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Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives

ISBN: 978-0-7879-8862-3
256 pages
March 2008, Jossey-Bass
Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (0787988626) cover image


"An inspirational and practical guide for anyone who wants to incorporate the dynamic skills of entrepreneurs into their own lives and work.

A new generation of "life entrepreneurs" is emerging: people who apply their vision, talents, creativity, and energy not only to their work but to their entire lives, changing the world for themselves and those around them. In this book, successful entrepreneurs Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek draw on numerous interviews with fifty-five leading entrepreneurs worldwide as well as the wisdom of multiple thought leaders to provide vivid examples, moving vignettes, concrete frameworks, and practical strategies for revving up our work and play through entrepreneurial leadership. This book starts by providing strategies for integrating life, work, and purpose and ends by capturing the implications of the current entrepreneurial boom for our workplaces, learning institutions, communities, and families.

Christopher Gergen (Washington, D.C.) is a founding partner of New Mountain Ventures, co-founder and chairman of SMARTHINKING, Adjunct Professor and Director of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Initiative at Duke University, and a life-long entrepreneur,

Gregg Vanourek (Thornton, CO) is a founding partner of New Mountain Ventures, former CEO of Vanourek Consulting Solutions, and former Senior Vice President of School Development for K12 Inc."

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Warren Bennis.



1. Understanding Life Entrepreneurship.

2. Life Entrepreneurs in Action.

3. Discovering Core Identity.


4. Awakening to Opportunity.

5. Envisioning the Future.

6. Developing Goals and Strategies.


7. Building Healthy Support Systems.

8. Taking Action and Making a Difference.

9. Embracing Renewal and Reinvention.

Conclusion: Creating a New Future.

Appendix A: Life Entrepreneurship Primer.

Appendix B: Exercises and Helpful Resources.

Appendix C: List of Interviews.

Appendix D: Interview Methodology.


The Authors.



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Author Information

The Authors

CHRISTOPHER GERGEN is a founding partner of New Mountain Ventures and a lifelong entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and chairman of SMARTHINKING, the leading provider of online tutoring in the U.S. He is also a visiting lecturer and director of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Initiative in the Hart Leadership Program at Duke University. Christopher lives with his wife and two children in Washington, D.C.

GREGG VANOUREK is a founding partner of New Mountain Ventures. Previously, he ran Vanourek Consulting Solutions and served as senior vice president of School Development for K12 Inc., and vice president for Programs at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. He is coauthor of Charter Schools in Action and lives with his wife and daughter in Denver, Colorado.

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"The real question is not how to just make a living, but how to make a life. Life Entrepreneurs helps all who are struggling to integrate money and meaning in their careers to do just that."--Dr. Mark S. Albion, New York Times best-selling author, Making a Life, Making a Living®, and True to Yourself

"Like jazz musicians, good entrepreneurs improvise, finding the roads less traveled. Life Entrepreneurs does a great job of capturing this spirit and sharing valuable lessons for work and life."--Gary Erickson, owner/founder, Clif Bar & Company, and author of Raising The Bar

"In Life Entrepreneurs, Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek address the central issue of every emerging leader, ‘How can I design my life to be both fulfilling and significant?’ Through the life stories of many entrepreneurs who are impacting the world in dramatic ways, this compelling and refreshing new book provides deep insights that make it a must-read for all of us to use on our own journeys."--Bill George, author, True North and Authentic Leadership, former chairman and CEO, Medtronic

"At last, a powerful guide to integrating life, work, purpose, and work-life balance, one of the greatest needs of leaders in all three sectors of the emerging work force. Christopher and Gregg bring a new definition, a new clarity to life entrepreneurship that will make a difference in the lives of leaders at every level. A great gift."--Frances Hesselbein, chairman, Leader to Leader

"Business leaders and entrepreneurs alike will greatly benefit from Life Entrepreneurs. It captures the essential qualities of leadership including finding a worthy path, being willing to fail, and taking courageous action. I highly recommend it."--Howard Schultz, Chairman, Starbucks Coffee Company

"This is provocative reading for all those committed to creating a life of significance and meaning. Filled with helpful strategies and hopeful stories, Life Entrepreneurs is an intriguing, challenging guide for the next generation of leaders."--Wendy Kopp, president and founder of Teach for America

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