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Just saw this– sent from a “millenial” (generation in their 20’s) to whom I’m closely connected: http://huff.to/17oafCp. What I keep hearing and seeing anecdotally–that the young college graduates I know are lining up for unpaid internships, encountering hundreds of applicants for any non-service industry jobs that pay less than a living wage at best–is backed up by this piece in the Huffington Post. We are supposedly 4 years into a recovery– the stock market is strong and corporate profits and top executive salaries are at record highs– but the jobs, incomes, and opportunities under the traditional system are in measurable decline. Wages are flat, even down in real money terms– while the basic costs of living flow relentlessly uphill. (Case in point– a Verizon smart phone costs the average person $100+ a month for minimum data and minutes. I recently priced it. A person today is basically unemployable today without mobile access. Verizon told me that even their non-data phone plans, will cost you about $75/month soon. No average person’s wage is keeping up with inflation like this).

The only answer for millions of new generation Americans–trained to expect good jobs to be handed to them after following all the rules in school–trained to be job seekers and optimizers and keepers of the status quo– is a paradigm shift: to learn to think more like job creators. In short, to think like entrepreneurs. That means learning in schools to take a different view of risk, a different view of what a job is, a different view of the future. The entrepreneurs will make the jobs, make the new markets, make the innovations that will keep us in a leadership role–or not. We need a new national priority–to expose children to entrepreneurship in the same way we expose them to math and science at the earliest age. This priority is as important as any wartime mobilization this country has ever had. It needs come from the top down–including our political leaders.

Otherwise– we can’t get there from here. The 1% is flying along. But even they must realize that their jet is going to hit a mountain if the vast majority can’t afford to sustain the banks and corporations whose equity is the basis of their wealth.

We are the original entrepreneur nation. We need to remember it and recommit our whole system to it,  now.

 

 

 

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Entrepreneurship is learning that never ends. So most entrepreneurs will tell you that at least one great teacher or ‘mentor’ was a key to their success along the way. In fact, even the most accomplished entrepreneurs never stop being on the lookout for new mentors. We should, too.

But what should we be looking for? What you should be expecting when you find one? Here’s what we’ve learned from experience:

You’re not looking for a tutor. The kind of mentor you want–a successful, busy person–won’t be able to give you that kind of time. In fact, some of the people we’d consider our greatest mentors we might have only talked to once or twice in our careers—but the advice was so right at the right time, it caused a critical inflection point. So it’s quality not quantity. A mentor sees what you don’t see, knows what you don’t know—not because they’re smarter–but because they’ve got thousands more swings at the plate than you have. They’ve simply seen more patterns and connected more dots. But most of all–they see your problem from outside—an awesome perspective that you could never get unless you’re prone to having out of body experiences.

Mentors need you as much as they need them. Human beings have an instinctive need to pass the knowledge they treasure to the next generation. Mentors are successful people who are grateful for their success and know they owe their own mentors for it. They’re looking for someone to give it back to. They’re looking for you. So take the pressure off yourself–if you keep looking, asking and talking to people, you’ll find each other.

Mentors don’t work for hire, so you can’t just point and choose any mentor you want. Like any personal relationship, you can’t force it–there needs to be a little chemistry for both of you. It’s one more reason entrepreneurs are always on the lookout because like the loves of your life, the mentors of your life don’t come along every day. But they are there, in places you might never have expected to encounter them. They are always attracted by honest and sincere motives and mission.

Mentors may have great answers and advice—but ultimately they can only give you one kind: their answers—from their lives, their businesses and their unique circumstances. These may or may not prove to be yours. The ultimate answers for you are the ones you teach yourself by doing, feeling and internalizing on your own personal journey. Olympic Gold Medal winner Michael Phelps can tell you everything there is to know about swimming. But you have to jump in and get wet to understand it. A skydiving champion can teach you all about skydiving—but not what it feels like step through your own fear, step out that door into open space, and fly one time. Mentors can guide you and coach you, even save you years of trial and error with a single big bit of wisdom. But only you can truly teach you. Mentors are marvelous. But only motion is magic.

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We learned a lot about Fear on our journey to write The UnStoppables. For each individual, Fear is the most primitive of emotions. It was designed a million years ago to keep us from danger. But in the process, it became the great stopper of dreams, innovative ideas and creative action. As the Navy SEALs say, it makes you stay in your hole. We learned that Fear even distorts our thinking processes and colors our perceptions with dark tones.

We must learn to outwit this quick, dumb animal inside of us so we can dare to take regular, intelligent risks. We must learn to accept “intelligent failure” to make individual progress–especially in our new age of constant accelerating change. We can never eliminate Fear, but we can tame it. And when we do, just like breaking a wild horse, we turn the beast into our own power.

Now collect hundreds or thousands of individuals into a modern entity called a corporation. To survive in a world ruled by accelerating change, this corporation must do what individuals need to do. It must be innovative, creative, adaptive and ready to take decisive action. Its collective personality and tradition–that is, its culture–has to allow the group to take intelligent risks and to accept intelligent failures, just like individuals do.

But what happens when a corporate culture is designed to maintain and even promote Fear–the way traditional command and control cultures of big companies were set up to do in decades past? What happens when the culture punishes any weakness or mistake, when intelligent risk taking is considered dangerous for any one but the owners or top leaders–where any misstep might be an excuse for a firing, rather than a means to learn, refine and improve?

The answer is that the impulse to innovate in cultures like this is effectively killed. The impulse to create and to dare is quashed. The ability to adapt and grow in an age of constant accelerating change is chained to a stake in the yard.

Big corporate Fear cultures can no longer compete in a global marketplace that demands every ounce of creativity, energy and engagement its employees have to offer if they are to have any chance of winning the economic future.

It’s just that simple. It was okay in the 20th century when America had no one to compete against. Corporate leaders could create whatever kinds of cultures they wanted and still win. Not now.

In the war for the future, companies of all sizes need to be innovative to the core. To be innovative they need to be entrepreneurial. To be entrepreneurial, the culture must celebrate a belief in intelligent risk in service of the mission–belief in learning, belief in customers and in the creativity inherent in all engaged employees. Belief that value is not created by Fear, but by turning Fear around together.

To be innovative and to succeed, the culture must allow its people to be entrepreneurs in spirit. Fear cultures kill it. Belief cultures multiply it.

It’s our responsibility to win the war for the future. We can’t get there from Fear.