The end of the year is a time to sit, relax with family and be happy for what you’ve accomplished over the last 12 months.

It’s also a time for thanks, especially for all of the advantages we enjoy in this country. For me, a lot of that turns back to innovation, and the amazing work being done every day by entrepreneurs to change the world.

Because it’s never easy.

Every big company was once a small company. Every small company was once a tiny company. Every tiny company was once a single person with an idea.

Maybe that person sat on that idea for a while. Years.

Maybe they got the idea from their child, who challenged them to do something different.  

Maybe there was an inspiration.  

Or maybe they quit their job to start their own thing without telling their spouse. (It happens.)

And then they were alone in a room, with a phone and an idea.

Not so much an idea, but a start.

Then there were two of them in that room. Then three. Then 10. Then 100.  

Jobs, Zuckerberg, Ford, Edison … it always starts the same way.

Looking back today, of course, the growth of these entrepreneurs was obvious. The personal computer — and Apple’s Mac line in particular — became an integral part of modern life, transforming every industry and leading to today’s mobile / connected / SaaS world. More than one billion people worldwide are active on Facebook, and more than 100 million people use Instagram every month.

But it’s never a straight line. It’s a mountain — or better yet, a minefield — to climb, complete with dead ends, false flags, storms, obstacles and, of course, cliffs.

Most entrepreneurs can relate to this. Somewhere along the way the path becomes obvious, the way becomes clear, but before reaching that point (and it can take YEARS) the light sometimes goes out entirely.

There are always near death experiences.

But those that persevere come out on the other side with a story to tell. Maybe it was challenging, maybe it was “fun,” but they survived to tell about it.

Only a few people ever really understand what this is like. It’s something you need to experience personally.

But that’s OK. Not everyone needs to understand. Because that is not why you are an entrepreneur.

You are an entrepreneur because you hear something different than others. You see problems that need to be solved, and you set out to solve them.

Others need your leadership — to cure cancer, to improve education, to improve transportation, to improve music, to improve literature… to improve the human condition.

I’m celebrating the individual’s ability to convert uncertain odds into things that change the world, even if those things are seemingly mundane.    

My hope for the future is to marshal the resolve to find more of these unique individuals. To make it easier for them to grow.  To unlock yet more mysteries.

That is what truly changes the future, and that is the source of true inspiration.