The Perfect Christian, The Perfect Entrepreneur (The Pursuit of Success vs. Perfection)

“John, you’ll never be the perfect Christian.  You’ve already sinned.  You can’t go back and undo your sin.  You can only ask for forgiveness.”  That’s what my parents told me.  The church, too.  Total depravity.  Totally hopeless.

“John, as a Christian, you should always try to achieve perfection.  Just like Christ.  Sinless.  Without malice, self-interest, hate.  Without ever doing something wrong to another person.”  My parents also told me this.  The church, too.  Perfection.  Totally without flaw.

Merriam-Webster defines “perfect” as, “being entirely without fault or defect: “FLAWLESS,” or like a perfect diamond.  Yes, there are other definitions of “perfect”, but they all seem to radiate around or modify that first one.  So, becoming perfect means becoming a person without flaw.  FLAWLESS!

Bah, humbug!  What a crock of you-know-what!  Bull poop!  Chicken fertilizer!  Misleading!  Lies!

Entrepreneurship

I consider myself an entrepreneur.  As an accountant, I have worked with entrepreneurs my whole career.  I now work with aspiring entrepreneurs in Tanzania.  Always on the look-out for the perfect entrepreneur.

What is a perfect entrepreneur?

A perfect entrepreneur is a contradiction in terms.  There is no such thing.

Why?

Because, an entrepreneur makes mistakes.  By definition, every entrepreneur takes risks.  This means, every entrepreneur proceeds into the future with uncertainty about whether he will succeed or fail.  I have yet to meet or read about any entrepreneur who has taken risks without failing along the way.

Have you ever heard of the perfect athlete?  Have you ever heard of a basketball player that never missed the basket?  Have you ever heard of a football quarterback who never threw an incompletion or interception?  How about a golfer who never drove into the rough, who never missed an approach shot, or who never missed a putt?

The same is true of every entrepreneur.

Every entrepreneur tries to anticipate the future, the odds of his success, the consequences of his failure.  Every entrepreneur is, becomes, and always will be . . . a failure!  No entrepreneur has ever created a business plan that perfectly played out the way he put it on paper, played it out in his head, or accurately anticipated the fantasy of fame and fortune that ultimately became his.

Success in entrepreneurship requires risk, which requires failures along the way.  An entrepreneur’s hope lies in the possibility of success, in spite of the certainty of failure.

When I developed my business plan for starting my own accounting firm from scratch, I projected first year revenues to be $75,000.  Of course, I didn’t expect to achieve that result exactly, or perfectly.  A couple bankers scoffed at me when I showed them my business plan.  They said, “Go find financing from friends or relatives!  We can’t take that risk.”  But one banker did.  The one that held our personal bank accounts.  The one that held our mortgage.  The one with whom my wife and I had developed a history.

A year after that start, my revenues came in within $1,000 of that business plan projection!  Pretty good!  Not perfect, but pretty darned good.

I went back to those bankers who turned me down.  I showed them my first year’s income statement and the business plan that they scoffed at.  I laughed at them.  In their face!  I waved those papers in the air, just for show, for the drama.  Just to say, “See, I told you I could make it!”

I showed the banker who ultimately gave me the loan that I needed.  My humility displayed a bit better than it did when I waved that financial statement in the face of my doubters.  He and I both knew, without saying so, that I encountered a few failures along the way.  My banker smiled.  He said, “I never had any doubt!”

No doubt about ultimate success.  But he never figured that I would fulfill my first-year revenue projection perfectly.  He knew that he was dealing with an entrepreneur.  He knew he was dealing with someone who would make mistakes.  Who would fail along the way. Who, in spite of his failures, would succeed in making it through that first year.

The Perfect Christian

I consider myself Christian.  As someone who aspires to imitate Christ, I have lived along-side those who call themselves Christian my whole life.  I now work with aspiring Christians in Tanzania.  Always on the look-out for the perfect Christian.

What is a perfect Christian?

A perfect Christian is a flawless and sinless person.  But there is no such thing.

Why?

Because every person who calls himself Christian makes mistakes.  But there’s a difference between a perfect Christian and a successful entrepreneur.

A perfect Christian never makes mistakes.  A perfect Christian never takes a risk.  A perfect Christian never breaks a commandment.  A perfect Christian never commits a sin.

Is that really true?

Bah, humbug!  What a crock of you-know-what!  Bull poop!  Chicken fertilizer!  Misleading!  Lies!

In Jesus’ parable of the talents, He told the story of the Master who condemned the servant who took the talent that was given to him and who buried it in the ground.  He knew his Master was a hard man.  He knew that if he risked those talents to loss, his Master would reprimand him.  So, he took the route of perfection by making sure that he would never make a mistake with the talent that his Master gave him.  He didn’t even put it in the bank to earn interest.  He took the sinless route by avoiding the risk of loss.

So, was the sinless servant, the one who didn’t risk failure, the perfect servant?  What about the other two servants who invested their talents and returned to the Master double what the Master entrusted with them?  Were they sinless?  Did they never make a mistake through their investments?  I doubt it!  In fact, even though we’re dealing with a parable, not a real cycle of investing and returning a profit, I can guarantee that those other two servants made mistakes along the way.  They had to have made mistakes!  They were entrepreneurs!

* * * * *

I confess.  I have not lived the life of a perfect Christian.

I have led an entrepreneurship’s life, one that represents a contradiction in terms.  Full of flaws!  Full of failure!

Now I work with individuals in Tanzania who aspire to live Christian lives.  Who aspire to entrepreneurship.  Who will fail, for sure.  But, through mentorship, encouragement, correction, and perseverance, I believe two out of three will succeed.  Maybe, all three.  Maybe more than that.

When I look at aspiring entrepreneurs, I also look at their track records.  I look at their character, their integrity, their soul as best I can.  Like the banker who looked at me and gave me that first business loan, I smile at and with my partners.

Everyone of them have made, will make and will overcome mistakes.  Everyone, as failures, will succeed, because they will have risked their and my investments.

I still look for the perfect entrepreneur.  I still seek that elusive contradiction in terms.  I know that I’ll never find it, though.  I only ask, however, that every partner or borrower risk investment wisely, knowing that he and she will fail along the way, and knowing that their character, their integrity, their creativity, their tenacity, their ability to recover from failure, and their perseverance will pull them through.

I hope that one day, one or two, maybe more, will realize that fantasy of fame and fortune.  In the meantime, like a banker who knows his client, like the Master who entrusts to his servants one or more talents, I hope to smile when one or more Tanzanian entrepreneurs returns to me a return on my investment.  When one or more Tanzanian entrepreneurs realizes his or her fantasy.  When one or more Tanzanian entrepreneurs pays it all forward by investing in other worthy aspiring entrepreneurs whose other potential bankers laughed and told them to go somewhere else.

I hope one or more will wave their financial statements in those bankers’ faces and say, “See?  I made it, just like I said I would!  Maybe not perfectly.  But successfully.”

The heck with perfection!

Cheers to entrepreneurship success.  The kind that requires failure along the way.

* * * * *

According to the 2017 American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, 94% of entrepreneurs say they are happy with their lives.  In addition, 81% of business owners say their happiness is due somewhat or entirely to being an entrepreneur.  (May 22, 2017)

I wonder what makes a Christian happy?

Could it be their investment of talents and doing good for others?

Could it be that they chuck the idea of perfection?  That they risk investment of their talents?  That they live with the assurance of failure, and the vision and passion for successful investment?

I wonder what my parents would say?

I wonder what the church would say?

To abandoning the pursuit of perfection.

To risking investment of talent, and pursuing, even achieving success?

John

February 18, 2021