When my father was a young farm boy back in the 1920s the family wanted to establish a flock of domestic ducks. Next spring they got a dozen eggs from a nearby farm and switched them with eggs under a nesting chicken hen. She accepted the eggs with no hesitation. They look very similar. The little ducklings hatched, imprinted on the mother hen, and all was fine as she proudly walked them around the farm yard. That is — until she walked them toward the shore of the little lake! That’s when the ducklings scrambled directly into the water! The mother hen immediately flew into a terrible squawking fit at the sight of her babies splashing in the water!
Every personal journey really begins quite early in life. As a child growing up your parents tell you what to do. They have to. That’s their job. They train you for a certain amount of choice, obedience and self-discipline. You learn about both freedom and constraints. If they are good parents they love you and so you learn to love yourself.
Then you go to school and the teacher tells you what to do. If you want to succeed you pay attention, work to get better grades, and you’re rewarded with a feel-good. Its been said many times that our education system is designed as a factory to produce workers, not entrepreneurs, leaders or even citizens. Maybe its just easier to manage kids who all act the same. School has tended to train-out the mavericks and misfits in us and train-in the conformists. Those with strong entrepreneurial tendencies get restless in the routine of school programs. They get into trouble when they try to do something different. They may even drop out to explore the world.
If you stay in school long enough, the school program becomes your life script. It is largely written by your culture. You follow that script and maybe do a little editing along the way to make it yours.
When you graduate from formal schooling you get a job. The boss tells you what to do and, if you work hard, you get paid, sometimes promoted. You make something, or provide a service that people want, and you get a sense of pride and self-worth.
But as time wears on you may begin to think, “I know this stuff better than my boss. Why am I taking orders?” You’re striving for mastery of your craft. You want to actualize your potential. Maybe you just need to do your own thing, unencumbered by other people’s goals, rules and restrictions. Unless you come from an entrepreneurial family, you’re unlikely to get much encouragement to do your own thing and manage your own time. If you’re going to swim, you’re on your own.
Along the way you meet people who left school to do their own thing. They aren’t cut out for school, even though they’re pretty smart. They find out they aren’t cut out for the nine-to-five job either. If you watch their career path it likely goes from sales to running their own business by the time they’re 25. These people are different. They’re restless. They thrive on risks. They learn best by doing, and maybe they make a lot of bad decisions along the way. But they are also quite resilient and they do learn. They’re ducks!
These people are natural entrepreneurs. They don’t know anything else. They hate being trapped in someone else’s plan and they always have. “Don’t fence me in!” They may tend to be more outgoing, and are quite comfortable quickly reassessing a situation and changing their minds. They make up a minority of the population. But when we hear the word “entrepreneur“, this character comes to mind.
So maybe you’re not one of those natural born entrepreneurs. All your life you heeded people who told you what to do. You mastered your craft as far as you can take it. Now you’re on your own. Maybe you just had enough of that and want something new and challenging. Maybe you got laid off and you’re sick of depending on other people and letting them decide when you leave.
For the first time ever, perhaps now in mid-life, you realise you’re free to define what kind of duck you are and what you will become. You’re on a learning curve like you have never seen before. It’s something like coming of age and leaving home, something like getting married, or becoming a first time parent. You must experiment, test and learn, but where do you start?
You discover something new about yourself — you’re a wayfinder! — and you are not alone.
2018© Randal Adcock
Chief Innovation Officer, Wayfinders Business Cooperative