Creative Entrepreneurs: Leadership Lessons from Peter Pan

Unimaginative. Dull. Uninspired.

I think deep down, this is how I see “grown-ups” – which is why I never wanted to become one. Even today, I don’t really identify as a “grown-up”, even though that ship has probably sailed…

Peter Pan was my hero when I was a kid. I liked the Disney version, and I still have a soft spot for Robin Williams’ rendition of a middle-aged Peter Pan who’s forgotten how to fly.

In fact, when I was a kid, part of me wanted to be Peter Pan when I grew up. (yes, I see the irony)

And wouldn’t you know it? I pretty much did. :)

I didn’t actually become Peter Pan.

I can’t fly (unfortunately), I don’t wear green tights (I swear!), and I’ll take my fiancée any day over a high-maintenance, clingy fairy who spreads pixie dust every time she sneezes.

So I’m not exactly Peter Pan, but I’ve tried my darndest not to grow up, either.

Does that mean that I don’t work hard, work towards goals that matter to me, or take risks? Does it mean I spend my days playing video games, stay up late watching sit-coms, and eat pizza and ice cream for every meal?

No, of course not. It didn’t mean that for Peter Pan, either.

Never Grow Up, Huh?

Peter Pan may have refused to grow up, but he doesn’t really fit the image of the carefree, irresponsible child, either.

He was the leader of the Lost Boys, and he took that responsibility seriously. He risked his life to protect his friends, and was ready to take on the bigger, badder Captain Hook, despite the risks, to create the life that he wanted for himself and his friends in Never Never Land.

And how did Peter win?

His childlike innocence and open mind let him see creative solutions that others didn’t, his appreciation for the benefits gave him the courage to take on the biggest risks, and his happy thoughts gave him the power to fly.

Will The Real Peter Pan Please Stand Up?

Think about all this, and then ask yourself: Who is the modern equivalent of Peter Pan? I say, if Peter Pan were alive today (and was real to begin with), he’d be a creative entrepreneur.

Everything that Peter Pan did, we do too.

We see opportunities, and are willing to take on the risks to realize our vision for how the world can be a better place. We take charge, see creative solutions where others only see obstacles, and our passion is modern-day pixie dust, allowing us to fly.

I’ve bumped into this video by Grasshopper in a bunch of different places, the most recent of which is on Austin Hill’s blog. It does a great job of capturing the spirit of why we really do what we do:

Does anyone want to chime in? What makes the rest of you do what you do? Are there any other Peter Pans out there?

Danny Iny (@DannyIny, +DannyIny), a.k.a. the "Freddy Krueger of Blogging", is the proud founder of Firepole Marketing. He is the author of the Amazon best-seller Engagement from Scratch! (available on Amazon, or for free in our Engagement Toolbox), and creator of the Audience Business Masterclass.

Comments

  1. says

    “We see opportunities, and are willing to take on the risks to realize our vision for how the world can be a better place.”

    What a great line and what a fabulous video. Thank you for that danny, this is a great start to any enterprise, keep up the good work.

  2. says

    Danny: I thought this was a great post and totally agree with Graham about that statement you made, “We see opportunities, and are willing to take on the risks to realize our vision for how the world can be a better place.” I thought it was so powerful and inspiring. I really appreciated the point you made about being Peter Pan and just being creative about finding solutions and pouring your passion into everything you do. Great post.

  3. Yeah New York says

    This is such a quotable quote. “We see opportunities, and are willing to take on the risks to realize our vision for how the world can be a better place. We take charge, see creative solutions where others only see obstacles, and our passion is modern-day pixie dust, allowing us to fly.” Love it! What makes entrepreneurs is their ability to see things beyond the reality before them.

    • says

      Thanks! “What makes entrepreneurs is their ability to see things beyond the reality before them.” – I agree with you 1,000%!

  4. says

    Hey Danny

    Thanks for sending me this link. I love the Peter Pan and entrepreneur analogy! Whenever I see this video, it always inspires me to dream bigger – just like a kid again.

    Blair

  5. says

    Danny, aloha. Your point equating Peter Pan with entrepreneurs is intriguing and excellent.

    In fact, I would venture to say that anyone who, to borrow Seth Godin’s words/book, is willing to Poke the Box has a bit of the Peter Pan spirit in the them.

    Seeing beyond the status quo of any situation and being willing to take the action to change it could well be considered Peter Panesque. Best wishes for a great weekend. Aloha. Janet

  6. says

    Hi Danny! (Were you the anonymous commenter on my blog?)

    I love that video! That’s the first time I’ve ever seen it. Very inspiring. And you make a good point about Peter Pan seeming to espouse avoiding adult responsibilities when, in fact, he was quite the responsible leader, himself.

    Jeanine

  7. says

    Very creative post :). What makes me do what I do? Passion. Desire to spread a message that I know and believe will make a difference. Freedom. If Peter Pan symbolizes entrepreneurship, then I’m Peter Pan too :).

  8. Think Market Act L.A says

    I have worked with small business for yrs now on all things web and with each new client I go OMG why do you spend that much money on X. So i am doing what I am doing because I think it is ridiculous on how much some of these people spend on basic service. I just did a blog post about some people spending 70 bucks on a community site for the community to open up their posts for google to find. WordPress does this for free.

    Websites. A lot of ppl pay 50-150 a month for a template so i try to steer people in to buying their own template from a site like themeforest.com

    A lot of these people also need help with other basic stuff so i blog about that too.

  9. says

    Danny,

    Great connection here. The video was really inspiring actually, I like that and it was my first time seeing it. Thanks so much for the share.

    My family and a challenge. Those are the things that fuel me to keep going and keep thinking I can do anything (as I did as a child). I want my family to be pleased with the work I do for others and I enjoy the challenges (bumps and bruises included) along the entrepreneurial path.

    Oh and hey, I like you Danny, but I just don’t want to picture you in green tights :)

    (If we could fly we wouldn’t be writers or marketers; we’d be aimlessly zipping all over the place and touching down on sandy beaches. At least that’s what I would do.)

    Thanks!

    Jon

      • Linda says

        No green tights?? Oh… that’s a shame!

        I think they would be quite fetching and quite in keeping with the fresh youthful thinking you so eloquently display.

        Long live the child within us all that can see past the problems and instead of asking ‘why?’ dreams things that never were and says ‘why not?’ ‘Why’ will stop us, ‘why not’ gives us the freedom to fly in whatever way we choose.

        And yes – I have a great BIG problem with growing up!

  10. says

    Hey Danny,

    Great video. My burning desire to succeed and my passion to share what I know and help others drive me to do what I do.

    Thanks for sharing.

    All the best,
    Mavis

  11. Golda says

    Hi Danny,

    I actually had that video on my blog for some time, it’s very inspirational. What drives me? My desire to help as many people live more fulfilling lives.

    Golda

  12. Tisha says

    Danny..Great post! There is a Peter Pan in all of us. As long as we remember the feeling we had as a child, that feeling of wanting to create anything we think of and take action to make it come true, we can do anything as adults.

    ~Tisha

  13. Oliver Tausend says

    Hi Danny,

    what an amazing post. We are never really grown up and I like your characterization of this circumstance:”His childlike innocence and open mind let him see creative solutions that others didn’t, his appreciation for the benefits gave him the courage to take on the biggest risks, and his happy thoughts gave him the power to fly.” So I agree with you that this Desire has nothing got to do with careless and irresponsible behaviour.

    Thanks for sharing your insights, love them.

    Take care

    Oliver

  14. says

    What an fantastic post Danny. I really like the Peter Pan and entrepreneur analogy. Thanks for sharing this awesome post man.

    Have a powerful day.

    ~Dev

    • says

      Thank you, Devesh! I checked out your site, and love your stuff. I’ve subscribed for updates. :)

      Looking forward to seeing you here again!

  15. says

    I’ve spent my whole life in creative endeavors, and yes, the trick is to not grow up too much, to continue to believe that it all starts with dreams but then have pragmatic steps to pursue our dreams and goals. Idealism and objectivity are potent partners.

  16. Alison Rowan says

    I have to say it—This is brilliant. I think that refusing to let go of childhood imagination and curiosity is what makes us great entrepreneurs. It’s where we find not only our ideas, but the determination to pull them off because we just have to see how it turns out. 

    • says

      Thank you Alison, I’m really glad you liked the post! This is actually one of my favorites of all the posts that I’ve ever written, and I completely agree with you – a lot more great things would be accomplished in the world if people didn’t insist on growing up so fast. :)

  17. says

    I’m definitely a Peter Pan too. Not only because I’m an entrepreneur but also because I’m an adventurer! Nothing sounds too far fetched to me in business or personal life. Imagination is still being put to use on a daily basis for me. Not only because I’m a graphic designer but also just because it’s fun. Between adventures, excitement, and imagination I don’t think I’d ever want to grow up! (in the Peter Pan sense anyway). I grew up a long time ago with regards to sitting around all day eating pizza and playing video games ;)

    • says

      You sure are, Lindsay! I love the way that you put it – it’s not just about function or outcome, at the end of the day, it’s just more fun! I completely agree with you, and for what it’s worth, I haven’t grown up yet, and I’m not planning to! :-D

  18. says

    Hey Danny,

    Great post – I especially liked the video!

    I think it is so easy to get caught up in the business side of business that we sometimes forget our ‘Peter Pan’ – thanks for the reminder!

    Stacey

  19. says

    Hahahah… we all start as kids, and we all rock as kids. Period.

    And then somehow along the way… we mostly forget and abandon all the best parts of being a kid, (along with the tantrums and pissing ourselves.)

  20. says

    Nice video – I hadn’t seen it before. I am 61 years old, and have not grown up yet…neither have many of my contemporaries! Anyone who has real passion for what they do maintains some of the best traits of childhood. But as Joe Raposo’s famous song says, “it’s not easy being green!”

    • says

      Hey Cathy, I’m so glad that you liked the video – it’s one of my favorites (I still come back and watch it at least once a month)! :)

  21. Bruno says

    Woho! This is so crazy!
    My friends gave me as a mock-up present a peter pan book (I’m 35 years old).
    Funnily I didn’t felt bad about it, I felt proud.

    Let’s take the second star on the left and on til Morning Danny!

  22. Larry Pelley says

    Peter Pan seemed to be: fancy free…
    However, he was deliberate in all he
    did….Peter Pan and Tinkerbell…brings
    back memories to the days of my youth.

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