03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

If You Want To Be An Entrepreneur, You Have To Be Willing To Take The Bagel

Most Sundays throughout the year,  the New York Road Runners
organizes races in Central Park. They range in distance from a mile or
two to distances just shy of half-marathon length.  Though there are
medals for the winners, hundreds even thousands of New Yorkers take
part simply for fun or to try to beat their own times.

Sunday morning, a friend and I ran in a 4-mile race together.  My
friend is a decent runner. He is more disciplined about keeping a
regular running schedule than I am. And because of it, he's generally a
little faster than I am too. Though he works for a large bank down on
Wall Street, on more than one occasion he has mentioned a desire to
start his own business one day.  Given his discipline, I assumed that
he was well suited to be an entrepreneur. 

That was...until we got to the end of the race. 


Sometimes they give away free stuff to the runners at the finish
line.  On this day - free bagels.  There were boxes of bagels sitting
atop 2 or 3 of those long, brown fold-up lunch tables, like in high
school. One one side of the tables were volunteers giving out the
bagels. On the other side of the tables was a long line of runners
waiting to get a free bagel. A long line of runners. 

turned to my friend and said, "lets get a free bagel." He turned,
looked at the line and said, "nah, forget it, line's too long."

looked at him, puzzled. Pointed to the bagels and said, "lets just get
a bagel - they're free."  He pointed to the line and said, "yeah, but I
don't want to wait."

And it was at that point, I realized he could never be an entrepreneur. 

see the thing they want or need then try to figure out a process of how to
get it. People who shouldn't be entrepreneurs see the standard process
they need to go through to get the thing they want or need then decide
if they want to go through that process.  My friend didn't want to
stand in line, so he opted to abandon the bagel.  I wanted the bagel,
so I opted to avoid the line.

I could see that he would rather
not have a bagel than break the rules. So I pushed him, "come on, we
don't need to stand in line, lets just get a bagel." He refused. He
pushed me back, "come on, lets just go...the line's too long."

we saw the world differently, I walked up to the tables, leaned through
the line, put my hand in one of the boxes, pulled out two bagels and
walked back to him with our breakfast.  Not a single person in the line
said anything to me or even seemed to care.

Entrepreneurs smile
when I tell this story.  Non-entrepreneurs like to tell me that I
shouldn't do things like that, because if everyone did things like
that, we'd have anarchy.  And they'd be right...IF everyone had what it
took to be an entrepreneur.  But everyone doesn't. Which is why most
people don't start their own businesses and why most people are
perfectly fine to stand in line.

And this is why the whole
system works. Because the two mindsets need each other. If no one ever
broke the rules, then we'd never advance. But if a few people were
willing to take the bagel, to break the rules in order to find or
create a better process for the majority to follow...that's called progress.


To learn more about how great leaders inspire everyone to take action, look out for Simon's new book, Start With Why, due in stores at the end of the month.

For more from Simon, visit