I’m delighted to have been asked to be one of the keynote speakers on the launch of Fort Collins Start Up Week.

In that talk, I’ll be sharing my ideas on the very tangible possibilities for entrepreneurs and other creatives behind Kahlil Gibran’s oft-quoted line from The Prophet: “Work is Love Made Visible”.

So what’s Love got to do with being an entrepreneur?

Easy! Entrepreneurs have a Love of… and a Love for…

Entrepreneurs have a Love of… ideas, solutions, building things, growing things, selling things…they love taking things from the realm of formless idea or thought to its physical manifestation in a product or service. They Create. That’s why their work is Love made visible.

And entrepreneurs have a Love for…making a difference, contribution, service, improving the world’s situation. They make the things they make so they can feel the buzz of all that creating (including making – possibly – a load of money) AND so that the world notices that they have been there. They’ve left the world with one less problem to endure. They’ve left the world better off. They’ve improved its condition. They Serve. That’s Love in action.

‘But, but, but!’ some would warn me. You don’t want paint too rosy a picture. You’ll be ignoring the doubts, insecurities and the very real, everyday challenges that also come with the life of being an entrepreneur. (And which they often find difficult to talk about and share). “Every new setback threatening to chip away at the emotional heart of our original vision”, as one entrepreneur said to me recently.

To which I say Yes. Entrepreneurs have chosen a way of operating in the world that is meaningful to us and often inspirational to others – and we’ve chosen out of the cubicle and the corporate shuffle – but that doesn’t mean we get things all our own way. It’s far from being all rosy!

Our path brings its particular rewards and its real challenges. And not because anything is going wrong – but because that is part of the journey.

Entrepreneurs are adventurers and risk-takers. When Richard Cantillon in 1755 gave us the first formal definition of the word ‘entrepreneur’ he used the term ‘adventurer’ to underline the inherent risk and reward in any entrepreneurial endeavor (and to distinguish it from ‘ordinary’ business).

Much of my work around leadership in organizations centers on the power of Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey’ process, which teaches us that the dragons and demons and other challenges (internal and external) that the Hero faces on the Quest are not just inevitable but sent for the specific purpose of the Hero’s growth and development. The Hero cannot find the treasure and return home being the same person he or she was when they set out on the adventure. They change external reality by taking action as they do (eg the evil wizard is slain), but they are also shaped by everything they experience.

Where you stumble, there your treasure lies    Joseph Campbell

From this we can discover the other great truth – that no challenge is given to us which is not designed for our ultimate good, and which we cannot access the resources to overcome. And that’s an amazing life to lead – even if it doesn’t always feel like that in the day-to-day.

What’s your Quest? Don’t lose sight of that. And embrace the dragons!

The other wonderful insight I share from Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey’ is that, contrary to popular belief, the Quest does not end when the dragon is killed and the treasure is found. There’s always another stage – the homecoming. The Heroes have to Return Home so that they can share their story (so that new Heroes can be inspired).

I am so looking forward to the story telling of the Entrepreneurial Heroes at Fort Collins Start Up Week!