When it comes to great entrepreneurs, it almost seems as if there is a guiding force behind their actions. From the outside, the conviction they have in their businesses can seem superhuman and near impossible to replicate. The truth, however, is much more ordinary: they have an organizing idea.
The concept of the organizing idea was first put forth by Fredrich Nietzsche. In his book Ecce Homo, Nietzsche explains,
“The organizing idea that is destined to rule keeps growing deep down – it begins to command, slowly it leads us back from side roads and wrong roads; it prepares single qualities and fitnesses that will one day prove to be indispensable as a means toward a whole – one by one, it trains all subservient capacities before giving any hint of the dominant task, goal, aim or meaning.”
As Nietzsche alludes to above, there are countless ideas that preoccupy us over the course of our lives — many of which are a detour to the ultimate destination. It is the dominant “organizing” idea that pulls us back toward our true calling, helping us achieve our full potential in the process.
Without knowledge of their unique organizing idea, aspiring entrepreneurs are virtually guaranteed to wander through life undertaking passionless endeavours.
In a recent Forbes article, entrepreneur Sarah Sabin wrote about how she herself had one such realization,
“My heart was never in my tech startup. I did it to prove I could, I did it for the prestige, I did it to make money, I did it because other people had done it. None of those reasons were good reasons by themselves. The way I talked about it, should have been a clue for me. I was always one foot in, one foot out, of that treadmill.”
But how does one discover their organizing idea, especially given its mysterious nature?
Nietzsche lends some advice in his aforementioned book,
“Let the youthful soul look back on life with the question: what have you truly loved up to now, what has elevated your soul, what has mastered it and at the same time delighted it? Place these venerated objects before you in a row, and perhaps they will yield for you, through their nature and their sequence, a law, the fundamental law of your true self.”
Perhaps it’s creating immersive digital experiences. Maybe it’s building things with your hands, or helping others learn new things. Any of these broad organizing ideas could serve as the basis for hundreds of businesses.
The Organizing Idea is a Northern Star
The organizing idea is more than a lofty vision or goal — it’s a means of orientating your life around a purpose.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”