After watching Black Panther in the movie theaters, I am even more inspired to bring about the kind of world where we celebrate diversity in thought and actions. This has to include diversity in cultures – because what is culture, if not a collection of thoughts, ideals and values? Culture is also music, and art, and religion – but all of these stem from a world view, a framework for studying, interpreting and living in the world.
With that said, Black Panther challenged me to think about entrepreneurship in a different way. Here are my major take-aways:
- Choose one problem, build one solution. Wakandans evolved with their understanding of vibranium. At first, it was the strongest metal on Earth. Eventually, even its flower was used for special powers. The energy it produced was harnessed and manipulated to power other technologies and inventions. But it started as a strong metal, and they used it for weapons. As I coach hundreds of entrepreneurs, the single most challenging task in the early stages is to get them to buy into the idea of NOT being everything to everybody. They are so afraid to leave money on the table, that they build complex menu of options, and the potential customers simply don’t know “what is good here”. Have you ever gone to a restaurant and asked the server, “what is good here?”. Well, the good restaurants actually have an answer for that! In the same way, an entrepreneur should be known for the one problem they set out to solve, and the great solution they found for it.
- Find your vibranium. This one is composed of three parts. First, realizing you (the entrepreneur) are vibranium. Your unique blend of skills and personality, your life experience, your passion and your interests, it all has led to this moment in time. You were not made to be excellent at everything. You were created to be awesome at being you. As an important side note, this is why I struggle with people telling me they are the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg… those goals are very complicated – there is only one Steve Jobs, and it aint you. You can only be “like” him. A duplicate, at best. A good imitation, most likely. Why settle for being second best, or almost “good”? So BE vibranium. BE kind, loving, generous with your gifts. BE the solution to someone’s problem. Second, get to using the vibranium as it is. Before they learned to harvest and use the flowers that grew on the mountain for special powers, they were using the metal itself. They found every possible way to use that tool. In the same way, look at existing technology and find new uses and/or new markets for it. The Global South does not need you to invent the internet…they just need access to it. They don’t need you to invest AIDS medicine. What they need is for the pills to be manufactured in inexpensive ways so that it is affordable for the poorest people. Take what exists and do something new with it. Third and final, play with the vibranium. Sretch it, kick it, tinker. Become the mad scientist, if you must, and create new technologies. Figure out what happens when you make juices from the vibranium flowers and drink it. Who knows! You might become the Black Panther.
- Use it for good. In Wakanda, the biggest challenge was a moral one: What do we do with the goodness that we own? All humans should and possibly do struggle with a sense of responsibility to their fellow man, and a burden to make a contribution to the human legacy. People of color have a unique opportunity to be their own saviors – what a beautiful thing! Whether it is through sheer leadership, the introduction of an existing tool in a new market, or the creation of new technology altogether, POCs can make a strong impact in their world. They (we) can heal our own souls and those of others simply by setting the intention of our hearts on the intention of the Creator, and wanting to bring about the ideal state that the Creator had imagined. In other words, we get to be active participants in the restoration of dignity for all peoples of the Global South. What a sobering yet inviting opportunity!
- Lead the revolution. When King T’challa emerges victorious from the water, and raises that fist, reminding us of the Black Panther movement, we are inspired to follow him. We immediately want to know more about this guy and quickly begin to realize he is leading from his heart and into the nations. He doesn’t have it all figured out. But people believe in him and take big risks to defend him. Lead. Take charge. Don’t be arrogant, be confident. Believe in yourself and in others. Trust your leaders and empower people to build and create. The revolution started before you, but it also has to start in you in order to continue. To the degree that you enter into the movement, you become the movement.
- Let’s do it together. There is no reason to go at this alone. Building is both an intellectual exercise and a team experiment. In Wakanda, even the fighting against each other was for each other. They were defending their dream of Wakanda. Creating a product that sells is as much about your ability to create as it is about other humans having opinions about your product. Learning from others and teaching others is the key to growing. Let the tide raise all the boats. As a startup coach, I know systems and processes that have been proven to help a business launch and grow. If you are still sitting on an idea, or are prototyping, I can help. If you are selling already, and can’t seem to break even, or struggle to stay in the black, I can help. Work with me – let’s grow together.