Entrepreneurs create change, they lead, and leave an imprint on the world. In some cases they even aspire to leave a mark elsewhere in the solar system. While our attention is often drawn to modern day business icons, the spirit can be found embedded in history.
William H. Murray was a Scottish mountaineer and writer. He spent three years as a prisoner of war where he continued to write even after the destruction of his initial manuscripts.
Mountaineering itself began as an attempt to reach the highest point of an unclimbed mountain. To climb with skill, with the ability to cover rock, snow or ice. This is not unlike many aspects of Entrepreneurship.
In The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, he wrote a now famous quote:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
This resonates with me at every level. It’s a simple truth that many overlook because they extrapolate failure before the start. I appreciate those that did begin, as they charted the known world. They explored the unknown at great risk.
Other excerpts from the same book offer a more vibrant illustration:
“However, we were encouraged even by the doubters, who argued that although our plans were likely to collapse we should learn how to do better another time.”
It's easy to suggest that a plan will not work. It takes much more energy, deliberation and intellect to determine why it will work. Doubters have been hard at work long before 1951.
“Let us have what skill we may, and push our plans however strenuously, we remain utterly dependent on Providence for bringing them to their best conclusion— which may not be the end that we ourselves had hoped for them.”
Even with vigorous execution, some things are left outside our control. Hard work, intellect, and passion are only a fragment of the required ingredients.
“We have to act as best we know and surrender the fruits: be not attached to them, but learn to accept the consequence of all acts serenely, knowing that all acts are turned to good as soon as they have come to pass: whatever seemingly good or ill fortunes comes to immediate result to ourselves.”
Murray had no cash or resources to set out on this expedition. Not only did the team not have a specific plan, but they didn't have everything needed even for a rough plan.
“How is an expedition organized?
Take the initiative. Organize one yourself.”
As it turns out, it’s a few people that are fully committed.
“We learned not to be unduly secretive in advance about an expedition. There are more people willing to help such a venture than we had dared imagine.”
Without the help of men yet unknown to him the expedition may not have been possible. These men provided rations, directions, sage advice, and companionship for the adventure.
“While there are men alive to read that sign in the skies, the mountain will draw their hearts..and the sacrifice will be offered, and will be accepted, and the expedition will set out.”
After the start, we must protect the values and strength of our heart to continue the ascent.
“We were, of course, all mountaineers.”