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“A Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes and 3 Lessons for Entrepreneurs


Today we are examining “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”  by Langston Hughes and its 3 Lessons for Entrepreneurs.  Poetry is a great way to learn lessons in a more relaxed way than traditional learning methods.

 Let’s start by checking out the poem.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

I’ve known rivers;

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built a hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

As stated above, this great poem has 3 lessons for entrepreneurs. These lessons are:

  1. It is okay to learn from your elders.
  2. Life existed before your business was born.
  3. Your history is worth remembering.

It is okay to learn from your elders, the first of the poem’s lessons for entrepreneurship.

In the poem, the narrator talks about rivers that are as old as the world and older than human life on earth. Now, there is no one with a business that old. However, in most industries, entrepreneurs can find businesses that are older than their own. This means that there are elders aka older businesses that entrepreneurs can learn from. It is obvious that brand new entrepreneurs can learn from people already in the business. What may not be as obvious is that established businesses can learn from older businesses.

I have always believed that you can learn something every day if you try. So no matter how old your business, you can learn from an older player. You can learn how to last over time. You can learn different ways of doing things. There are a myriad of things one entrepreneur can learn from an older entrepreneur. A smart entrepreneur recognizes this and seeks to learn from older players in the market. As the poem teaches us, it is okay to learn from your elders.

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Life existed before your business was born, the second of the poem’s lessons for entrepreneurship..

The narrator in the poem talks about things that were old when he experienced them.  The Euphrates and Congo were old on the earth long before the narrator was even a dream in his parents’ eyes. The Mississippi, New Orleans, and Abe Lincoln all came long before the narrator.  In other words, before the narrator came along.

Entrepreneurs must remember that life existed before they started their businesses.  Before they became entrepreneurs, they were wives, mothers, sisters, and friends. Entrepreneurship should not take away those roles.  No matter how busy an entrepreneur gets, she should be careful not to lose the other parts of her life. Those parts were important before she became an entrepreneur and they will be important after she is an entrepreneur.

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Years ago, there was a movie called “Mahogany” that starred Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams. One of the big take-aways from the movie was the idea that all the success in the world doesn’t matter if you do not have someone to share it with. that idea is true. At the end of life, people will regret not spending time with their loved ones more than they regret not spending time on business pursuits. After all, on your death bed, loved ones can hold your hand and make the passing easier. Your business cannot fill that role. The poem teaches that life existed before your business was born and that is an important lesson for entrepreneurs to learn.

Your history is worth remembering, the third of the poem’s lessons for entrepreneurship..

In the poem, the narrator talks about the pyramids which were created more than three thousand years ago.  We still study the pyramids and their importance today. That history is important. Similarly, an entrepreneur’s history is important. How did she go from pre-entrepreneurship to entrepreneurship? What is her professional experience? What social interactions does she have? What is her educational history? All of these things help create the person the entrepreneur is today.

As an entrepreneur, it is important to remember your history. It is important to remember what made you start your business in the first place. Loyalty matters so an entrepreneur should remember who helped her in the beginning and along the way. That way she will be sure to return the favor if necessary later.` An entrepreneur’s history is also important for her future. It is good to look back at where you started and to enjoy the growth and progress. An entrepreneur who knows her history knows patterns, trends, and behaviors and how they impacted her business. This knowledge helps her to make better decisions in the present. As the poem teaches, an entrepreneur’s history is worth remembering.

Lessons for Entrepreneurs

The poem “A Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes has three lessons for entrepreneurs. These lessons are: it is okay to learn from your elders, life existed before your business was born, and your history is worth remembering. Take a moment now to reflect on these lessons. How can you put them into play in your business? Be sure to share your ideas in the comment section. You may help someone find a breakthrough.

Janeane Davis

View Comments

  • Learning for elders is really a big help. Also getting advise to experienced person is indeed a great way to learn and gain wisdom. Such a great poem to read!

  • This really great poems. so inspiring. I think life lesson is most important than any thing else.

  • This is such a nice poem to read and share! The lessons we can get on this poem are really helpful.

  • I really like how you took a beautiful poem and applied those lessons to entrepreneurs.

  • There is so much to learn from our elders. That's a great poem. I will have to share it with the hubs. He is so into those things and history.

  • Thanks for sharing this poem. I remember reading a lot from Langston Hughes when I was in high school.

  • You can learn so much from elders, these are all wonderful lessons.

  • Thanks for sharing the poem. The meaning is great and I love it.

  • Thank you for sharing such a wonderful poem that teaches us so many lessons especially for entrepreneurs.

  • I always liked Langston Hughes' poetry. And I agree, it's so important that we value the wisdom of those older than us. They've already learned from their mistakes, and there's so much value in what they can teach us.

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Janeane Davis

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