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Zen and the Art of Entrepreneurship

By: Frank Lonardelli

Published: October 31, 2016

Finding your passion and doing something with it is — to me — what defines an entrepreneur. But with that passion comes risk.

We start businesses because we are passionate about something, but there is always a risk of getting bogged down in all the other details that go along with running a business and losing that entrepreneurial spirit.

I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life. I’ve been a relatively successful one because I’ve learned to focus on achieving my goals and the goals of those who work for me, not the goals of my business; pursuing the passion and letting the business follow, rather than the other way around.

My experience has taught me there are three stages to the life of a successful entrepreneur:


You realize you want to do what you love and you’ve got a great idea to make that happen. You may have only mastered one element of the dozen or so you actually need to become successful, but you jump right in anyway.


You discover everything you weren’t aware you needed to understand in order to succeed. You are confronted by the reality of all the things you’re not good at (and/or hate doing) and all the time you’re doing the things you hate instead of the one thing that made you decide to become an entrepreneur in the first place. You then experience hating everything… or almost everything.

Every entrepreneur at this stage runs the risk of becoming a slave to their business. The company has a life of its own and uses you to reach to its goals. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs live as slaves to their companies and, by default, the company uses the entrepreneur to get to its goals. It should always be the other way around. The company is there to meet the goals of those that created it. In other words, the company is a vehicle for the entrepreneur to get what they want. It’s the only way to get to the third stage: Zen.


After many years and lots of battle scars, you finally ask, “What do I really want to do with my life?” It’s an important question because your only real asset, your human capital, is your time and the energy you invest into the company. You can always make more money but you can never make up for the time you’ve lost. So don’t do the stuff you hate. Hire someone else who loves doing it instead. And don’t allow the company to control you. You control it.

I don’t see myself as a real estate developer. I’m an entrepreneur first, an investor of real estate second, and a developer third. That outlook gives me a very different approach to the business of building buildings.

Everything we talk about at Arlington Street Investments is about human capital and where we’re going to put our energy. We ask ourselves, “what do we want to create in this universe?” And then we go and create that outcome.

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