Who Wants to Be a Wellness Intrapreneur? Part V: Knowing When to Turn Your Own Page
Knowing When to Turn Your Own Page
“I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning.”
– Andy Warhol
Elvis Presley and Mickey Mantle were mythic-like folk heroes to a generation of kids growing up in the 1950s. Girls thought these boys were cute and boys wanted to be just like them. What Elvis was to rock ‘n’ roll, Mickey was to baseball. Problem was, they both stayed too long.
If you question this, checkout a photo of Elvis from his 1968 “Comeback” concert and then pull a photo from one of his last Vegas performances in 1977. He stayed too long. As for The Mick, his last season as a Yankee was his worst in his 18-year career. That season, 1968, he hit .237, had 54 runs batted in and 18 homers. A far cry from his 1956 Triple Crown season. That year he hit .353 with 130 RBIs and 52 round trippers. That last miserable year brought his lifetime batting average down below .300 (.298). He took that regret to his grave. He stayed too long.
Same could be said for Strom Thurmond, Judy Garland, Woody Hayes, Hosni Mubarak, Gloria Swanson’s character in “Sunset Boulevard,” Fidel Castro and scores of other modern era once-upon-a-time icons and mythical heroes.
As in the world of sports, politics and entertainment, intrapreneurs (entrepreneurs, too) have—or should have—a shelf life. The attitude and skill set needed to make something from nothing—the conception, birth and infancy stages of a company—rarely carry through into adolescence and adulthood. Where brashness, uber-confidence, risk and a dash of hubris serve the intrapreneur well, these same characteristics can become their undoing once a company or new product line gets established and settles into steady growth. There are exceptions but they are rare. For every Steve Jobs or Bill Gates there are hundreds of dot-comers who stayed too long. The problem is it’s hard to let go. While others seek shelter and security, the Type T intrapreneur/ entrepreneur relishes the feel of rain on his or her face, basks in the glow of lightning and hears thunder as applause. “Bring it On” reads the family crest.
The passion that fuels this rebel-maverick-outlier is a mix of thrill seeking and risk taking. Initially, this curious blend of Joan of Arc and Robin of Loxley—two mythical heroes from days of yore—appears charming and, even if a bit eccentric and unconventional, offers hope and promise for a better day, at least to those who recruited the would-be savior.
The troubles begin, however, when the major campaign battles end and the dust begins to settle. Joan and Robin live for the cause and perform at their best—and are happiest—when excitement reigns and chaos hovers. As a result, once the settling stage begins, they often itch for new adventure (think the Lone Ranger) and start looking to new horizons. Good thing, too, because in the eyes of the longtime resident, the aura begins to fade, Joan’s shiny armor starts to dull, and Robin’s tights look more silly than dashing. For the good of everyone, it’s time to move on. It’s time to turn the page.
You Know It’s Time to Turn the Page When …
- Your ideas run the full reaction cycle of ignored-quirky-brilliant-quirky-ignored.
- Instead of stoking the fire in your belly, you reach for more Tums.
- The tone changes from hair-raising excitement to hair-pulling frustration.
- You want to take a nap at 2:00 in the afternoon.
- Colleagues no longer steal your ideas (use without attribution).
- You hope your security badge no longer works.
- Your security badge no longer works.
- You look like Elvis, walk with Mickey’s arthritic knees, feel the heat of Joan’s embers and see the glint of the friar’s blade.
NOTE: This has been just a quick sketch of what it’s like to be an outlier–anomaly–early advocate–business pioneer in this field. As stated earlier, I wouldn’t trade my entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial experiences for anything. It has truly been, and continues to be, a fantastic wellness journey. I am truly blessed. For close to forty years I have made a very good living blending mission and margin. Very nice, indeed.
I am also grateful for the advice, lessons, arguments, insights, disagreements, jousting and camaraderie shared with my wellness and health promotion colleagues. The list of names below is in no way a fully inclusive list of founding brothers and sisters who traveled the entrepreneur/intrapreneur roads in this field. It is simply a list of people, with at least 20 years of field experience … some with 30+ years (call them “chronologically superior”) that I have had the honor of sharing the dais and interacting with closely at some point over the past thirty-five years.
“You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.”
– Paul McCartney
Brian Luke Seward