Entrepreneurial Lessons from The Great Gatsby
And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
It’s not as if I’d never read the Great Gatsby, but it had been quite some time (I think I had to read it for 8th grade Literature). I was reminded of how much I liked the book by both the upcoming movie and the outstandingly selected billboard that appears over the construction in Battery Park (picture and full quote above). In rereading it 15 years later, I actually found several lessons for the ambitious entrepreneurs among us (NOTE: I wrote this post assuming that most people have read the book, it contains several spoilers).
- Gatsby is in many ways an entrepreneur and we should take heart in what he was able to achieve. He willed himself in short order from a poor vagabond to a man capable of garnering Daisy’s attention without his uniform. That singularity of focus is both admirable and something all entrepreneurs should attempt to emulate.
- While singularity of focus helped Gatsby achieve great things, he does end up alone and dead at the end of the book. This is due to two fatal flaws in the way he pursued his goal.
- There are no short cuts. When you take easy money from shady friends you’re likely to dig yourself a lonely hole. Take it from someone who has seen the rise and fall of people with great aspirations who were willing to take those short cuts. They make your career look amazing—just before pulling it right out from under you.
- It’s worth reconsidering your goals from time to time. Gatsby set his aim to Daisy and pursued her endlessly for six years. At some point he probably should have realized that there were other, more deserving, targets of his aspirations.
Yes, I just made a love story into a set of business lessons… it’s no small wonder that I’m single.