By Chuck Violand

July 21, 2014

When you think of the word pilgrim two images typically come to mind. One is of a person dressed in a black waistcoat wearing a tall, brimmed hat and buckles galore. These are the people from the early 1600s who risked their lives and fortunes to seek freedom of religious expression in an uncharted land. Our mental picture might also include tall sailing ships in the background on which they arrived or one of them sharing a harvested bounty with native Indians.

Another image you may conjure is of one of a more modern person seeking a religious experience by trekking a long distance to worship at a sacred shrine or simply looking for a deeper understanding of religious beliefs they already have.

I would venture to say most of us wouldn’t think of an entrepreneur when we think of the word pilgrim. But if embarking on a pilgrimage makes a person a pilgrim (Pilgrimage, n, to go on a journey; any long journey), then by extension many entrepreneurs are pilgrims on the long journey of building their businesses. And in the process of their journey they are constantly seeking answers to questions they have about their businesses and about themselves.

It starts when we leave the perceived security of steady employment and strike out on our own in search of a better life. Some of us may have felt persecuted by our previous employers (“You want me to do what!?”), others might simply have been seeking avenues for greater self-expression, and still others just had what Michael Gerber calls an Entrepreneurial Seizure and woke up one day to find themselves owning a job.

After the initial excitement of being on our own wears off, most of us realize we’re not as smart as we once thought we were and that we had better start looking for answers to some pretty important questions. Questions like “How much should I charge customers for the privilege of doing business with me?”, “Where did all these competitors come from?”, and “Why is my phone not ringing off the hook when I’ve been open for business for over a week?”

But we press on, and despite a mental fog brought on by a cocktail of fear, shock, and adrenalin, or maybe because our mortgage payment is due, we learn that we can do this. A handful even learn that by consistently earning more than they spend their companies can actually thrive! But the journey is only beginning.

By continuing to ask questions and seek answers we learn that each day we open the door of our growing business we’re entering a place we’ve never been before. We have a fresh path laid out ahead of us full of new lessons to learn. Lessons like understanding changing customer preferences so we can sell more products and services, money management so we can retire someday financially secure, how we can attract and get along with people who are different from us in order to achieve our goals, and when we’re really thinking deeply—why we’re even on this journey in the first place.

I guess the important lesson to learn about being a pilgrim is that we should never stop walking. Never stop searching. It isn’t just what we learn on the journey that makes the pilgrimage worthwhile but that we never stop learning.