I came across this USA Today article about entrepreneurs and the influence received from their mothers. The article focuses on a new documentary, Lemonade Stories. Here’s the description of the documentary:
Introducing Lemonade Stories, a film by Mary Mazzio about extraordinary entrepreneurs and their mothers. This film focuses on how mothers have contributed to the entrepreneurial spirit of their sons and daughters, as well as the influence these mothers have had on their children in terms of instilling a responsibility to give back to the community.
Now that I think about this concept, I can’t wait to see the film. I have many of the characteristics mentioned in the USA Today article. Whether or not I’ll have success in my new business is undetermined, but I am an entrepreneur. As the article points out in a quote from Earl Graves, Sr., the founder of Black Enterprise magazine: “You have to have a junkyard-dog mentality.” I have that and I got it from my mom.
Whenever I switched projects at my previous employer, I sought projects that would provide me with opportunities to move my career in the best direction for my interests. This often conflicted with management’s idea of what I should do next. I seldom got what I wanted, but I always got more than I would have if I’d kept quiet and been a “company guy”. At one point, I had a manager ask me why I “couldn’t just go along.” It’s the way I’ve always been. It’s in my blood.
During graduate school, I was the Administrative Chairman of SEED. As the Admin Chair, I was part of the 4-member Executive Committee responsible for leading the organization. In every vote, we needed a majority. Don’t ask me why the founders never included a tiebreaker in the by-laws, but that’s the way it was. For our team, that wasn’t a problem because the vote on virtually every issue was 3-1. I was always the dissenter in those 3-1 votes.
One of our tasks was recruiting and “hiring” new members, when necessary. (Students didn’t receive payment or class credit, but the experience was invaluable.) In trying to move SEED from the culture of a club to that of a professional organization, we implemented higher standards for our members. At one point during the academic year, we had to recruit a replacement for a member who didn’t fulfill his duties. When deciding upon his replacement, we had two finalists. Everyone wanted one individual, except for me. I voted against the candidate, which makes no difference, since we had a majority. (To my friend Charles’ credit, he let the debate continue for 2 hours to hear my side.)
I’d believed that he wouldn’t perform well in the role. Without a concrete reason other than a hunch, I knew it was the wrong decision. His resume was impressive on the surface, but I sensed something. I’m not a genius at HR matters, but I’ve learned to trust my intuition, especially when it’s as strong as it was. So I fought. And fought. And lost.
We brought the new guy into the team. He eased into his role, then proceeded to perform as I’d predicted for the remainder of the year. We’d made the wrong decision, but we were better prepared to deal with the situation because I refused to give in.
I’m the ideal dissenter. Like my mom, I’d rather stand up for what’s right than go along to avoid a fight. It’s more troublesome, but I can’t accept less. As Michael Faber writes about Mrs. Emmeline Fox not being the leader of the Rescue Society in The Crimson Petal and the White, “Not that she ever would be: she was born to be a dissenter within a larger certainty, she knows that.”
I can live with that, but in not submitting to conformity, I became an entrepreneur. Thanks mom.