Written by: Jon Sabes, CEO
As CEO of an entrepreneurial finance company, I spend much of my time working to grow our business by capitalizing on opportunity. The rest of the time, when I am not with my family, you can find me outdoors, pushing my mental and physical limits as an ultra-distance athlete. And while many claim to work hard and play hard, my quest goes deeper.
My quest is to merge the two sides of myself to find the “ultra” in business and in life – and redefine what’s possible through “creative destruction.”
Even if the term is new to you, the concept likely isn’t. Coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter half a century ago, creative destruction is a theory and process of innovation – and most often associated with economic and business cycle innovation. The theory is rooted in a persistent approach to challenging, destroying, and recreating existing structures. Sound exciting? It is. Sound daunting? It’s that, too. Yet it’s what I strive for every day. It’s what drives me to create new ways of looking at old ideas…to turn old concepts on their heads, apply resources to support new approaches, and, ultimately, discover refreshing ways of thinking about the world, and my place in it.
As challenging as that may sound, making it happen requires following a simple, step-by-step process to transform even the smallest spark into reality:
- Begin with an idea;
- Define a goal;
- Explore your beliefs;
- Create a definite plan; and
- Take action in furtherance of your plan.
At our company, GWG, the process of creative destruction has helped us apply disruptive financial approaches to the long-established and deeply-entrenched life insurance industry. We developed a new type of cooperative that offers consumers market value for life insurance by offering investors the opportunity to have financial participation in the policies – a new version of an old concept – a true mutual life insurance company concept. And that was just one idea. One small spark that led to the complete rethinking of an outdated approach to “business as usual.” The possibilities are endless.
Of course, continually redefining what’s possible can be an exhausting process, and coming up with that initial spark of an idea—much less creating and executing a plan to drive it to fruition—requires a constant refueling of both your mind and the body. One key to succeeding in this pursuit is to regularly get outside, and to do things that energize and invigorate the mind and the body. For me personally, I have found that outdoor activity is what keeps me going. It’s how I recharge, recalibrate, and rediscover myself to keep me inspired to move forward.
One of my very best friends in the world, Scott Olson, shares my thinking. Scott is a fellow innovative entrepreneur and outdoor adventure enthusiast. As an innovative entrepreneur, Scott is well known for creating Rollerblade, and more recently, SkyRide. Adding to our long list of outdoor adventures over the years, Scott and I recently spent several days traveling more than 60-miles through Glacier National Park, where we witnessed some of the most scenic and beautiful wild spaces remaining in North America.
Side-by-side with moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats, and golden eagles, we were treated to all types of weather Mother Nature could dream up. Bright sun. Torrential rain. Overpowering wind. We had trained for the journey and were prepared for the elements, but we left ourselves completely open to the unexpected. Our journey was dictated not by a fixed agenda, but by who we met, the challenges we stumbled upon (including grizzly bears!), the paths we chose, and the earth beneath our feet.
This trip was just one more reminder of the words of Frederick Law Olmsted, co-designer of New York’s Central Park, who in 1865 wrote, “It is a scientific fact that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes…change of air and change of habits is favorable to the…health and vigor of [the viewer’s] intellect beyond any other conditions which can be offered them.” My own experience has shown me that Olmstead’s words are true. I know that with every adventure, the road always (always!) continues around the corner. Moving forward with strength, conviction, and creativity requires inspiration and stamina that can be experienced and practiced by pushing your limits in outdoor physical adventures.
Personally, I know that learning how to overcome challenges—defeating barriers towards success—is the only way to survive as a business innovator. And whether I am back-country hiking, running ultra-distance marathons, or finishing an Ironman triathlon, I know the physical challenge of that activity helps me develop the mental muscle memory to know I can find a way through the challenges I am sure to confront.
If you’re looking for a way to revolutionize your business (and your life!) the process of creative destruction can help make it happen. To keep you fueled for the journey, I urge you to get outside and redefine your own limits.
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