I am an economic development evangelist.
What was initially a necessity for survival has become a passion, a core principle—a vocation. To me, economic development—the ability to mobilize efforts to improve the quality of people’s lives and choices—is joyful. Feels like freedom.
And when I’m preaching, I mean talking, about the transformative power of economic development, I sometimes request an “Amen” from my flock, I mean audience, to punctuate a point, and to make sure folks are listening—to make sure my sermon, er, message, is being heard over the internal clangor of self-doubt that keeps so many people from knowing this kind of freedom in the first place.
You see, the reason I love entrepreneurship in all of its variations is that it requires a special skill set to sustain relentless optimism. That skill set includes, most importantly, the ability to consistently build real confidence. I’m not talking about the boastful kind that masks insatiable insecurity (*cough* POTUS *cough*), but the quiet kind. I’m talking about the the kind of confidence you feel before you hear it—before you hear about it from others, before you hear it break through the background static of uncertainty in your own head.
I’m certain there are a few exceptional people who were born with such a strong, unshakeable sense of self, but most of us have to find and develop that strength over and over again from moment to moment, reminding ourselves to choose the light—always choosing the light. Most of us, even the brightest and most ambitious among us, must constantly work to overcome our own limiting beliefs, as well as the voices of others that scammed their way into our heads, causing us doubt and despair. As entrepreneurs, we don’t have the time to wallow in fear inside of our own heads. Instead, we have visions to bring to life, business and marketing plans to draft, customers to satisfy, products and services to deliver, money to collect, and babies to feed—babies who always seem to need new shoes.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that money is the key to salvation—not even a little bit. Abundance comes in many forms when you choose the light, when you realize that economic development is actually about self-development—a spiritual practice in its own right. What I’m saying is that an invincible mindset coupled with a fierce heart is so unstoppable that it deserves its own soundtrack, which brings me to the tambourines.
A few weeks ago, I was delivering a talk to a group of lawyers about business development. As I am wont to do, I called for and received a few “Amens” from the group, but the response left me wanting more. In that moment, I wanted a tambourine. I don’t know how to play the tambourine, but I’ve seen those sexy women in rock bands do it (talking to you, Stevie Nicks!), and believed I could pull it off in a pinch. In that moment, while dropping some serious truth, I wished for something to bang my hand against and shimmy jimmies in the air. To my surprise, the week after class, I received three tambourines from that audience. Three. Can I get an “Amen?”
So, here’s the reason why these three tambourines deserve their own blog post: feeling heard is a huge gift. These three tambourines mean that I was heard, and that I helped three individuals do something unique (for starters, I suspect that this was the first tambourine purchase for all three of them). I know that for those three lawyers, their business development journey just got easier because they chose the path to relentless optimism. And as for me, I now have three damn tambourines to shake, shake, like a Polaroid picture!