There are numerous ways to become an entrepreneur. If you're Italian, you might be born to it. Just as homes stay in the same family for generations, Italian business owners commonly pass their enterprise down to their children. If your family made wine, there's a good chance that you'll make wine. Even some Venetian gondoliers are following the career path of their fathers and grandfathers.
As much as I love the Italians, I'm grateful that finding a career by inheritance isn't such a common practice here. If it was, I'd be an electrician.
Paradoxically, there's a Tuscan proverb that says, "Whoever does another's trade makes soup in a basket."
While there are people who happily take over the family business, having one foisted upon you can be a disaster. I met a man in a seminar who told me he'd spent his life grudgingly running a family business that he loathed. His sadness was visible, but even though he was no longer young, he was working diligently to make a new start and bring to life an idea of his own.
Although it's less common to hand down careers and businesses today, family pressure still plays a role in career choice. When people say to me, "My parents always told me I should work for someone else," I want to counter with, "Would you wear your parents' clothes?" Their way of thinking may not fit you, either.
A few years ago, I had an ultrasound and noticed that the technician was obviously a weight lifter who seemed a bit out of sync with the hospital environment. As the procedure was being done, I asked him how he'd chosen this profession. He laughed and said, "Well, I was 18 and didn't know what I wanted to do. My sister was a nurse and thought this would be a good line for me to get into and my parents wanted me out of the house, so I became an ultrasound technician."
I wanted to jump off the table and yell, "Get away from my thyroid."
Every day I encounter people like him who are making soup in a basket, who are bored, inept or downright hostile because they are doing work that comes from a place other than their heart and soul.
Happily, more and more of us are awakening to the truth that it doesn't have to be this way, that we can discard inappropriate choices and make new ones based on who we have become and what we want our lives to be now.
Finding our personal right livelihood is too important to our well-being to overlook. We may choose to follow in our family's tradition but only if we've come to know ourselves well enough to know that this is the perfect fit. For most of us, more exploration is needed before we can come to the place that is our natural habitat.
Clothiers talk about bespoke garments, meaning made-to-order clothes that are fitted to the wearer. I think it's time to talk about bespoke businesses, one of a kind undertakings that are perfectly suited to the owner's values, talents and dreams. It takes a lot more time and energy to create such a business, of course, than to just pull one off the rack. Like a master tailor, we can only produce a bespoke business by knowing our personal measurements, making numerous adjustments, and investing pride in our work.
In a world that often seems determined to do things fast, creating a bespoke business requires a willingness and discipline to slow down, take things a step at a time, and pay loving attention to details. The rewards for such willingness are huge, although they may not be quick.
All along the way, we need to notice when things no longer fit the person we've become. As the wise Maya Angelou reminds us, "You can only be truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money the goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing and do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you. All the other tangible rewards will come as a result."