If it feels good, do it Featured

9:42am EDT July 22, 2002

It hit me on an afternoon two years ago while some of my musician friends and I were entertaining patients at the V.A. Hospital in Aspinwall.

During our performance, a man confined to his bed opened his eyes for the first time in months, his wife told us. It may have been a coincidence, but I really want to believe that we had something to do with it. The man’s grateful wife was convinced that we did, and that alone made it a precious moment to her and to us.

I realized that there are a couple of things I would do even if I never got paid for them. One is strapping a guitar across my shoulder and playing for an appreciative audience until my fingers are sore. The other is sitting at a keyboard for several hours, enduring the sweat and toil it sometimes takes to write something that will motivate, inspire or otherwise jostle someone into action.

A corollary to that is one of the most significant broncos of wisdom that I’ve been able to wrangle to date: In the long run, what you have isn’t nearly as important as what you do.

Realizing that what I do really counts most has pointed me in the right direction at several points in my life. At a time when I was trying to decide how I truly wanted to make a living, I chose to pursue something that, at the time, seemed a bit impractical for a number of reasons. That led to a career in journalism.

Later, I had to choose between a path that likely would have been financially rewarding but less satisfying, and another that would keep me engaged for the long haul but wouldn’t pay as much. I went with my gut, chose the latter, and was never sorry.

During a journalism career that spans a decade, I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs like the ones in this month’s cover story who are launching Laurel Networks. With that experience, I’ve come to classify entrepreneurs in two rather broad categories. There are those who are focused almost entirely on the money. And some of them do succeed.

But there is another brand of business builder which seems to have a far less urgent passion for getting rich. Sure, they have the potential to become wealthy, even extravagantly so in some ventures, as the recent history of some notable technology companies verifies. None of those entrepreneurs makes any bones about the financial upside.

In truth, though, a lot of them, highly skilled professionals in big demand, could do quite well working for someone else — and, in a lot of cases, already have. But I detect a sense of purpose and mission that has little to do with making a million dollars.

What most often comes through vividly is a burning desire to create something new, something that will have an impact on the world and let it know that they not only were here, but that they created something of value. And they send the clear message that once whatever they are doing ceases to be fun, they’re likely to jump into something else that gets their creative entrepreneurial juices flowing.

So when something gets to be all work and no play, maybe that’s when it’s time to plunge into that other venture you’ve been dreaming about. Now, I think that song goes something like this: G, E minor, C ...

Ray Marano, (rmarano@sbnnet.com)associate editor at SBN, may not be rich, but he’s happy – even if his fingers are raw.