Why are we doing this?

On September 23, 1997, Steve Jobs introduced the Think different campaign to a select group of Apple employees. Steve had only been back at Apple for 8-10 weeks, and he was in the process of slashing the product line and getting Apple refocused on making great products. "We have to tell people who we are," he said. And who he believed Apple was was not about computers - it was about thinking different. The ads that followed didn't even talk about computers - it celebrated people who think different, and by inference that Apple was a company that thinks different.

His introduction to the Think different campaign is one of the most inspiring displays of leadership and making people understand why they were doing what they were doing I've ever seen. As we now know it was also one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever.

Understanding who they were was instrumental in turning Apple around. And understanding who we are - and why we chose to do what we're doing - is just as important for us.

Being an entrepreneur is hard

If you're reading this, chances are you're an entrepreneur. You're an entrepreneur at heart, or you've taken the leap and started out on your own. Or you've been out on your own for a while.

Being an entrepreneur is hard - arguably harder, much harder, than the alternative of taking a job. There's a lot more stuff to deal with, a lot more stuff that you don't know how to do, and you don't have the security of a regular pay cheque. You have to worry about everything; it's all up to you.

If you've been an entrepreneur for a while you already know this. And if you're just starting out or thinking about it you've heard that it's going to be hard - and chances are you're going to do it anyway.

And yet you chose this difficult path

To become an entrepreneur is a conscious choice. To some degree you have to be a misfit - you don't quite fit into the "regular" way of working and doing things. You consciously committed to working longer hours, taking bigger risks, doing something even when you know that you don't know everything.

Being an entrepreneur means putting yourself outside of your comfort zone all the time. You have to admit that you don't know everything but you're willing to learn how to do it, willing to try even if it means falling flat on your face every now and then.

Sometimes becoming an entrepreneur is a reaction to those who say we can't do it, that we're stupid for taking the risk or we could have had it so much easier.

And sometimes being an entrepreneur is something we were forced to do. You got laid off and couldn't find a job, you're too old (yes, age discrimination is a thing) or going back to the regular 9 to 5 is just too much of a grind.

So why do we do it?

You may have started out as an entrepreneur because you had a great idea for a product or a service or an app. You may have started out of necessity or as a reaction. Or because you were a misfit.

In the long run, none of these reasons matter. When the excitement of the new app is not so new any more, when the going is tough and the worry sets in - that's when those reasons don't matter any more.

What matters is that you're making a difference.

What matters is that you're making a difference. We choose to stick to this path because we can make a difference in a way that we otherwise could not have achieved. We choose it because we can make a difference - for ourselves and for others.

It's easy to look up to people like Steve Jobs and others who have changed the world. We see these icons around us and admire the personality, guts and perseverance that got them to the top of their game. And it's easy to feel that we'll never reach the same heights, achieve the same fame or have the same impact.

But we don't have to.

What matters is that we're making a difference. We have to realise that we are changing the world - even if it is in a small way. We are making it a better place through what we do and how we do it. We are changing the world for ourselves and for others.

Making a difference in other lives is great. But what's even more great is how that changes us. Making a positive difference for others is the most rewarding, satisfying and exhilarating thing we can do. And I'm not talking about money. I'm talking about our sense of self-worth, achievement, satisfaction and enjoyment. In short, fun.

However tough it gets - it's worth it

You may have chosen a difficult path. But however hard it gets, keep going and don't give up. It will be worth it.

Do what is in your heart - live a life worth living and make a difference, however small, in someone else's life. Because we all deserve to have a life. We all deserve to fulfil our potential, live each day with conviction and make a difference for ourselves and for others.

Because we have compassion for those that don't have as much as we do. Because we believe that everyone in this world is born with something of worth - that we can contribute our worth and make the world a better place.

Because we're only here for a short while and we want our fires to burn as brightly as we can before we have to say goodbye.

Think different was not an easy sell

The advertising agency that created the Think different campaign for Apple did not have it easy. Reportedly Steve loved the first pitch but getting it to fit into a 60-second commercial was far from easy - and Steve was a tough customer. But we know it eventually worked - and it worked big time, marked as the beginning of Apple's turnaround into the most valuable company in the world today.

Your journey may not be easy either - but you can think different. You can make a difference.

It doesn't matter which road you choose

This article is about the hard road of entrepreneurship and why we have to look at why we're doing it to help us through the tough times.

I'm not saying that other roads are not hard. Or that your road is not as hard as mine. That's not the point.

The point is that it's all about making a difference. Making a difference for others and making a difference for ourselves. Your road is different than mine - everyone travels their own road. Whatever yours looks like, choose to make a difference. It will carry you when the going gets tough.

How to make a difference

I often see questions like "what are the best ideas for a small business?" on Quora. These types of questions are almost impossible to answer because there are so many answers - but here's a different way of looking at it:

If you're wondering how you can make a difference - whether you choose to be an entrepreneur, a more traditional career path or you're just looking for some way to contribute - answer these three questions for yourself:

  • What do I feel deeply inspired by?
  • What am I personally talented at?
  • What meets a significant need in the world?

If you can find a niche where the answers to these three questions intersect, you will make a difference. And you will have fun doing it.

I would love to hear your take on this - what does making a difference mean to you? Drop me a note.

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