As a lifelong entrepreneur, I’ve found there are many ways that entrepreneurship is a profoundly spiritual experience. Today I’d like to talk about the relationship between entrepreneurship and faith. First, let’s define faith. Faith is one of those words that shows up often in spiritual conversations, but it can seem hard to pin down. Hebrews 11.1 is a good place to start:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen
So, faith is both assurance and conviction. Whenever you have to trust something you can’t see, you’re exercising faith. You don’t just exercise faith in spiritual matters. If my wife is out of the house picking up supplies to make dinner, I can’t see her. If someone asked me if she’ll be coming home, I would say yes, because I know her well and she’s always come back before. If someone tried to introduce doubt by saying “maybe she’s decided to run away and won’t come home”, I can’t prove that they are wrong because I can’t see her, but I can remind myself of her character and love for me and quickly conclude that it would be ridiculous to worry about such a thing. My faith in my wife gave me conviction of something I couldn’t see and assurance of what I’m hoping for – in this case, one of her terrific dinners.
Before I was a believer, I thought of faith as naïve wishing - that a Christian’s faith was just them wanting to believe there was a God looking out for them as a crutch to get through life. Now I see that faith is more about reminding myself what I know. In the process of becoming a believer, I spent months investigating the claims of the faith. I had experienced venture capitalists going through a “due-diligence” process in my company where they looked at all kinds of documents before deciding our claims were trustworthy enough to warrant an investment. I did something similar and read many books and articles to prove to myself that Jesus is a real, historically-documented person who told us salvation comes to those who trust in him and serve him and who then proved his authority through his miracles and resurrection. In that light, it’s completely rational to trust his words and Gospel. That was some time ago. Now, sometimes it’s easy to believe in him - he feels so close I can almost feel his breath. Other times, he feels distant, and my old self starts to wonder if he was just in my imagination. It’s then that I can remind myself why I believe and confirm that my convictions are well-grounded and that my hope in him is based on trustworthy assurances so that I can live like he is real until eventually, I feel that he’s real again. *
Now let’s see how that applies to Entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur is someone who painstaking works at something only they can see in the hope that someday everyone will be able to see it. When they have an idea for a product or company, it’s just that – an idea. Nobody can see or touch it. As they think through and develop the idea it becomes more detailed and refined. They can talk to friends about it so their friends can also see their idea. When investors agree to put money into the idea or customers buy it or people come to work at the company it becomes more real. Eventually, it may become a business that everyone knows about, and then it’s real to the whole world. At every step though, there are new people deciding whether to believe in the idea.
__Throughout the journey, I’ve found it common to have doubts. Often when I was about to meet with investors or make an important sales call, I had this fear that the other person would reject my idea and tell me I’m a fool – some people call this The Imposter Syndrome. __
Some doubt in my head would ask “what if they’re right?” “What if you’re just chasing a foolish dream?” This is where faith kicks in. I have good reasons for the conviction I have about my business. I’ve put in the time, asked hard questions, proven it works, and won over skeptics. Someone may find a flaw, but I’ve been able to address flaws before and bounced back. While I can’t be certain I’ll succeed and this next skeptic will be won over; I can know that my assurance is based on reasonable convictions and that my hope for a good meeting is based on well-grounded assurances. The same faith muscle that I use to believe in God is the one I use to confront doubts about my business.
Doubts are not unique to Christians. All entrepreneurs second-guess themselves. All salesmen project confidence while worrying about rejection. Everyone at one time or another worries they will be exposed as an imposter at their job. It is a Christians’ advantage that this feeling isn’t strange to them because they’ve gone through it in their walk with God. A Christian is also better equipped to deal with it because they have had practice in the past beating back irrational doubts.
The one difference between practicing faith in your work and practicing faith as an entrepreneur is that while the Gospel is perfect, it is likely there are flaws in your ideas you will need to address. While groundless doubts can do you no good, there will be times when you will need to hear the truth in criticism and adjust your plans accordingly. That is where the Christian virtue of humility is important – but that will have to be covered in a different article.
So should you find your faith in Christ and the Gospel weakening, see it as an opportunity to build and grow your muscle of faith. Ask yourself how you came to believe and revisit what you know until you feel your faith growing strong again.
Take note of how it feels and how you succeeded. Now when you find yourself doubting your venture or plans, apply the same process of going back to what you know – being careful to honestly consider whether significant facts have changed in your business – and use your muscle of faith to empower you to decide and act even when you’re feeling less confident. The faith God is growing in you as you walk with him will serve you well as you learn to extend it to other facets of your life.
I’ll end by noting that as you learn how your spiritual faith can equip you to have faith in your business; your success practicing faith in business could actually feed back into your spiritual walk. It takes faith to talk to others about Christ and the Gospel. Inner doubts that you don’t know enough or the other person will reject you are common and often shut us down when we feel the Holy Spirit urging us to share our faith. When you learn to use faith the trust yourself and your story telling others about your business, you may find that you also trust yourself more to share about your spiritual life. When pitching your business, you may realize that you need to spend time getting better answers to particular questions or practicing what you’re going to say; this is also true about conversations about your relationship with God. Your first try will probably not be perfect, but you can learn from it and improve using the same skills and discipline that has brought you success in business.
Many people can feel that they live a bifurcated life where they can alternate between being a business person and a person of faith but rarely feel that are both at the same time. By embracing how your faith can help you in both roles, you will be taking an important step towards being a united person who’s spiritual side is always an active part of you.
** In fact, I’m even more sure Jesus has saved me than I am that my wife is coming home. After all my wife doesn’t have complete control over her journey – there could be a traffic jam – but Jesus has all power and authority to do what he says he will.*
Image used with permission