For Entrepreneurs: Why Being Called Crazy is a Compliment

March 31st, 2020

For Entrepreneurs: Why Being Called Crazy is a Compliment

By Linda Rottenberg

Co-Founder and CEO, Endeavor
Speaker, Simmons Leadership Conference 2020

Can you share an example from your career when you asserted yourself to seize or retain your own power in a challenging situation?

Twenty-three years ago, I co-founded Endeavor as an organization that would identify and support entrepreneurs in some of the world’s most inhospitable markets. Few found our timing auspicious. Many doubted entrepreneurs even existed outside Silicon Valley. While looking for seed funding, I managed to score a 10-minute meeting with Eduardo Elsztain, an Argentine real estate mogul backed by George Soros. As soon as I walked in the door, he stopped me: “I get it,” he said. “You want an introduction to George Soros.” I told him no, that in fact, I wanted his time, his passion, and $200,000. Eduardo turned to his colleague and said, “This girl is crazy.” A few minutes later, I walked out of his office with a check for $200,000 – and a new nickname, “La Chica Loca!”

Today, Endeavor operates in 37 markets around the world, supporting over 2,000 entrepreneurs. At the time of our founding, people doubted that we would be able to find high-impact entrepreneurs in places like Argentina or Jordan, but year over year, we continue to screen candidates whose vision, experience, and ideas are transforming the world.

What did you learn from that experience?

As I learned firsthand when I set out on my own journey, it requires a special mix of resourcefulness and willpower to keep going, no matter how many times people tell you you’re crazy. For me and so many other entrepreneurs, being called “crazy” should really be taken as a compliment.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve gotten along the way?

The best piece of feedback I’ve ever received came not from a mentor but from my twin daughters (now age 15) when they were five. One tugged on my leg and told me not to leave for a business trip; the other looked at me and said, “Just remember: You can be an entrepreneur for a short time, but you’re a mommy forever!” I still use that piece of feedback today – since then the business trips have lessened and thankfully so have the schoolings from my children!

Any tips for work/life integration?

For years I, like many others, had adopted the mantra “go big or go home.” I delivered this rallying cry to myself, to our entrepreneurs and to our staff. If we were to keep growing, we had to keep pushing. I knew only one speed: Faster, bigger, higher.

In 2004, I was pregnant with identical twin daughters but I was determined not to let this slow me down. I kept up my demanding work travel schedule, setting off for Mexico, Chile, and South Africa, until my doctor had to impose a mandatory no-fly zone and three months of bedrest. It worked – the girls arrived, healthy, at 38 weeks – and I walked away with a valuable lesson: To move forward, sometimes you first have to pull back; to go big, you have to go home. Being an entrepreneur does not mean pushing your ideas at all costs. I changed the phrase to Go Big AND Go Home.

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