Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and the Story of Tempe

Charles T. Hayden was a risk-taker. After initial business success in 1850s, he decided to leave his comfortable home in Missouri and head west to the dangerous, hot, and sparsely populated state of Arizona. He landed in Tucson and started a successful freighting company that brought supplies to rugged men in mining camps and military posts.

One day in the 1860s, Hayden went on a business trip, traveling from Tucson to Prescott. His trip was delayed when he reached the edge of the Salt River, in the place that we now call Tempe Town Lake. It might be hard for us to imagine, but the river was raging, and it was too dangerous for Hayden to cross to the other side. He was delayed on the banks of the uncultivated land that would eventually become the city of Tempe.

Hayden camped next to the river for two days. Being the risk-taker that he was, he would eventually pass through the raging river, but the seed of a greater challenge was planted in his mind during his two-day unintentional retreat. One afternoon, he climbed to the top of what we know as A Mountain and looked out at the dusty plot of land at the foot of the hill. Most people would have seen nothing but barrenness and obstacles, but Hayden saw opportunity. He saw the city of Tempe.

As Hayden stood on the peak of A Mountain, he envisioned businesses, canal systems, river ferries, agricultural opportunities, and schools. So he decided to take another risk, purchasing the 160 acres that now constitute downtown Tempe. He helped start the city, its initial economy, and helped give rise to what is now Arizona State University. A growing skyline now stands on the edge of the Salt River, the same place where, in the 1860s, a frustrated visionary once stood. A raging river and an entrepreneurial visionary combined to give us the great city of Tempe.

Photo by: David Long

Photo by: David Long

Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City, is fond of saying that God is the first and ultimate entrepreneur. The first thing we learn about God, on the first page of the Bible, is that he is creative. Creativity is the principal characteristic of entrepreneurship, and God is the ultimate creator. Every beautiful and amazing thing we experience, from the Grand Canyon to the human brain, comes from the brilliant handiwork of a creative God.  

Entrepreneurship is about staring down some unproductive space or raw material and cultivating it into something that creates value and enriches the lives of others. It’s about taking something from a lower level of productivity to a higher level of productivity. Charles T. Hayden took a dusty plot of land and made a city. Steve Jobs looked at a clunky desktop computer in a sterile work environment, and envisioned an iPad and an inspiring company called Apple.

These entrepreneurs are created in God’s image and reflect God’s creativity, but there is a difference between human creativity and divine creativity. The primary difference is that God creates ex nihilo, from nothing. Human creativity is actually innovation, not pure creativity. Humans don’t actually make things exist, but we take the resources that God has created and use them in a new way.

God is the original source of all materials. Therefore, every beautiful, amazing, and useful thing we encounter is ultimately from God, whether it be the Grand Canyon or an iPad, because even the raw materials for the iPad and the person who designed the iPad were created by God. The author and historian Mark Noll writes,

“Who formed the world of nature (which provides the raw material for physical sciences)?  Who formed the universe of human interactions (which is the raw material of politics, economics, sociology, and history)? Who is the source of all harmony, form, and narrative pattern (which is the raw material for art)? Who is the source of the human mind (which is the raw material for philosophy and psychology? And who, moment by moment, maintains the connection between our minds and the world beyond our minds?” God did, and God does.”

The amazing speed of a Sun Devil wide receiver, the beauty of Tempe Town Lake, the brilliance of an ASU professor, the rich sounds of a band on Mill Avenue, a moving performance at Gammage Theatre, the great business ideas that are being dreamed up at the W.P. Carey School of Business—all of these should cause us to tip our hats to Charles T. Hayden and to bow our knees to God.

 

Jim Mullins is on staff with Surge Network and is a husband, dad, pastor, gardener, and resident of Tempe. This post was originally published on the Flourish Phoenix Blog. 

Cover Photo by: Mike Olbinski