We Should Applaud Risk-Takers and Dreamers

Jul 16, 2012

Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

If you haven’t already seen it, this short video of a recent speech the President made about the ultimate selfishness and self-absorption of entrepreneurs is worth a look.  This follows a consistent theme of this Administration – including comments by Valarie Jarrett and Elizabeth Warren which I blogged about earlier this year – that people who build successful businesses really haven’t done very much.  In fact, they really owe their success to everyone else.

While we always have to discount the craziness of campaign rhetoric, the basic idea behind all of these comments is really objectionable and offensive.  First, all of these comments are aimed at a massive straw man – namely the idea that entrepreneurs always think that they did it all themselves.  I have met a whole bunch of successful business people and I simply can’t remember ONE that had that point of view.  While there are plenty of big egos around (politicians certainly aren’t immune, by the way), the most common thing I have heard from business leaders is that they attribute most of their success to (i) luck, (ii) supportive family members and coworkers, and (iii) the opportunities provided by free enterprise and this great nation of ours.

But what bothers me more about the Administration’s view is that it only looks at the good outcomes.  Success is apparently a collective effort – but where was that “collective” during the periods of risk-taking and failure?  The vast majority of businesses fail.  Period.  Every day millions of people put their lives, savings, houses and families on the line and work 20 hours a day just to grab their small slice of the American dream.  Where is the collective when all of this is going on?  And if the collective is really responsible for success, how come everyone isn’t successful?

The fact of the matter is that this nation was propelled forward by extraordinary people who were willing to do extraordinary things.  We should applaud the risk-takers and the dreamers who are willing to stand out from the crowd and create the wealth and prosperity that we all enjoy.  Rather than denigrate what these people have done, we need to encourage more people to be like them.  I don’t resent successful business leaders or think that they owe me something for their success.  I admire and appreciate them for what they have provided this country.

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