Community Empowerment: Why Entrepreneurship should be second religion

Published on Sep 01 2011 // Commentary
By R. P. Subba

July 4th is a big day for America. It is America’s National Independence Day. As usual July 4th 2011 was marked by mega celebrations in different cities, including one in the nation’s capital – Washington DC. Crackers worth millions of dollars went up in the night sky – in red, yellow, blue and green. The radiance of the glowing fireworks descended towards the ground and flared all over America. Freedom shines like this. Watching these colorful lights from a suburban apartment near Washington DC, I was briefly flabbergasted at the sounds of freedom. It was an unusual moment of trance, reminiscence and visualization.

In the eyes of a grafted witness; even this most colorful celebration of freedom looked bizarre. It has got something to do with our background. The irony is that the freedom we fought for never came to us, and the freedom that has come to us, is the one we never fought for. Leave that as it may; and let us explore what this freedom means for us – as individuals or as a community. We are here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We got to be brave and understand our freedom seriously. If properly used, this freedom can levitate us from our problems, if not; we may sink under its pressure. It’s a choice. ‘Choice’ itself is freedom’s ultimate name.

A core principle of community psychology is that communities are always seeking mobility; socially and economically – the mobility being aimed upwards. This establishes a close connection between commerce and community aspiration. Commerce has been the backbone of human progress in history; and in it as well lies the well being of our future destiny. In the past, our farming community mostly depended on land, the orange and cardamom plantations, some traditional businesses and government jobs to obtain income. These estates served as a living benefit as well as a retirement plan. ‘Security’ was not a big deal. The current scenario is different – those estates are gone and the proceeds too. We work not on the ‘land’ but in ‘stores’. Each month we must bring home, a certain budget to feed the bills and to rescue our mail boxes. But a paltry wage coming from an ‘insecure’ job is the only earning we make – call it ‘survival’ or ‘security’. To be brutally honest, unless a fat emergency fund has been maintained, anyone can belong to the street if a job loss cannot be replaced in the next few months. Simply put, the distance between our ‘current being’ and ‘homelessness’ is just a few months away. We are standing on the edge of a deep cliff. The American dream has become an American nightmare for many.

The situation looks very threatening but we are sitting here as if nothing is wrong. A recovery strategy that embraces ‘opportunity’ and ‘security’ for us has not come under any one’s radar. Until now – our only formal ‘empowerment zone’ revolves around the ‘case manager’s office. While the little activities initiated from this ‘office’ still continues to be very crucial and deserving of our appreciation; they are definitely not meeting our hopes and aspirations. Therefore, we need to look for other opportunities that best ‘serve’ our situation and ‘secure’ our growth.

In my view, nothing other than entrepreneurship is the best opportunity, in the long run. Others may have their own great ways of serving the community – non-profit, media, social service, sports, music, voluntary services, community work etc but in my belief, the overall climate for community growth needs a little bit more – a community entrepreneurship.

Before a community becomes fully empowered, it needs to invest in itself to grow; and to spur more growth. The road to this empowerment is paved through entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship breeds affluence. Affluent people depend less on community resources. Instead, a lot of community activities depend on them. When it comes to executing the various community empowerment activities, expectations are always on them to lend a helping hand. Very often they fund or sponsor various community activities such as soccer tournaments, musical nights, conventions, journalist groups, literary functions, cultural functions, sports and recreational activities etc. In the absence of these affluent members that safety net will be meaningless. A community that witness a greater number of business entrepreneurs shall also witness a rising empowerment of its members. In brief, the rise and fall of communities largely depend on the entrepreneurial capability of its members. On the contrary, communities will likewise stagnate if such qualities are missing from its population. Thus, a community with many affluent members will stimulate community vitality more as opposed to the one that has only a few. Thus, going entreprenurial has become such a need of our times; that the price of missing it could be very expensive.

An aspirant community desirous of making quick mobility cannot dilly-dally, nor can it afford to be impatient, complacent or lazy. We must rise and the beginning must be now. Understand that entrepreneurship is not a seven step growth plan from rags to riches. It is a process; and a process has to begin somewhere. If not now – when? If we can begin teaching our people about the ways of entrepreneurship and about financial literacy – if we can teach them about business ownerships, profits, equities, savings, interest rates, investments, tax advantages, network marketing, annuities, residual income, retirement, life insurance and protection etc – the benefit of this knowledge will hopefully lead our people a step closer to becoming debt free or even financial independence. It can send some children to college; it can save some families from going homeless. Some one by refusing to accept getting sucked into the hidden fees of a credit card; can save money for his phone bill. A dream so big cannot be fulfilled if we did not treat entrepreneurship as our second religion.

Some years down the road, hopefully, we should be able to see some Bhutanese entrepreneurial groups emerging; whose mission shall be to levitate Bhutanese community from the ground up; by launching our men and women into business. The idea is also crucial for the birth of an NRB. The thought is not just to fish or how to teach fishing but to revolutionize the whole fishing industry.

We can begin well, if we understand – a) that financial empowerment is a process, b) that we are now an integral part of a capitalistic society, c) that a capitalist society simply lays out too many stakes for average people like us; d) that it is the same ‘capitalism’ that has helped plenty of people secure a financial freedom, and finally e) if we understand that mobility is essentially a jump from mindset to mindset. We cannot change this environment, but if we can change, tune and launch ourselves into opportunities, we still have a chance.

It is easier said than done. We must observe that the lack of entrepreneurial culture itself, is our biggest obstacle and our greatest weakness. We need not go far but our own past cultural roots and values to assess what our challenges and possibilities are. Obviously, there are factors that may impede our growth into entrepreneurship. The most profound of them is our social background. As farmers, our predecessors always saw the land and the cash crops as the ultimate way to wealth creation. It was a life led in simplicity and ‘security. Neither business nor jobs was in their DNA. Hence, they were not wired for entrepreneurship and business was never their cup of tea. That sharply contradicts with the life we are leading as new settlers in new countries. From all ‘manual’ to all ‘machines’ – we have converted into new ‘robots’ of capitalism. We trade time for a rate; and trading time for money is probably the worst way of acquiring wealth. But we still need to wrestle every day with machines that use different technology. Some call it a ‘job’, others may call it an ‘opportunity’; and still others call it a ‘rat race’ or a ‘deception’. Call it whatever you may but having a full time job is necessary as it puts food on the table and pays our bills. However, it should not be our dream to work at the job until age 65 years and retire in a shelter.
Apart from these cultural fissures, there is no major hurdle that could impinge how we grow. Certain positive attributes already exist in our community – social cohesion, a strong ambition, language abilities and an upcoming generation that has quite a good grasp of community culture as well a dream to grow. If groomed properly, they could be the future change makers of our community. Development theories have always stressed on having a human goal; not a money goal. The human goal usually flows through acquaintances of people networked in blocks. Our job is to find, recruit and unlock the entrepreneurial potential of our aspiring community members. Their expansive invlovement, volunteerism and participation is necessary to trigger the growth needed. If they can transform their dreams into an enterprise and synchronize it with the needs and priories of the community, then our chances look very green.

A community is a dynamic creature. It continues to evolve and grow. Growing needs guidance. The process of evolution and change offers this opportunity to guide. Any thing that does not evolve will eventually become obsolete or naturally die out. We rather accept this, and evolve creatively – or else we will become fossils in the chapters of history. Evolution is a test of life – life ceases when evolution stops. A society stirs up dynamism unto itself through a synergy like this. Indeed, societies need some chaos, some conflict and some cooperation to evolve and grow. A chaotic society strives hard to solve its problems; and by solving them, it grows. Imagine a perfect society – it has no problems; hence, it would not evolve. Look at history – some countries that have gone through very chaotic situations stand stronger than the ones that have experienced a prolonged period of uninterrupted peace.

This reminds us of a theory in economics called ‘Creative Destruction’. Creative Destruction is a term that fundamentally denotes the ‘death of old institutions due to the emergence of newly created ones’. We need to remind ourselves that the dynamics of creative destruction is still acting on us. It demands that in order to evolve creatively; we voluntarily destroy the ills of our society – the excuses we make, the indecisions we face, the fear we want to avoid, the failure we want to escape, the risk we shudder to take, the skepticisms, the negatives, the tendency for self disqualification, the laid back nature of some people, the habit of taking things for granted and the belief in fatalism etc. In addition, there is this attitude – ‘I want to know everything before I do anything’ or ‘I have to see you do it successfully before I decide to do it’. Such attitudes will only freeze our creative potential and put us in a serious competitive disadvantage. If we want to evolve constructively; we need to let go all of these undesirable ills of our community; and this is the first recovery strategy.

The second strategy is to be careful choosing opportunites. Though there is no bad opportunity, we need to seek and seize only the better ones. Understand that all opportunities are filled with some promises and problems; they come needing some exploration and work. Some opportunities are easier to access while others are easier to work. It needs both abilities and activities to make an opportunity real. A person who has opened himself to new opportunities, has opened different windows for his success. The most open minded person usually becomes the ultimate winner.

To make our chances more certain, we need to look for and qualify opportunities that suits and serves us in better ways. In that sense, a network business alone seems to open up bigger windows of opportunity. Guess what? In the world of business today, network business is a game changer; it is often the first word in business. Its potential for viral growth makes it an invincible contender against any other high potential opportunities, in creating success. If we embrace, own and develop the right networking opportunity; then our chances of securing our long term financial interests look quite possible. A networking business pretty much comes with the following features : a low start up cost both in terms of time and money; a quicker, predictable and a higher rate of returns on investment (ROI); a potential of generating a big passive income in the long run; it is almost risk free; that someone even with little – time, money, education and experience can do it; that it knows no down turns and starts to profit immediately; that can be done both part time as well as full time; that which runs on a proven system and provides a level playing field for all; that even an average person can succeed through effective duplication; that which requires almost a zero operational cost etc. The key is that everything for your success comes in a kit except you. You complete the circle and have fun.

The chance of winning is greater if the modus operandi mentioned above is your strategy. But if you think the opposite of every point mentioned above; that becomes a traditional small business. As we can see, the odds will be heavily pitted against the investor in a scenario like this.

Whether it is in a traditional business or a networking business, success is basically a slave of our mindset. Simply throwing ourselves into the opportunity does not guarantee anything. A winner’s mindset, a hard core discipline and willingness to persist is what it demands on a habitual basis. In business, consistency and discipline often beats talent. Very often, our mindset is a hostage to our beliefs and value systems of the past. As much as the transition continues to proceed, the irrelevance of our past experience demands a transformation that undercuts some of our cultural values and habits. Bottom line – we need to change. Change begins when we change our language, thought process and the books we read. Our language must be toned to the positive – the hope and optimism. Our thought process must be elite and uplifting. Reading books like ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ to name a few, will improve both our language and thought process. The point is not to have the books just to burn them later. There are worse crimes than burning books; one of them is not reading them. Let our children learn about Henry Ford, Dale Carnege, Walt Disney, Akio Morita, Bill Gates, Wayne Huizenga, Oprah Winfrey and Ray Kroc etc. These were all great entrepreneurs, who made not just history, but history without theories. An investment in knowledge always builds the best interest.
Reading books – we grow from ignorance to perseverance. Research says people who do not read books make less than $32,000 per year; people who read technology and trade magazines make $32,000 – $7,200 per year; and people who read people oriented mentorship books normally make a six figure income annually. These incomes come from four different sources – entry level jobs, vocational jobs, professional jobs and entrepreneurial endeavor, respectively.

People who make just about 30,000 dollars a year start with entry level jobs and remain at the same level, most of the time. People who make $32,000 – $7,200 gross income per year mostly work vocational jobs of different kinds – plumbers, electric technicians, nurses, some computer engineers, teachers to name a few make up this category. Doctors, engineers, lawyers, professors, chartered accountants normally earn an annual six figure income. They read profession related materials and seek promotion within their own field of training. The only people who make seven figure incomes monthly or annually are the entrepreneurs. They read mentorship and leadership books. Except the entrepreneurs, all the others earn a linear income. A linear income depends on the person, his time and his rate. In other words, they still sell their hours for dollars. A linear income just helps to make a living but is not enough to make a fortune.

The linear nature of the income is the cause of economic stratification. Society assigns people a role according to income structure they are in; not on the basis of how much they work or what they do. And the income accrued by them is the product of mindset they have. The worker bee could be very talented, intelligent, smart and hard working; yet his role in the society is to assist the winners achieve their dreams. The worker bee is saddled with a ‘play it safe’ mindset. Because he is concerned more about ‘survival’ than ‘success’, the worker bee normally chooses the path of least resistance, scorns adversity and hates to pay the price. Success does not appeal his sense of mind. He believes success is about beating someone else; in reality it is about besting himself every day. The worker bee likes to win by playing the victim rather than actually winning the game. A smoker wants to sue the tobacco company for his illness; a fast food junkie blames the restaurant for his obesity.

It is all about expectations and dreams. Low expectations yield lower outputs. The worker bee knows each of us have the same opportunity and there is a way up for him too; yet he does not expect that it will happen for him. While his needs are so pressing, he closes his eyes and keeps a sneaking suspicion about any opportunity. An injured ego and a broken mindset reign in his life. With a big ego like that he cannot see small opportunities. What is worse, he keeps finding excuses to avoid them. He has murdered the seed of entrepreneurship in him long ago.

That is not the way of the entrepreneur. The entreprenuer does not think like a worker bee. He always keeps himself within the success zone. He thinks out of the box and embraces tools such as compound interest, network marketing, investments, joint ventures, strategic alliances, time leveraging etc to build wealth. Above all, he invests in his business tools and in his success. Lately, the entrepreneur has started to utilize something that for a very long time has remained a monopoly only of the sports world – if you want success – hire a coach. The entreprenuer surrounds himself with a team of personal coaches – experts, consultants, mentors and counselors – and hires their knowledge to create his fortune.
He sees something that others miss or understands something that others don’t. He finds opportunities where others only see risk; he identifies possibilities where people only see problems. He approaches problems and opportunities with a higher level of commitment, vision and passion. He grabs opportunities in seconds and creates different ‘opportunity portfolios’; and takes full charge and responsibility for every venture. He experiments intelligently, focuses ruthlessly and discards unprofitable ventures intensely. He accepts and overcomes any amount of challenges, risks, failure or even rejections; in order to achieve one major success. He knows success needs supplies; necessary fodders during the journey – investments, smart work, sense of urgency, focus and discipline. Finally, the entrepreneur abandons the employee mindset. They do not sell time to get paid. That is the entrepreneur’s creed – his secret sauce.

The mindset is the key. It is possible to change any status if we move from mindset to mindset. The journey from a worker bee to an entrepreneur is not too long if the mindset is right. People who are unwilling to change the mindset, cannot jump status in any society; people who change and pay the price succeed in any enterprise. The higher the price they pay, the higher the success they reap. The good thing is that, unlike in a field race, competition in human life accepts multiple winners in multiple areas, even after multiple failures. So we have a chance to try as many times as we possibly can. As long as we keep trying, we have a chance versus no chance. Keep looking, keep trying.

Begging for Entrepreneurs
The entrepreneurs are often characterized as free wheeling mavericks of the business world, and are widely regarded as integral players in any community. They emerge from within the population and rise up to help their communities in different ways. Entrepreneurs come from all walks of life – with experience, with no experience; with a lot of education, with a very little education, with lots of capital, with no capital etc, but through hard work and discipline, they rise up to become the movers and shakers.
Are you an entreprenurial material? You can become one if you seek a career path in entrepreneurship just like you do for engineering or medicine. So far, ‘I want you to become a doctor or an engineer’ has been the standard parental prescription for children in our society. We need to broaden this stereotype and learn to say ‘I wanted you to become an entrepreneur or a CPA too’. Just as in a Buddhist household where children are taught to be non-violent; or in a Jewish household, where children are traditionally taught to become successful entrepreneurs; we need to tailor all our efforts into this ‘becoming’. At the end, nothing is as powerful as entrepreneurship.

Now, I do not consider myself qualified to write anything like this by experience. I however do so, simply on the basis of some studies I have done so far; and on faith that by sharing this, I may be able to help some one. The attainment of financial security is the most fundamental interest of all human beings. So, I sent out a message to a selected group of friends requesting them to make a ‘Declaration of Financial Independence’ on July 4th. A lot of my friends received the message positively and some of them even asked me to develop it in the form an article. In their feelings, the message had to reach the larger audience through BNS – hence this article. July 4th has come and it is gone. But this message had not gone to you. So, it is here; belated July 4th to every one. At this time, you can close your eyes and fast forward your life fifteen – twenty years from now and visualize what will happen to your dreams. Will they materialize, with what you make now or with what you do now? Then, make a self declaration of your financial independence and go for it.