I read Dwyer Gunn’s Freakonomics column in The New York Times today. I don’t normally read business-related articles, but someone specifically told me to read this one. I actually found it quite interesting. (Interesting enough not only to write about it here but also to write about it in my Examiner.com column today.) This column contains an interview with Dan Senor, who co-authored Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, with Saul Singer, a book that explores the culture behind Israel’s economic success.
Senor attributes some of Israel’s success with start-ups to the fact that Israeli’s have a lot of chutzpah. He uses Yiddish scholar Leo Rosten’s definition for this Yiddish word: “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts,’ presumption, plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to.” Israeli’s aren’t afraid to question, speak up, say what they think, question authority, and act when action seems necessary.
Indeed, it seem their life experience–a unique one found only in Israel–gives them a creative and innovative approach to life in general, which they then apply to business. They grow up in a country constantly threatened on all sides by enemies; thus, war–and the possibility of death–are facts of life. Entering the army is not a choice but a requirement. By the time an Israeli man or woman enters college, they have already completed a stint as a soldier and are part of a reserve unit. They have life experience most Americans will never achieve…ever.
Living in this environment with “death on your shoulder,” knowing as Senor reports in The New York Times column, “the value of five minutes,” I think makes Israeli’s think in an extremely creative and innovative manner. I believe they don’t feel they have time to waste focusing on problems. Instead, they want to find a solution and act upon it. If that doesn’t work, they’ll find a new solution.
The fact that people from different walks of life are thrown together in the army and forced to work together –with someone who might normally not report to another having to do so — gives Israeli’s the ability to respect each other’s opinions and abilities as well. The fact that they are allowed — even encouraged — to question, think outside the box, and speak up, and that those in authority listen, creates a unique “think tank” in the army and, later, in the workplace.
So, what does it take for each of us to get find the chutzpah…to find that sort of creativity and innovative way of looking at the world? We don’t want to have to live in a place where we feel threatened by missiles landing in our back yard or that we might not live to see the morning. But we do want to have “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts,’ presumption, plus arrogance” (in a positive way) that helps us think outside the box, or as my friend Randy Peyser likes to say, to “not just think outside the box but crush it.”
What’s it take? Enough belief in your ideas? Enough belief in yourself? Willingness to fail? Lack of fear? No worry about what other people think about you or your work?
Consider your upbringing and the environment in which you were raised. Did this contribute to your ability to express yourself creatively, innovatively and with chutzpah? If not, what can you do now to create an environment that supports you in doing so.
Whatever dream you have, fulfilling it means being creative and innovative and having the chutzpah to make it manifest in the world. By this I don’t mean just utilizing the Law of Attraction, conscious creation or deliberate creation, although my readers all know I believe in this. In addition to using these principles, you have to take action. You have to go out there and make your dreams happen.
The Israeli’s are making it happen. They provide a great model not only for American business men and women (and those around the world), but for all of us. Whatever we want to “start up” –whatever project we want to begin, nurture and make into a success — we can not only start up but continue and succeed.