18 Jun The Homeless Entrepreneur
What does it feel like to be without a home in a Nordic welfare state? A while ago, Finnish TV-personality Arman Alizad set out to find the answer to that question in an unforgettable episode of his eye-opening show Arman Pohjantähden Alla. According to official statistics, there are at least 7.100 homeless people in Finland. In reality, the number is significantly bigger.
From comfortable couches in warm apartments, viewers were invited to follow some of these individuals as they continuously struggle to find temporary shelters where they can survive the next long, cold night. In one of the segments Arman joins Marko, 39, as the man walks the streets of Helsinki, preparing for one more night of hardship and insecurity. The shelters are all full, but luckily, after hours of searching, they find an unlocked door and the two get to sleep in a corner of a stairway for a couple of hours until the residents start waking up. Marko’s morning continues as he tries to get a moment’s rest on one of the early trams.
”You create your own luck” is something you often hear people say. In a sense that is of course true. Life is full of choices, and by keeping focus on what you want to achieve and believeing in yourself you can – and, most probably, will – reach greater heights. Life is, however, anything but fair. You have far better chances at overcoming obstacles if you have been blessed with a good set of mental tools than you have if you’re carrying the burden of some childhood trauma, for instance. The homeless individuals in Finland aren’t different from the rest of us. Neither are they a homogenous group originating from some certain societal segment. These people are normal human beings with widely different backgrounds, but with one important thing in common: life happened to them. Sometimes life actually does happen, even if you gave it everything you had. And to some of us, life kicks you so hard in the groin that it may seem impossible to ever get back up again.
Out of the more than 7.000 Finns who do not have a bed to sleep in, four percent are former entrepreneurs. Think about that for a second. Hundreds of Finnish individuals who once had the balls to set out on that scary, lonesome road of building their own fortune – and creating jobs – ended up in the gutter, litteraly. No award was given to them for trying. Instead, they were forgotten. They joined the ranks of thousands of shadows who now roam in eternal darkness. Oh, and that was after they suffered through the frustrating, almost impossible, bureaucracy of running a company in Finland. One would imagine that with all the required paperwork in this country, at least someone would know for sure how many homeless persons there are.
These kinds of problems are something we should seriously take into account when we talk about things like success and prosperity. Finland is a very good place to start a company. There are loads of courses, programs and start-up grants for budding entrepreneurs, and investing in the companies of the future is vital if we want our country to keep up with the rest of the world. But as we build our society on these values and people are encouraged to follow their dreams, to create businesses and to take risks, we also need to learn how to collectively share the responsibility of supporting the ones who do not succeed. Let us not forget what lies at the core of all truly successful ventures: Helping each other.