Plato, the entrepreneur

My sociology instructor in high school was intense. Really intense. If you weren’t prepared for class, he’d kick you out. He was the old-school kind of teacher that would scream at the top of his lungs equally when students ticked him off or when the light bulb lit. He was visibly, emotionally passionate about teaching. Damned if I didn’t learn from him. We all grew to…appreciate… his intensity.

He was a 2nd generation Greek and probably because of this, had an affinity to to western, classical literature and philosophy.

“The world is black and white”.

Mr. Kolias loved to say this. His teaching was meant to convince us to look for ultimate truths. Plato’s ‘The Cave’ is a wonderful Allegory that drives this home. If you’re not familiar, the main character(s) sit, chained in a cave in a manner that doesn’t let them see anything other than what’s directly in front of them. Behind them, a fire casts shadows from objects on the wall. Without any other context these people believe these shadows are the real object. It isn’t until they’re unchained do they see they are mistaken.

We take so much for truth now, yet in so many cases, it’s become nearly impossible to tell the shadow from the object. But as entrepreneurs, we are charged with doing just that. Plato would have been an awesome entrepreneur and he probably would have been great at marketing strategy.

Plato’s (and Mr. Kolias’ lessons by extension) were all about finding absolute truths. But I’ve come to appreciate this lesson for another, deeper meaning. Certainly you can’t live your life in only absolute truths. You have to find the middle ground. You have to be willing and able to question your surroundings and change your mind. As entrepreneurs, this means you need to make informed decisions, but sometimes you have to be willing to forge a new path. To look for those opportunities that others brush aside as incorrect or folly.

The lesson I ended up taking from Mr. Kolias’ class is about questioning the status quo. Who says that a thing is a thing? Why do we do what we do? Is it right, is it wrong? So find your Plato, rely on them to help you uncover hidden truths. But don’t become so narrow-sighted that you ignore the opportunities that surround you every day.