My Letter to Babson, Class of 2011
We all got here today in our own unique ways. Before Babson, I had no idea as to what a balance sheet was. I worked as a graphic artist. I created posters, illustrations and letterheads for a living, and I loved it.
Yet, despite my love for the creative arts, I got fed up being poor and unrecognized as an artist, so I came to Babson to live the glamorous life of an undervalued, underpaid, and underfunded entrepreneur. And one of the most important things I’ve learned here was how different disciplines are often interconnected.
It turns out both of my passions are no different – entrepreneurs and artists have quite a lot in common. I believe there are many lessons entrepreneurs can learn from artists and vice versa.
So, what do entrepreneurs and artists have in common?
For starters, artists and entrepreneurs both — love – being — miserable. The rewards are smaller, the hours are longer, and most of what we make is terrible. Our prime motivators are being behind on bills, not having seen our friends in weeks, unpredictability and stress. And the only way we can tell if we’ve accomplished anything is when other people tell us how bad it is…
Yet, every morning, we get up and we do our work because this is what we love.
We love the late-night epiphanies fueled by sleep deprivation. We love being forced to think creatively and on our feet. And when we get rejected – which we all invariably will – we come up with ten new ways to get rejected again. Misery loves company, and that company is full of poets, painters and entrepreneurs.
Now, part of why artists and entrepreneurs love their craft is because they are journeys of self-discovery. Entrepreneurship, like art, is the entrepreneur’s interpretation of the world around them, packaged and presented to the world. It’s intensely personal – our most genuine and honest work. It requires us to understand ourselves intimately, or risk being seen as frauds. It separates the amateurs from the professionals. It’s unyielding and uncompromising, and we will have it no other way.
But finally, and most importantly, entrepreneurs and artists have a shared desire to innovate. As the true artist knows that there can only be one Picasso, the true entrepreneur knows that making the next Facebook adds nothing new to the world. Artists and entrepreneurs are similar because we have an inexplicable, intense spark within us to create something from nothing. We know we will be miserable. And we know that we will be judged and criticized. Yet… we do it because we all want to make our mark in human history.
So to everyone, I’d like to propose a challenge: Let’s all become true artists and entrepreneurs. Let’s all rid ourselves of preconceived notions about what we should do or what we can be. And let’s all dare to be different.
Let’s not be the next, or be the best – let’s be the FIRST, let’s be the ONLY. Why would you want to be the next Bill Gates or Warren Buffet when you can be the very first YOU?
The world is your canvas, and you should paint it any way you want. Go out and do it, whatever it is.
H Paul Chu
Babson MBA ’11