Here are 6 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Martin Luther King Jr:
1. Have a dream. Envision it as a reality.
MLK had a dream to end racial segregation and discrimination. You should have a dream and a vision as well; a picture of what success will be at a particular time in the future. The power of being able to imagine success down the road should not be underestimated.
2. Persuade without power.
Using non-violent civil disobedience, Dr. King was able to persuade millions of Americans to join the civil rights movement and support his dream. As an entrepreneur, you have to get a lot of people on your side: investors, customers, and most of all, employees. You can try to be powerful and aggressive, to be the “boss” in the traditional sense of the world, but this is increasingly ineffective. The best way to persuade people to get what you want is to be kind, passionate, supportive and grateful.
3. Be willing to do what you ask of others.
MLK led by his own example. He wasn’t just the leader of the civil rights movement, but he got on the buses along with all of his supporters. Throughout his life, he led peaceful protests, sit-ins, and marches. He didn’t whine about working for little money, he didn’t sit in a cushy corner office and he wasn’t concerned with work/life balance. As one of the great leaders in human history, he made the ultimate sacrifice to support his vision for humanity.
4. Look for a mentor.
MLK’s mentor was Dr. Benjamin Mays, a minister, educator, scholar, social activist and a past longtime president of Morehouse College, where MLK attended. MLK called him his “spiritual mentor” and “intellectual father.” Your mentor doesn’t even need to be in the same industry; you just need an ongoing dialogue of inspiration, learning and challenge.
5. Never accept the status quo.
Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done now or in the future. In the fight for civic equality, Dr. King accomplished more in less than two decades than a previous 350 years had produced. He didn’t call himself a visionary. He just didn’t believe that change could not be effected. Just as real entrepreneurs don’t call themselves entrepreneurs. You just don’t do what everyone else is doing. You don’t follow the status quo, conventional wisdom or popular fads, but you carve your own unique path and are the leader of your own destiny.
6. Don’t give up.
We all know that MLK didn’t give up. When faced with adversity he peacefully – and firmly – stood his ground. Many entrepreneurs throw in the towel when the going gets rough – or give up too much equity too early for too little. If you don’t have the financial acumen to scale your business and attract investors, you could make poor financial decisions, get frustrated and give up. Great entrepreneurs don’t let their fear stop them from taking risks; however, one should never underestimate the power of listening to your instinct.