Have you ever wondered if a digital Scotland has continued to produce bright ideas in line with the country's unequalled global reputation? Historically, we're talking of a halcyon period of ingenuity involving the likes of the pedal bicycle, telephone, steam engine, television, penicillin, pneumatic tyre, even Universal Standard Time and Dolly the Sheep. Also Bovril.
A dip into a new book Misadventures in Entrepreneuring
by Gayle Mann and Lucy-Rose Walker (Practical Inspiration Publishing) reveals that we undoubtedly remain a small but smart nation punching well above our weight. Of course, it's not a case of comparing like-with-like. It's a whole different world nowadays. The likes of heavy manufacturing, for example, has been all but replaced by much more agile ventures but no less when making key contributions towards a modern economy.
Two terms shout out from this book – values and passion – each timeless and wrapped around the Scottish psyche. Along with a word of warning. If each are not handled with some TLC, the result can be a negative impact on one's mental health. The authors are quick to counsel a degree of caution when it comes to launching oneself with unabated enthusiasm into a venture.
All that said, this book represents a quite fascinating insight of the world, as a typical Scot would describe it, of 'entreprenoorship'. For starters: values that guide you. Get them right and you'll be swift and focused in your decision-making with clear direction; get them wrong or leave them ambiguous, and you'll constantly wonder how you got into situations where something just doesn't sit right with you.
Consciously or unconsciously, we use our personal values to pick friends, relationships and careers. Your values also help you manage things like time and money, helping you to decide to spend these on things that are ultimately going to make you the happiest. Using your values to guide your decisions as an entrepreneur will help you avoid all kinds of misadventures. Choose to ignore them and you might find yourself in a place that you never expected.
When it comes to values in culture, it's not a material thing. You can't buy it or sell it or paint the walls in it. When you boil it down, culture is a pretty straightforward concept, the authors maintain. Particularly if you've done your work on your values. It's about having a strong understanding of your beliefs and then living them every day, in your life and work. Once clearer, you've got a rock-solid guidance tool to come back to if you ever feel lost... going against these can be the root cause of many misadventures.
Onto passion and again a helpful word of caution. Getting to know yourself better and understanding how to find your true north is going to give you a great base to build on, the attributes helpful to develop and begin to really 'unlock your superpowers'. However, the term is both 'highly overused' and 'generally misunderstood', to the point of being fooled into believing it's the most important characteristic in existence.
Of course, in an ideal universe we'd all be doing the things we love or are most passionate about all day, every day. The notion of 'work' has had an image overhaul in the last couple of decades and, unlike our grandparents' or even our parents' generation, you no longer have to pick a profession because it's 'noble' or your 'civic duty', or enables you to provide for your family.
The book maintains that especially in the last 10 years 'passion' has been employed by job-seekers and entrepreneurs to describe how they feel about pretty much everything. Identifying themselves as more eager and enthusiastic than the next person – to secure that job or that investment. The word is so frequently used it has started to lose its meaning. LinkedIn published the most overused 'buzzwords' in user profiles and 'passion' is up there every time.
Passion is driven by emotion to the point, at times, of being very strong and barely controllable. When it becomes so personal we can become blinded to all sorts of truths or facts that we choose not to see because we believe so intensely in what we're doing. Yes, be passionate as a force for good, work hard and make progress – but strike a balance. Be aware of the mental health impact that's increasingly being reported. A survey by the International Business Festival found most entrepreneurs struggle to switch off from today's 'always on' work culture. You might be an early bird or a night owl – but you can't be both seven days a week.
It's clear that although 'entrepreneurship' is in the title, this book represents much, much more than just setting up an enterprise. It's full of inspirational stories, humour and straight talking. As Jenny Britton, head of executive development, University of Edinburgh, puts it in the book's sleeve: 'Jam-packed with useful advice, grounded in actual, lived experience... learn how to embrace the uncertainty of not knowing what's going to happen next!'.
Bill Magee is a freelance journalist who specialises in business and finance. He has written for many publications including The Scotsman, The Times, Business Insider and Reuters