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企业家不是天生的  

2011-10-08 10:53:47|  分类: 成长之路 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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作者:英国《金融时报》专栏作家 卢克.约翰逊

 

在过去几周里,我向一些企业主做了不少演讲。听众向我提出的最普遍的问题大概是:“是什么造就了一名企业家?”我通常的回答是,自信和自律是两个最重要的品质。

这是我在读到《纽约时报》(New York Times)一篇关于儿童教育的绝妙文章之前的回答。这篇文章题为《如果成功的秘诀是失败怎么办?》(What if the Secret to Success is Failure?),作者是保罗?图赫(Paul Tough)。这篇文章认为,孩子在学校最值得看重的成功标志,不是背景或考试成绩,而是性格品质。显然,最重要的七种性格品质是:有强烈的兴趣、勇敢、有自控力、社交能力强、有感恩之心、乐观和好奇心强。我意识到,这些品质也可以用作定义企业家的标准。

许多人认为性格是DNA的一部分,不是从后天经验中获得的。我不同意这一点:有人说过,“性格不是天生的,而是后天养成的”。一位企业家的根本品质会在他的公司面临危机时展露出来;这是他们从长远来看会有何等表现的最佳衡量标准。歌德(Goethe)曾写道:“人世间的惊涛骇浪,最能磨练人的品性。”

尽管我坚信,企业家是后天造就的,而非天生的,但经营一家属于自己的公司更多是响应一种召唤,而不是从事一种循规蹈矩的职业。这条路不存在标准化的培训,像其他许多职业那样,比如音乐、艺术或者医学。职业技能、家庭背景、社会关系,这些都不如对独立和冒险的渴望来得重要。显然,“动物精神”——这个神奇的词汇出自经济学家约翰?梅纳德?凯恩斯(John Maynard Keynes),用来描述对机会的渴求——在这里是至高无上的。如果没有那种抓住当下的紧迫感,所有努力都可能白费。

单有野心几乎是不可能成功的;刻苦工作的能力、付诸实践的勇气和坚持到底的意志比野心重要得多。

维多利亚时期的价值观似乎也越来越受到重视。我刚刚读了一本极棒的新书,名为《意志力:重新发现人类最伟大的力量》(Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength)。它一部分是自助手册,一部分是心理学教科书。对任何想要创业的人来说,书中的许多建议都是适用的。在某种程度上,它是塞缪尔?斯迈尔斯(Samuel Smiles)向第一批实业家致敬之作——《自助》(Self-Help)——在21世纪的翻版。如今,人们面临更多的诱惑和干扰,因此如果一个人想要有所作为,自律或许比以往任何时候都更为重要。

书中大部分的忠告似乎都在讲应该避免哪些缺点。我观察到了一些反复出现的弱点,它们困扰着许多未来的企业家。首先是对失败的不理智恐惧:他们无法合理对待自主创业的不利方面;其次是做事拖拉,不愿意做决定;第三是分不清事物的优先次序。克服这些普遍的问题,取得进步的机会就会大大提高。

最早的资本家深知性格的重要性。传奇银行家J?P?摩根(J.P. Morgan)曾被问道:“商业信用难道不是以金钱或者财产为首要依据的吗?”他回答道:“不,最要紧的是性格。”

当然,对于古代的伦理学家来说,企业家具备的某些特点很难说是理想的。比如,白手起家的人从骨子里就是自我中心主义者,要把他们对某项新事业的看法强加给整个世界。真正谦卑的人永远不可能完成这样的使命。对于那些想要在资本主义世界大获成功的人来说,谨慎几乎不是优点——的确,在某种程度上事实正相反。并且,我所认识的所有企业家都有极强的好胜心,这或许并不是美德,但却是至关重要的品质。

我们大部分人都承认,我们的思想和习惯都是在挑战和挣扎中——而不是轻易的成功和任性妄为中——慢慢养成的。在某种程度上,工作的安逸、一份稳定工作带来的安全感,使许多人免于遭受残酷的市场中所不可避免的艰难困苦。而这种保护并不总是有利的。战胜困难,在奋力拼搏之后获得一个个胜利,这些才是工作带来的最高奖赏。这无疑是生活最重要的意义之一,也塑造着一个人的性格。

译者/方舟

 

 

A crisis is the only way to test your value

 

By Luke Johnson

 

Over the past few weeks, I have delivered a number of speeches to business owners. Perhaps the most common question I’m asked by audiences is: “What makes an entrepreneur?” My typical answer is that self-confidence and self-discipline are the two most important traits.

That is until I read a fascinating article about educating children in the New York Times (“What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” by Paul Tough). The essay postulates that the most worthwhile indicator of success at school for a child is not background or test scores but character. And the seven aspects of personality that apparently matter most are zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity. I realised that such a list could equally be the defining criteria for entrepreneurs.

Many people think character is part of one’s DNA, and not derived from experience. I disagree: as someone once said, “character is not given but earned”. An entrepreneur’s essence is revealed when their company is faced with a crisis; it is the best measure of how they will perform in the long run. As Goethe wrote: “Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.”

Even though it is my firm belief that entrepreneurs are made, not born, running your own business is more of a calling than a conventional career. There is no standard training, as there is for so many other vocations, like music, art or medicine. Qualifications, family, connections – these are much less influential than the desire for independence and an appetite for adventure. “Animal spirits” – that curious phrase coined by economist John Maynard Keynes to describe a hunger for opportunity – are clearly paramount. Without that urge to seize the day, then all efforts are likely to come to nothing.

Ambition by itself is almost irrelevant; a capacity for hard work, the courage to execute and the willingness to persevere are far more important.

It seems there might even be a boom in Victorian values. I have just read an excellent new book called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. It is part self-help manual, part psychology text. Much of the advice could apply to anyone wanting to run a start-up. In some ways it is a 21st century reworking of Samuel Smiles’ great celebration of the first industrialists, Self-Help. Today there are many more temptations and distractions, and so the need for self-discipline – if one desires to lead a productive life – is perhaps greater than ever.

Most of the tips in the book seem to be about the vices to avoid. I have observed certain recurring weaknesses that bedevil many would-be entrepreneurs. The first is an irrational fear of failure: they cannot put the downsides of self-employment into proportion; the second is procrastination, an unwillingness to make a decision; and the third is an inability to prioritise. Overcome these common problems and one’s chances of making progress are much improved.

The founding capitalists knew about character. J.P. Morgan, the legendary banker, was once asked “Is not commercial credit based primarily on money or property?”. He replied: “No sir, the first thing is character.”

Of course, certain features possessed by entrepreneurs would hardly appear ideal to the ancient moral philosophers. For example, those who create enterprises from nothing are by nature egotists, impressing their vision of a new undertaking upon the world. The truly humble could never carry out a task like that. And prudence is hardly an asset for those who want to make it big in capitalism – indeed the opposite is true to at least a degree. Moreover, all entrepreneurs I know are fiercely competitive – probably not a virtue, but a crucial ingredient, nevertheless.

Most of us acknowledge that our minds and habits evolve from challenges and struggles, rather than easy wins and overindulgence. In a way, the comfort of employment, the safety of a steady job, insulates many from the inevitable hardships of a tough marketplace. Yet such protection is not altogether healthy. Threats overcome, individual victories won after real striving – these are the most rewarding experiences of work. That is surely one of the great purposes in life, and what forges one’s character.

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