While many startups are new versions of existing ideas, in our quieter moments all entrepreneurs would freely admit they wouldn’t mind changing the world. Me included.
If we want to do this, then one of the most important things we can do is ignore the facts.
Facts specialise in yesterday. They are by definition an historical account of what we understood or what happened. Even science continues to disprove previously held scientific facts – the most recent being the quantum revolution, which among other things has proven that atoms can be in more than one place at the same time.
In startups we should start with fiction. An imagined world of what we’d like to see or create. We need to remember that the concept of ‘what works’ is by definition really, only what has worked. That ‘the way it is’, can only actually be about the way it was. And ‘the way to do it’, is really just a way in which it has been done.
Our job as entrepreneurs is really about turning today’s fiction into tomorrows facts. While this doesn’t mean we should go live with the fairies, it does mean we should sometimes ignore the so called rational.
I’m typing this on a Sunday evening. I’ve had various times in my life when I used to hate Sunday, not due to its own features and benefits, but because it was the pre-amble to Monday. Mondayitus. The dread for Monday was so deep and worrisome that it ruined the day before it which is was a free day. And what is more ironic is that I even liked Thursday more than I liked Friday, because Friday was too close to Monday. It is strange indeed how our minds can work. Sometimes it is worth listening to the strange.
Tonight, I went for a jog and I was genuinely excited about the week ahead and couldn’t even wait for Monday to get some of my projects underway. We are doing another world first for Tomcar Australia which will be global news. I’m attending the FML this Wednesday night to help jumpstart the maker movement in my fair city Melbourne. I’m working on a few Hackathons for some big corporates. I’m doing a new talk on the ‘future of work’, which I will deliver at the co-work in the lane way for the Hub Melbourne. Working on a new technology related property development. Shipping the Super Awesome thing & person from Romania. Working on my new book and might even be launching my new startup by the end of the week. I can’t wait.
I’ve decided that Monday is our best friend. There is nothing more telling in life than how we feel about it. Monday knows all. It is about time we started listening to our internal mental Monday sermon and tried and create a Monday that Monday actually appreciates. I ignored Monday for a while, but now I’m listening to it again and it is helping me smile.
As far as I can tell our Mondays are the ultimate arbiter of happiness.
I was recently talking with a colleague from an extremely large corporation. We were discussing the relative cost of building smart phone applications. He went on to tell me how much they paid for the app after he gave me a demo on his phone. He then asked the price it should have cost to build it. I told him it should only be cost 5-10% of the price they paid.
Flummoxed he asked some advice on how to get things built for this much lower clip. Here is what I told him - Remove your logo from your business card before you get the quote. He laughed and asked if I was serious. I was very serious.
Sometimes the simplest advice is the hardest to take.
The late great comedian Greg Giraldo was one of the smartest and funniest guys who ever lived. He really had an eye on society. In 2004 he had a bit in his stand up comedy routine which spoke of the Obesity Crisis:
They say were in the middle of an obesity epidemic. An epidemic like it is polio. Like we’ll be telling our grand kids about it one day ‘The Great Obesity Epidemic of 2004′. How’d you get through it grandpa? “Oh, it was horrible Johnny there was cheesecake and pork chops everywhere.”
It is not without a small amount of irony that we are now entering what I regard as a great content crisis. There is such an abundance of content available that we are literally gorging ourselves on omnipresent opinion and data. We are doing this without thinking about how this shapes our minds.
“… Oh it was horrible Johnny, there were blog posts and celebrity stories everywhere….”
Both of these consumption problems are a function of our make up. Our desire intake as much information and food as we possibly can is mostly out of our control, it is coded into our DNA. Our current human operating system which dates back around 2 million years has us programmed to eat all of the food available to us (which is why sugar and fat taste best), and to take on all of the data available to us (which is why we are mesmerised by media). These behaviours are part of the human species survival doctrine. Our ability to be omnivorous, control our food supply and acquire knowledge are what put as atop of the food chain. The problem is than our DNA is yet to update its operating system to cope with an over abundance of food, and now information. Given our operating system updates via natural selection, we are faced with an intellectual challenge – the ability to ignore the instinct for more, and instead to choose less, but less with the required nutrition.
As we enter an age where we have access to most everything, both physical and mental, longevity and success are being redefined. The art of living well is becoming less about wealth and more about the ability to choose, and choose well. And that choice will invariably need be about the nutritional value of our inputs into our person, both mental and physical.
… want to get rich so they don’t have to care about the company they work for, or the crappy project they are doing. Once they make bank they can do what really turns them on.
I used to be that guy.
Now I just do what really turns me on, and all of a sudden I don’t care so much about how many zeros are in my bank account.
My father once told me; “Regardless of how rich you are Steve, you can only eat 3 meals a day, lay your head on one pillow and enjoy the company of those around you. Money is an illusion. The art of becoming wealthy is actually knowing what it means.”
Needless to say my dad is the richest man I know.
So what we ought do, is not let the Industrial Complex redefine wealth on our behalf and make us live a life of postponing what we care about. Because once we can feed ourselves and have somewhere warm to live, the rest is in our minds.
I feel pretty up most of the time. Right now I’ve never been better and I say this honestly with very little certainty in many of my projects. I say it because I believe in the future and believe in reward for effort and karma helping out nice people.
But above all, happiness is a choice. At all times. We’ll be as happy as we chose to be. Right Now. Not at some point in the future. Right now, today at this very moment. In fact, I believe that happiness is an intellectual choice. Because the future never arrives, ever. It is always in the future. So in reality, happiness is an intellectual challenge in understanding our human reality. An intelligence test of sorts.
Be intelligent, chose to be happy.
There is nothing more common in startup land than to hear the advice of remaining focused. I used to believe this myself, but recently I’ve changed my view. I’ve changed my view because I think we focus too soon. We tend to focus when we think the idea or the space is we are playing in is hot. We should only focus once we have real in market validation. While there are many measures which validate a concept, media coverage does not amount to market validation. We have to remember the objectives of the media – especially when it comes to technology industries. What they want to do is the following:
- Report on something new
- Try and predict new trends and what’s next
- Fill up their pages for traffic (fill the void)
Just because what we might be doing is interesting and different, doesn’t mean it will get traction in market. In fact, sometimes media coverage in the early phases of a startup is an indication the idea itself might be bad. They cover the new and the shiny, which could mean we’ll have a much harder job ahead of us in changing behaviour and redefining how something is done.
I think we can take a lesson from the old fisherman we see on the shore line. They tend to cast a lot of lines in the water and employ the multi-fishing rod strategy. Not knowing which one will get a bite. They use different bate and different sized sinkers. Some lines are cast far from the shore, while others are much closer. They are looking for validation, for a bite. And once they get a bite, they’ll focus on that particular fishing rod and reel it in. Focus, post validation, not before.
When it comes to non-fishing startups we need to look for real in market validation. Real usage growth and revenue are the simplest. And once we have that, we can start to focus without folly.
Now that we all have reading devices permanently placed in our pockets we can catch up on our reading at any time. For me this presents an interesting set of considerations we should be aware of:
- Does it increase the amount of reading we do, or just change when we do our reading?
- Are there only so many words we want to read each day?
- What do we read during our ‘mobile’ reading times: Social media, news, articles, books or all of them – versus our home reading time?
- Are we in a space for which quiet consideration and reflection is even possible when we read?
It got me thinking that much of the reading we do now is more disposable than ever. A type of mind junk food for which there is often little intellectual nutrition. I’ve been as guilty as anyone wanting to know the latest business, technology and startup news. The type of stuff which is interesting to know but wont compound our knowledge.
I feel like reading has now split into two categories much like food has:
- Fast Reading – The latest stuff, a quick mind fix, but with little long term value. Disposble.
- Slow reading – Tome orientation which has a longer term perspective, directional postulations and philosophical musings. Timeless
I’m trying to focus on the latter, because if we have a foundation of thought we can easily digest the latest trends or factoids. But more importantly, add a rounded perspective which instigates a personal opinion. We go beyond regurgitation and develop thought leadership.
The key question I now ask myself is this: Will what I am reading be relevant 5 years from now? In truth it doesn’t matter where, how or with what device we consume it, but the reality is our immediate environment often shapes our consumption behaviour. We need new habit awareness during times of technology transition.
At the end of the day, it becomes a choice between knowing the latest news or tactics, or having understanding of the larger shifts and building a philosophy. I know which one I’d rather choose.
We figure that given most of our audience are local why not get together, share some ideas, have a Q&A and a cheeky beer or two. We’ve already managed to pump out 7 episodes – my personal fav is the Business Horror Stories, which I did not participate it, but happened to have a personal horror story shared within the cast.
Here’s a more thorough list of what we’ve covered so far:
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