Living in the Limelight: An Entrepreneur’s Anthem

rush moving pictures tour

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been passionate about rock music. And like many boys in the 1980s, I was a fan of the band, Rush. I distinctly remember the day I bought Moving Pictures, their breakout album and the first one I purchased with my own money. Upon arriving home, I laid the vinyl on our family room record player and out of the boxy speakers blasted the opening track, “Tom Sawyer”. The ‘A’ side of the album closed with “Limelight“, and I sat there so amazed at what I just heard that it took me a while before flipping over the record.

Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage.

I’m also passionate about entrepreneurship. But rather than the startup companies and what they do or sell, I’ve always been fascinated by the people behind the startups: their ingenuity, idiosyncrasies, drive, resilience, quirkiness, and vision. I learned early in my career that entrepreneurs were a very different breed and the types of people I wanted to be around. I never seemed to get inspired during my stint in the corporate sector but when I found myself with entrepreneurs, I felt like I was with kindred spirits.

Cast in this unlikely role,
Ill-equipped to act,
With insufficient tact,
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact.

They’re people who care little about others’ perceptions except their customers. Failure isn’t a fear, it’s a motivator. They do unconventional things to achieve unconventional results. And when they succeed, they take a little time off and get back at it. They create, try, innovate, struggle, focus, build, derail, tweak, fail, and try again. They’re in control of their destinies, making things happen for themselves and shaking up communities and economies. And no matter how exciting the new venture is, no matter how much funding they raise, no matter how sexy of an industry they’re operating in, the smart ones know it’s all about getting things done and pursuing their vision.

Living in the Limelight,
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem.
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation,
Get on with the fascination,
The real relation,
The underlying theme.

But when you’re making an impact, or even trying to, people are watching. When entrepreneurs fail, the masses come out and call them fools, wondering aloud how stupid the idea was or how anyone could mess “that” up. When entrepreneurs succeed, the masses again come out, wondering aloud why so many people buy, how anyone could have done the same thing, and how the entrepreneur simply got “lucky”. And the only way to keep forging ahead is to ignore them all.

Living in a fisheye lens,
Caught in the camera eye.
I have no heart to lie,
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long-awaited friend.

It was last month when my passion for entrepreneurship collided with my passion for rock music. We held a class on the topic of self-awareness at The Junto Institute, and our instructor, John Fairclough of Resicom, talked about the importance of understanding how others perceive an entrepreneur’s successes and failures. He told a few stories of his own rise as an entrepreneur, sharing experiences of the attention he received along the way, good and bad. And during his talk, he stated that Rush’s song, “Limelight”, was an anthem for him and quite possibly all entrepreneurs. He slowly rattled off the lyrics, helping acquaint those unfamiliar with the song and refresh the memories of the rest.

All the world’s indeed a stage,
And we are merely players,
Performers and portrayers,
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage.

I sat stunned. John was right. Entrepreneurs operate on a stage and under the lights. Some revel in the attention, others shirk away, but all must deal with it. And it’s not easy. When things are going well, other people want a piece of the action. And when things aren’t going well, they point their fingers. It’s something that few sign up for and an experience that no one truly understands except fellow entrepreneurs. And it’s why we use the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top”, to describe life as an entrepreneur, and why many tend to socialize almost exclusively with peers.

Living in the Limelight,
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem.
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation,
Get on with the fascination,
The real relation,
The underlying theme.

Music can move us in powerful ways. So I’ll forever be grateful to John Fairclough for not only connecting two of my passions and inspiring this column, but for sharing his anthem that can hopefully move legions of entrepreneurs out there.

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This post was originally published on LinkedIn.