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How Entrepreneurship Is Like Acting

Entrepreneurship, like theater, requires you to imagine something that doesn't exist. Hollywood star Jeffrey Wright explains how his training on the stage prepared him to found a mineral company and non-profit in Sierra Leone.

The English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote that if authors could infuse their stories with enough "semblance of truth," readers would suspend their disbelief of the clearly fabricated tale. Almost 200 years later, actor and entrepreneur Jeffrey Wright tells Big Think that starting a business requires a similar suspension of disbelief on the part of investors, employees, stakeholders, and even the entrepreneur himself. 


The Amherst-educated actor first visited Sierra Leone in 2001 as its decade-long civil war was coming to a close. He was so inspired by the situation that he returned two years later to found a sustainable mineral exploration company Taia Lion Resources as well as a corporate social responsibility arm Taia Peace Foundation.

Sierra Leone, like much of Africa, is blessed with plentiful resources, but historically these resources have benefitted European society, not African society. Wright hopes to change that, but this required asking the Sierra Leoneans to forget the past and envision a more positive future, as he explains in the video below:

Takeaway

In order to inspire others and convince them to suspend their disbelief, you must celebrate, through language, the idea above yourself. Treat the idea as if it were a character you were embodying on the stage. Compelling others is "a function of your capacity to imagine and to subsume one's own ego in favor of whatever character or idea it is that you're trying to portray," says Wright. "The idea becomes larger and more powerful than you and there is then hopefully some type of levitation that happens and the story touches people."

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