Henry Ford, the founder of the American automaker Ford Motor Company, is widely recognized not only for his accomplishments, but for his way of thinking and leading. His legacy is filled with terrific quotes and memories which collectively point toward a powerful philosophy of entrepreneurship. I can think of few other figures to turn to for inspiration as I navigate the entrepreneurial landscape each and every day. With this in mind, let’s take a look at five entrepreneurship lessons from Henry Ford.
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1. Be so good at what you do that people think you invented it.
Henry Ford often gets credited as the man who invented automobiles. This was not remotely true, but Ford was indeed so passionate about automobiles, and so instrumental to their presence in American and world culture, that he regularly gets credit for it.
I’m not suggesting that anyone steal credit from others; that would be unethical. But what I am suggesting is that you go at your work with such a strong spirit of passion and excellence that the kind of work you do becomes an inextricable part of the market you serve. Just like pop culture sometimes credit Al Gore with inventing the Internet (even though he only allowed for its development in a legal sense), or crown filmmaker Stanley Kubrick as the inventor of computerized motion-picture special effects for his work on “2001: A Space Odyssey” (even though in truth he used no computers on that film; he simply laid the groundwork for effects that would later become computerized), people will come to perceive and define you as a pioneer in your work if you attend to that work with major presence and power.
This is not about honing your image. It’s about liberating your highest truth. Do what you love, what ignites your most fervent and excited emotions. When you do so, you’ll find that your love is contagious, and the better you get at what you do, the more people will love that thing, as well.
Eventually, you’ll become more than the person who bakes the cake. You’ll become the person who MADE the cake in the first place.
2. Failures are opportunities.
Ford failed many times before he finally succeeded. Such a trajectory is incredibly common among entrepreneurs. Human beings tend to downplay their failures, but the truth is that no person is immune to failure, which is a good thing, since failures are merely opportunities disguised as negative events.
As Ford once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” In other words, we must take our failures as our teachers.
Naturally, no one likes the experience of failure. It’s very disruptive to our sense of optimism and momentum when our plans do not work out. However, we can only benefit from changing the way we tend to think about failure.
When failures occur, try not to focus on the emotional disappointment, and try instead to focus on the intellectual gain. Within every failure is valuable information: What did we do wrong? How might we approach things differently next time?
Failures are simply a form of feedback we receive in the course of the life experience. They educate us on what doesn’t work for us. If we fail to listen, and keep repeating ourselves, then we truly are doomed to failure. But if we tune in close, and cultivate a habit of revising our trajectories when failure strikes, we stand a chance at truly succeeding in the end.
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