In light of MLK day, I found it only fitting that we shine a spotlight on the civil rights hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Today, we’re covering 5 entrepreneurial lessons we can learn and implement from his extraordinary life. MLK, was a visionary, an activist, a catalyst for change and an entrepreneur. Yes, you heard that right. An entrepreneur. Check out the five things we can all learn from him and emulate into our own lives.
5) Don't accept the status Quo
There’s only one constant in society: Change. At the time that Dr. King gave his famous speech at the Mall in Washington, racism had been entrenched in American culture for centuries. Dr. King challenged the status quo, and raised awareness of a different and better future that could be built from positive change action. Similarly, businesses often are averse to changing long-held positions, or denying that major changes for the better can take place, with or without them. Only a few years ago, “experts” were saying that people would never adopt a fully electric vehicle like Tesla Motors’ Model S, and that the age of gas guzzling SUV’s would continue to dominate the auto industry for many years to come. We know how that turned out. Thanks Elon Musk for not accepting the status quo.
4) Change happens in the blink of an Eye
Popular attitudes, mindsets, and paradigms change quickly. From civil rights, feminine empowerment, gay rights, and now the legalization of marijuana; it’s becoming more commonplace for mass idealogical notions to crumble to make room for new ideas. The great thing about this nation is that through organic movements and positive developments, and supplemented through viral content, paradigm shifts can occur quick and frequently. Fifty years ago, the access to information, news and media was dramatically less. Now, all of us, through the tools of social media, blogs, and smart phone cameras are journalists – empowering us, the people, to voice our opinions, connect with masses of people and organize to spark change. The present day is truly a beautiful world to live in. Looking back, MLK knew that if he could connect with as many people as possible who resonated with his ideology, he could organize and create a movement, and he acted upon it. This lesson is important in our own businesses and startups. Engage and connect with the people who share the same problem or pain point. Inspire them with content (just like how MLK delivered speeches) that compels the gathering of supporters and believers, which will inevitably allow you to create demand for your product or service. Attitudes change quickly – especially after positive developments occur and everyone sees the correctness of the change. This is true vis-à-vis business as well. Consider how quickly Blockbuster went from market leader to bankruptcy, or how fast smartphones penetrated the overall mobile device market.
3) He Taught us the Power of Having a Large Following
Dr. King accomplished the art of building a following long before Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West even began their careers. King was an amazing speaker who inspired millions of people with his words. But never forget the fact that it’s the people who he had inspired that made the civil rights movement possible. It was the masses of people who collaborated, marched, and influenced the politicians that ultimately sparked change. As just one person with an idea, you are no one. Hustle, establish yourself as an authority and influencer (see post) and inspire others to do great impactful work. Just as King had his grassroots movement, it’s important for you to have one as well. In the current times we live in – the age of information - it is much easier than the 1960’s to reach large masses of people. If you have a great message, a voice that needs to be heard, and a problem that needs to be solved: Voice it and inspire others to join you.
2) Success = Hard Work
Nothing great happens overnight. The civil rights movement was achieved through hard work, enduring oppression, constant rejection and the sacrifices of many – some of which included lives. Fortunately, entrepreneurs do not need to make such giant sacrifices, but the same values and traits exemplified by the members of the civil rights movement can be leveraged in the startup world. Igniting change and achieving success does not usually happen without hard work. Sure, there are some startups that skyrocket to the top, and yes, there are some people who get rich quickly. But, the vast majority of businesses are built with a lot of time and effort. Don’t expect to succeed without working hard. Wake up earlier, study smarter, perform harder, and put in the time. The journey is the true indication of future success. Own it.
1) Executing on Your Dreams
Everyone remembers the vivid line from Dr. King’s’ 1963 speech — “I have a dream.” It’s important to have dreams, to let your creativity and imagination guide you, which many of you do. But most people don’t ever take that first step and work their butts off to make their dreams into a reality like Dr. King did. Great ideas for new products, services, startups, and inspirations for art and science migrate from the creative minds of their innovators and into the trash can everyday. Take this day to never accept that fate for your creativity or your dreams. Strive everyday to take your dreams to stages of execution. It’s just a matter of taking one step a day. To be an entrepreneur is to dream - to wonder what’s possible – but it is more important to take action.
Cheers to a true American hero and role model for all of us to look up to.
For those of you who haven't read his entire biography, I highly encourage you do to so, as there are numerous lessons we can learn from his life.
Clayborne Carson's version (see below) is the one I found most comprehensive as it's filled with juicy backstories and personal dimensions to the movement that I found very interesting.
Keep hustling my friends!