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Entrepreneurship is born in the imagination.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, people can stay in the dreaming stage for years. If you find yourself in that situation, try an easy, unsophisticated way to peek inside yourself and take a vacation from the difficult issue taking a stand on your own self-employment. But, in order to take your vacation, you’ll have to take Walter Mitty along.

It may be pushing the English Lit thing a bit, but James Thurber provided us with a great career launching pad, although he probably never intended it that way regarding entrepreneurship. One of Thurber’s most endearing characters is Walter Mitty. If you already know him, like most, you probably like him. He’s both fun and entertaining. If you don’t know him, then you should be introduced. He lives in all of us.

Walter Mitty was a post WWII character who lived a secret life of escapism through his vivid imagination. When engaged in any of life’s mundane activities, Walter would escape the situation by closing out the real world and traveling into the fantasy world of Secret Agent Mitty, or heroic pilot, Captain Walter Mitty. His active imagination made fun reading because he took us on adventures. But he also showed us ourselves, even the part that dreams about entrepreneurship. We can use that view to learn about ourselves and better our lives.

Thurber gave us the story of a middle-aged man in order to show us at least two things.

First, Walter displayed the alter ego in all of us. His dream adventures were not possible in his real life, but they did represent some of the ideals that he felt strongly about. In his mind he was a heroic action figure ready to save the world. If Walter had the ability to become his action characters, perhaps he would have; he fantasized about good things, not bad. He wanted to be a hero or in our case, achieve self-employment.

Second, Walter gave us permission to let our minds wander. He showed us contentment by escaping. Walter’s imagination can teach us something about planning our lives, and yes, the goal of entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship always has its beginnings in imagination. Use it!

The common threads in Walter’s secret characters are action, heroism, justice and commitment to a cause. With a bit of mental exercise and creativity it’s not hard to make sense of his imaginings relative to a more peaceful and rewarding lifestyle. For most people, entrepreneurship is a big step, but if it stays on our mind, then clearly there is a fantasy inside that wants to be fulfilled. In some cases that fantasy of entrepreneurship is not acted upon because it’s too hard to achieve.

If Walter was not qualified to be a pilot or stealthy enough to be an undercover agent, but he loved those environments, he could work close to, or around those professions: administrative work in law enforcement, staff worker for an airline might have been logical choices. What if person loves the food business and dreams of owning a chain of fast food franchises but has neither the funds nor the management skills to do so? Would an independent food start-up be a good fit and lead to satisfying entrepreneurship?

No need beating this to death. Having joy in our work, indeed having joy in our lives, is a function of using our God given talents and interests. This is not to say that fantasy should be our launching pad into entrepreneurship, but it is to say our imagination provides a great deal of personal insight.

The Focus Program for Emerging Entrepreneurs is also a good option for exploring ones goals of self-employment.