Evangelists (and Climbing Mountains)

Illustration by Konani Chinn

Evangelists are people who use their charisma and personality to build innovative products and organizations. The word evangelism is commonly associated with religions; and building a successful business is a lot like promoting a religion.

Story: We Can Do This.

The hardest thing about building a business is convincing people to come along: to join your innovative expedition and climb a steep, scary mountain together. Everyone must be convinced, over and over, to try something so new and risky.

Investors, employees, customers… everyone has other options for how to spend their time and money. Everyone’s naturally skeptical, inclined to ‘wait and see’ or choose a less risky venture. And even if you manage to convince them, they can often waver and want to turn back.

Getting people to believe is what great entrepreneurs do. And it’s what evangelism is all about.

The best evangelists are more than salespeople. They’re smart, substantive crusaders who are willing to sacrifice for years and take major life, career and financial risks for what they believe. They have stamina and staying power. They talk to absolutely everybody and try to win their support. They’re fire breathing forces of nature.

Evangelists also often controversial, too, because they’re trying to disrupt or change the status quo. Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, Elon Musk, Beyonce – love ’em or hate ’em, all are examples of evangelists who innovated, won legions of followers, and probably upset plenty of people in the process.

The most important evangelists are the ones you’ll never hear about. For every Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King there are millions of people in this world who are passionate, hard working, and able to convince people to come along with them on the journey up their particular mountain.

You’ll meet many evangelists like this in your life. Maybe you’ll even become one of them.