I’ve been running my own businesses for 10 years and I’ve learned something:

Entrepreneurs who change the world aren’t self-made. They’re just …

  1. Born at the right time, when large world-wide patterns are changing
  2. Passionate about one of these world-changing patterns
  3. Able to create or raise capital
  4. Happy to take risks

We like to believe is that there’s some secret formula to building a big world-changing business. We believe that if we can just turn the dials just right, our graphs will hockey-stick upwards and our company will change the world.

Not true.

I know because I’ve experienced it.

My Experience

My three first business were small time:

  1. FlightDeck – A tool to send large files to clients for approval. Just me, doing less than $12,000 per year in revenue. Fizzled out because I priced it too high for a self-serve model.
  2. DropSend – A freemium tool for sending large files. Just me and a part-time Developer, doing $300,000 per year in revenue. Sold the whole business for around $450,000.
  3. Carsonified – An in-person training company for Web Designers and Developers. Grew to about 12 full-time folks, doing around $2m per year in revenue. Sold in 2011 for a pretty poor multiple on revenue.

Treehouse is a completely different beast. 75 full-time employees (hiring a ton more), on track to change millions of people’s lives, raised $13m+ of capital, working towards doing $100m+ of revenue, etc.

I’m the same guy, so what’s the difference?

Here’s why: I’m passionate about a world-changing pattern, at the right time in history. Notice the cover talks about igniting a revolution, not tweaking the numbers to increase EBITDA by 1.2%.

The world-changing pattern is this: The ability to become job-ready and get a job is being de-coupled from the university degree and simultaneously, there is an explosion of related well-paying tech jobs.

I’m hell-bent on creating an online school that actually makes people job-ready, without debt, and then helps them find a job.

There’s no guarantee we’ll succeed, but I’m going to die trying. I can’t wait to see what the future holds – it’s going to be one freaking exciting ride.

I’m old enough to finally realize that I’m not leading Treehouse because I’m a baddass entrepreneur. I’m just lucky.

This article was first published on Ryan’s personal blog Naive Optimist.