How Physical Pain is a Teacher for the Pain of Entrepreneurship

Man seated in Black suit in white chair
Bishop Kevin Foreman (Courtesy of Bishop Kevin Foreman)

Considered one of Colorado’s most influential African Americans, Bishop Kevin Foreman is a preacher, business owner, author, life coach and speaker, often referred to as “The People’s Bishop.”

Born in Denver, Colo., and raised in Memphis, Tenn., Foreman founded and leads the progressive, multicultural, multi-generational, non-denominational Harvest Church in Aurora, Colo., and is in the process of opening a new church in Atlanta, Ga. Everything he does and creates, he says, is “focused on changing lives.”

An inductee into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, he has authored five books, and created a healthy living initiative called #FitHarvest. His Harvest Foundation organizes community events to meet the practical needs of the people, including an annual Back to School event. As an entrepreneur, Bishop Foreman has created a step-by-step course to Building a Successful Business.

Combining both his counseling and business sides, Bishop Foreman spoke with  about how to move on from a painful past, and how to know if entrepreneurship is right for you. What was the first business that you recall starting?

Bishop Foreman: I was twelve and I started a combination of a tutoring service and a business loan program for young entrepreneurs under the age of 18. So I got my first business loan when I was twelve years old for $300 and pioneered that program. Were there business owners in your family?

Bishop Foreman: There were definitely entrepreneurs in different sectors. With me, it was just an innate drive and desire to take nothing and turn it into something. You’ve spoken in the past about people turning their pain into their purpose, but people sometimes are paralyzed by their pain. How can they push past that?

Bishop Foreman: Pain is a great teacher. Embrace the betrayal, hurt, loss, grief. Whatever the pain is, embrace it. Too often, we run from it. We waste tragedy, we waste conflict. The reality is, it’s here, it’s happening, deal with it, then you just extract the lessons from it. You self correct. You have to fight through and navigate it. Interrogate that pain so that it can lead to greater purpose. But for many, the first impulse is to anesthetize. They don’t know how to begin to embrace pain.

Bishop Foreman: People have to recognize that pain isn’t necessarily punishment. It’s a part of life. There’s the difference between those that succeed and those that perhaps are on their way to success. You must train yourself to respond differently. Is there a correlation between the failure to teach those skills and the level of incivility in today’s society?

Bishop Foreman: Absolutely. Consider the civil rights generation in America, for example, which endured water hoses to secure their basic rights, and fast-forward to today, where we have greater access to resources, [yet] we are more emotionally fragile. People feel entitled. When something goes wrong, they feel like something is wrong. They have come to expect that everything is supposed to go right because they weren’t taught that this is going to be a painful journey. What should would-be entrepreneurs ask themselves to determine if entrepreneurship is right for them?

Bishop Foreman: If you’re gonna be an entrepreneur, you have to get used to failure. You have to be okay with things flopping. Not everyone can handle that. You have to have a high pain threshold. You can only grow to the level of pain that you can process. You also have to have high risk tolerance and you have to be able to make decisions. Some people don’t like making tough decisions. Also, just because you’re a creative doesn’t mean you’re an entrepreneur. It doesn’t make you less of an individual if you’re not an entrepreneur. If everybody is the chief, who will be the tribe? Should you follow your passion? 

Bishop Foreman: No! That is the worst piece of advice anyone has ever given. You’re only passionate about what you’re good at so you create blinders about what you could become good at. I was a musician and even got honored by the Colorado Gospel Music Hall of Fame. I had all these other talents, skills and abilities that, had I only followed my passion, would not have been developed. Ask yourself three questions about your passion: Can it be monetized? Would I do it without pay? Because as an entrepreneur there are some moments when there is no pay. Third, who is the audience for this passion? For example, I live in Denver where it’s four percent African American, so soul food restaurants wouldn’t do well here no matter how passionate you are about it. Do you have a mantra or strategy for coping with daily challenges?

Bishop Foreman: One of them is, “go with the goers.” You can spend a lot of energy trying to get people on board, or you can just go with who wants to go. Number two: “Get it done.” My mentality is get up, go forward, make it happen, get it done. I deal with racism every day, most of it very subtle, and my third mantra is, “I am not gonna beg.” And that is from principle, not out of pride. Are there Biblical references to entrepreneurship?

Bishop Foreman: Luke 19:13 says, “Do business until I come.” People misunderstand the message of the Bible in that they think you can’t be spiritual and successful. Revelations 5:10 states, “And God has made us to be kings,” which means I get to be successful and spiritual. It’s not either or.