product as soon as we can get there, some product came in bad and needs credit, and we need more deliveries in one route because we can’t justify a drive to Grand Island with an order of only $150.00. E-mail has a HUGE order on it from one of our best clients, a new client orders product for the first time, we are looking to hire another driver, and payroll is due today. Time 6:00 am. This really is a good day! I’m happy. This is what gives context for discussion in class about change, pivots, and resource allocation in a small business. I actually enjoy this environment.
UNL started this week, I am responsible for over 130 students this semester, the graduate students want to get into the course material right away and have their first assignment handed in by Monday evening, lunch with my TA to discuss our strategy for making the class experience this year better than last, piloting a new platform for course material- because I know it is coming, meet face to face with over 10 students discussing their business ideas, some need patents, some need partners, some need funding, some need coding, some need ideas, some just need to catch up from their summer internship. Tom asks if I can squeeze two more students into a class, I set up a meeting about hydroponic towers with a colleague that could lead to STEM course material for high school educators, miss my meeting with Andrew but have a masters student that I need to connect with because of it, take on 5-6 more advisees to help out a colleague who is sick and out for a while, the department wants me to be on another committee. Time 7pm. This could give some credibility to my discussion in class about change, pivots, and resource allocation in an enterprise. No better life than that of an entrepreneur, from making your own decisions about how you spend your day, to spending time with people you enjoy, to fulfilling your own aspirations and dreams, all while serving others and empowering enterprise builders.
– Best position on campus!
Passion - You’ve got to have that fire in your belly…
Passion is an interesting animal; it can drive people crazy. Passion can defy all logic. Passion can even destroy an empire, nation, or company. However passion can provide immense openings for success and wealth building. It can also give courage and strength to those who need it most. But perhaps the most valuable thing passion can do is create.
To have passion is to create opportunity. To follow passion is to act upon a burning fire within you; something that you yourself can’t even explain fully. Passion is hard to understand and even harder to define. This pillar of our program comes in many different shapes, sizes, forms. But one thing is for sure: Passion is alive within the people who recognize it.
When individuals make decisions to follow their passion, they are making a choice to invest in themselves. When a group makes the decision to follow its’ passion, the members are making a choice to invest in a greater cause (one that’s often bigger and better than the group itself). Passion has the ability to make individuals and groups do just that; believe in something greater than the norm.
PASSION – An undeniable (sometimes undefinable) fire within one’s self to align with a certain idea, concept, or action. Passion creates opportunity, becomes alive within us, and forces us to believe in a cause greater than we can ever imagine. So don’t try and define or capture passion, for it's already within you. Identify your fire – then set the world ablaze!
Aspire. Passion. Partner. Grit. Build. Courage. These are the six pillars that Engler Entrepreneurs strive to live by. Each is vital to succeeding at building enterprises that contribute value to agriculture and the community – which is Engler’s mission. They all have earned a place as one of the six pillars. That being said, there is one that really sticks out to me. Passion.
Let’s step back for a minute. As a college student, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “So, what do you want to do after graduation?” I know exactly what I want to do. I want to work in the beef industry. More specifically, I want to return to my family’s operation and feed cattle. However, lots of students (perhaps even the majority) have no idea how to answer that question. They say things like, “I don’t know yet”, “I’ll figure it out when the time comes”, or “I’ll take whatever job comes along”. I feel sorry for these people. So what’s the difference? I believe the difference is passion. I know exactly what I want to do after college, because I have found what I’m passionate about – feeding cattle. Granted, passions may change over time, but I’d speculate that many college students have never considered – or searched for – what their passion may be.
So why is this such a big deal? I know in my own life, I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t following my passion. If I didn’t care about my job, or don’t enjoy what I’m doing…it’s not worth working at. I’m passionate about three things – Jesus Christ, family, and the cattle business. These are three things that I consider worth living for. If I don’t pursue these passions, I won’t be happy – and I probably won’t be successful. I’m confident that if I do continue to live out my passions, I will have a very meaningful, joyful, and successful life. Success can mean different things, but for me, success means making real change for the things I’m passionate about. For example, my goals are to advance the Gospel of Christ, love my family, and improve the cattle feeding business.
I would challenge everyone to ask themselves, “What am I passionate about?” Make a short list (maybe less than 5) of things that bring you joy. And, most importantly, ask “What is worth living for?” I believe that this is the single most important question you can ever ask yourself. Once you figure that out, you will be well on your way to living an adventure, instead of a career.
In my opinion, the most powerful drive or motivation to succeed is passion. Once you find your passion, aspirations of how to make a difference can be developed. Passion drives the courage and grit that it takes to get it done. When it comes to your idea, no one can build that enterprise as successfully as you can, because they don’t have your passion. Passion is at the core of a prosperous entrepreneur. Passion is what empowers us to make real change.
I looked around my surroundings as I reached the north side. People were scattered around the peak, resembling an ant colony shuffling to complete their tasks. I noticed the diversity; different ages, skin color, adults wearing business attire while others resembling Sherpas carrying twice their body weight on their backs. It was the most bizarre scene I had ever seen. In that very moment, I realized that I would never have a feeling like this again. I could never replicate my sense of adventure, fuzziness that was buzzing in my head, and heat on the tips of my fingers. I live a different life, a very different life. However, there is something so unique but similar in everyone: C O U R A G E.
The pillar that stands tall in my life is courage. I believe it does in everyone, although you may not yet be aware of it. There is a secret ingredient in each person on this world that will make people curious and inch closer to the edge. It is what keeps them up at night and sparks a passion in their soul. Some days it is dull, but sometimes it is strong enough to spark a forest fire. I believe when a person finds their niche they will indeed need the courage to share their passion and vision with the world. The Engler community has offered this experience for me. I have found an inclusive environment that has provided a standard that is tall enough for me to strive for but still see.
When I look back, I wonder what it would be like if I hadn't taken that risk or dipped my toes in the water. One thing I know for sure, I have never regretted pursuing what I believe in my heart is worth pursuing, despite other people's opinions. Courage takes faith and perseverance. I know it's worth the persecution, ridicule, and....the view.
Merriam Webster defines the word ‘aspire’ as a verb meaning to want to have or achieve something. This word is also one of the six pillars of the Engler Experience. It is the desire of each and every person in our program. This pillar is representative of our culture, how we do things and is a part of my own personal journey.
When I think of the word aspire I think of our founder’s commonly mentioned quote, “you gotta have that fire in your belly.” It is the will and desire to achieve on some level that binds everyone in the program together. The program nurtures, challenges and equips those who aspire. The will to aspire is representative in these statements:
Engler Entrepreneurs know what they aspire to is the purpose or objective behind taking crucial steps in the entrepreneurial journey.
Engler Entrepreneurs are asking the tough questions and having purposeful conversations to solve problems and reach goals.
Engler Entrepreneurs don’t shy away from fostering new perspectives, thinking innovatively or immersing themselves into this transformative experience.
Engler Entrepreneurs know that aspirations are more than dreams, they are commitments toward contributing value to agriculture and communities.
This pillar does not stand on its own though. One must be backed by passion and courage. With a little grit and partnering an entrepreneur can build what they have aspired toward.
In my personal journey the word aspire represents who I am and a commitment I have made. I am very much a goal oriented person and my aspirations and the thought of the future is what excites me each and every day. As a freshman in Dr. Field’s introductory course for the Engler program I had the opportunity to set goals and think about what I aspire to be in life. My completed projects would end up being guiding forces for my time as a student here at UNL. First, I made a personal commitment to be a student first, a leader second. I knew many of the opportunities I would be given would be because I was a student and I wanted to be committed to my education. Next, I created a personal policy to be the best person I could be in both words and actions, knowing that you never know who is watching. Lastly and I think most importantly, I aspired to leave a legacy. I wanted to leave a legacy based on the type of person I was, the passion I had and the actions I had taken.
My time in the Engler program is a large part of how I am leaving a legacy at UNL. This is done with the past in mind of those who have influenced and lead the program for me. It is also focused on the future of the students in the program who will be keeping the American dream alive and well. In the large scheme of life I believe the program has created my legacy-driven mindset and laid the foundation for me to aspire towards what matters to me…helping others.