There is a Portuguese riddle that asks you to guess which being grows rapidly during its youth, takes 18 years to reach adulthood, usually lives to celebrate its 70th birthday, is able to survive adverse conditions, and produces sufficient wealth to feed a family.
Portugal, a school kid who already knows the answer will smile at you
and point his finger at a poster of an oak tree on the wall of his
classroom. On the other hand, if you ask the same question during an
evening course at a business school in Lisbon, students are likely to
give you a different response. "What you mean is an entrepreneur," they
will tell you.
Inherited behaviour models are crumbling in our
midst. Old morality is taking the blame for current problems, although
often through spurious argumentation. Never mind. Ethical decay has
reached such an extent that many parents have given up all attempts to
provide moral guidelines to their offspring.
Where are we headed?
Should we just continue to chant the old incantations of our culture
even after it has become clear that the melody is broken? I don't think
so. I submit that an ethical model for the 21st century is brewing in
old pots and casseroles: the sovereign entrepreneur.
Like the oak
tree in the Portuguese riddle, the new species will reproduce and
spread worldwide. It will survive a thousand years and open the door to a
new era of tolerance and prosperity. What are the characteristics of
this ethical standard?
The capacity to withstand adversity
Through the ages, oak trees have taken root in most areas of
the world, from California to Italy, from Argentina to South Africa.
Even in unfavourable environments, these plants have grown stronger with
The willingness to learn
The internet is compressing more and more the time needed to acquire
professional or business training. Forget about dragging along six-years
at an expensive University. Instead, turn on your mp3 player and listen
to lectures in your field of interest. How long will it take for
sovereign entrepreneurs to learn their trade? Possibly, less than two
years, which, by the way, is the average lifespan of oak tree leaves.
Adherence to universal ethics
Virtues such as flexibility,
openness, tolerance, and honesty will render entrepreneurs sovereign of
their fate and unconstrained in their business approach. In many cases,
adherence to universal values will be preferred to identification with a
specific country or culture. Oak trees have spread around the world on
the basis of the essential characteristics of their species,
irrespective of local accidents and fashions.
efforts to foretell the future, nobody can predict accurately what is to
come during the next years. Will we witness currencies collapse? Will
major shifts in world economic flows take place?
No matter how difficult
the situation becomes, sovereign entrepreneurs constitute the species
best fit to survive. When everything is said and done, wherever you
live, you will always need to call up an expert to fix your toilet when
it breaks down. That expert, you see, that's the person you want to be.
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living
[Image by neiljs under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]