Johnny Appleseed and the Entrepreneurial Spirit


The other night while listening to a speaker – one who’d found himself going from a self-made millionaire all the way back to counting change in his piggy bank before graduating high school – I found my learning a valuable lesson.

Michael Simmons, a serial entrepreneur and now in his early thirties, stood before a room of university students hoping to help prepare them for the world waiting for them outside the theater.

“The biggest thing between you and your goal is fear,” Simmons said, the word spelled out in large blue letters on the screen behind him.

He went on to talk about how while in high school he and a friend created a small web design business only to find themselves nearly paralyzed when the prospect of dealing with their first potential client. Dreaming is easy, he pointed out. Taking action by putting yourself out there for everyone else to see is nothing short of terrifying.

“I remember how nervous we were when we came home from school and found that first voicemail,” he said. “We weren’t even old enough to drive to the appointment.”

His friend, he continued, even purchased a pair of eyeglasses with glass lenses in hopes of looking older.

After having their ride drop them off a block away keep the prospect from seeing them driven by a parent, they walked to the meeting. With fear coursing through them – the insecurity of their worth, their age, and lack of experience – they sat down across from the potential customer.

Upon discovering the two student’s real age, the potential customer admired them. 

And after short meeting, the two students left with the business.

It was then the two students learned how a key lesson of how the world of entrepreneurship works.

“We discovered people naturally want to help you,” Simmons said.

To demonstrate, he asked the audience for a volunteer. A female student raced down to the stage.

Handing her a blue piece of tape, he asked her to jump and place it as high as she could on the wall. After she did, he pulled out a ten-dollar bill placing it another 5 inches higher.

“Grab it and it is yours,” Simmons said, stepping away.

The student jumped higher and higher – several times touching the bill. But then the unexpected began to happen. The audience started calling out suggestions.

“Grab a chair,” one said while others tossed out suggestions to get the speaker to help.

Finally a young male student raced down from the audience. Easily leaping up to grab the bill, he turned, handed her the bill. Smiling, she returned the favor with a hug.

Simmons smiled.

The lesson he’d learned decades before organically reappeared in theater of the hundreds of students. Under the spotlight of everyone’s attention, strangers began not only rooting for someone who’d put herself at risk to accomplish a goal. People, Simmons pointed out, want to help those who work hard, dream and take risks in the world.

Now, married and helping others learn the magic of casting aside their fears to accomplish their dreams and goals, Simmons’ now travels the country like a modern day Johnny Appleseed.

And hopefully the seeds of his experiences will take root in all those who cross his path in life.


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