I saw the movie Joy the other day. It is the story of the inventor of the Miracle Mop and the dynasty its inventor created all because she wouldn’t let go of her dreams. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the Reader’s Digest version:
“Facing betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, Joy Mangano becomes a true boss of family and enterprise. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces.”
Wow!! With a story like that and given my job description, you would have thought I could watch it as “research” or work product and justify taking the afternoon off from work to sit in the theater with a pen, notepad and a tub of buttered popcorn. (If my boss or The Seattle Times reads this, please note that I did not do that). I will, however, readily admit, in the interest of full disclosure, that I went to the movie not for work but to see Jennifer Lawrence. I would see Jennifer in anything even if she starred in Carrie, the Bride of Frankenstein or the Exorcist.
This was a great movie about entrepreneurship; the “true” story of Joy Mangano, American inventor, businesswoman and entrepreneur known for countless inventions. The movie certainly belongs in my list of must-see entrepreneur movies alongside The Social Network, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Pirates of Silicon Valley, Money Ball and Office Space.
But as remarkable as Joy was in overcoming obstacles as an adult, what stood out to me more than anything were the obstacles she faced as a young child. Despite her half-wild, yet creative and practical inventions that went through her mind as a child, she was constantly being discouraged by a father who did not believe in her, a mother who did not care about her and a sister who was jealous of her (in high school she actually invented a self-releasing dog collar, which her mother failed to patent for her). Imagine how discouraging it must be when your own family does not support or encourage you to follow your dreams? This movie was more like Rocky – the ultimate underdog who nobody believed could succeed – as she continued to battle against all odds to get her ideas recognized as a child and to market as an adult.
You see where I am going here? How many times have you heard parents tell their kids that they can be entrepreneurs when they grow up? Probably never. Instead, they are told they should be doctors, lawyers, programmers or even the president. Really?
Some of the most amazing and far reaching products, services and companies have come from entrepreneurs. When was the last time a lawyer ever invented something cool (well, there is that habeas corpus thing, I guess…)?
If this movie teaches anything, it’s that we should instill and promote self-confidence in our children and encourage them to follow their passions regardless of where it leads them. We should challenge their creativity and let their dreams soar. We should buy thought-provoking toys, like the new Mattel Thingmaker, a 3D printer that lets kids design and make their own toys. We should have makerspace parties for our children so we can see the future through their eyes. (Do I see a McMaker spaces soon in your local McDonalds future?)
Creative failure should feed the mind, not stifle it. Being a parent can be as much about mentoring as it can be about parenting. The truth is, most of the jobs that will be created in the next five or so years will come from the community of entrepreneurs who dream up the next big thing.
As economic developers, we should support them by seeking more training in product development, provide access to capital and assist with new marketing ideas rather than seeking vagabond out of state businesses, in exchange for tax exemptions, waivers or free land. The Millennials want shingle ready opportunities that will allow them to be their own boss, implement their own discoveries, create their own jobs, work with their own friends and make their own money from their wild, creative and practical ideas.
In short, they will find joy in their lives as we sing their praises for creating jobs and creating wealth in their communities: Joy to the world; The Entrepreneur has come.
I would have found joy too if the movie makers had used my song for the closing credits celebrating entrepreneurs…
Mamas, Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Entrepreneurs
(with the sincerest apologies to Waylon & Willie. Do not attempt to sing this to the melody)
Entrepreneurs ain’t easy to spell, and they’re even harder to hold,
They’d rather give you an idea, than diamonds or gold.
Crazy new products and new business plans,
That makes life easier by using computer commands.
Their product will end up on QVC or a late night ad.
In hopes your investment is more than a fad
If you don’t understand them, or the ideas they had,
One day you may just end up feeling real sad.
Mamas, let your babies grow up to be an entrepreneur
Creating new stuff can soon be a profitable allure.
Don’t let them be lawyers or doctors or fools,
Encourage them always to break all the rules.
Let them follow their dreams, and don’t say a word,
And remember that Bill Gates was too once a nerd.
They may not have friends and may not have a date,
But if their dreams fail they can always work for the state.*
O.K., so it will never win a Grammy. But Joy should definitely win an Oscar!! (Jennifer, call me please)
* No state employees were harmed in the making of these lyrics. It’s intent was humor and rhyme and is not meant to disrespect my fine colleagues and the excellent work they do for the state.