It seems that the #BBB podcast has been providing me with some clear blog ideas recently. Below is a comment I made in one of the podcasts in regard to the Super Awesome Micro Project – and well, projects in general costing us much more than we ever estimate.
Now I’m starting to think our human delusions on the real time and cost of embarking on activity helps us grow and expand. So when it comes to time and cost on our next project in 2014, we should probably know it’s wrong, and just do it anyway.
No, we shouldn’t do that. It’s such a big thing with no clear way to start, and no clear way to end. There’s a really big chance we could waste a significant amount of financial, temporal and emotional resources on it. It’s too uncertain and adds a whole lot of life complications to it, it takes a lot of organising, registrations, financing, commitment to something for which a future which is unproven.
Here’ a better idea. We should do a project instead. Projects are superior to businesses. Superior because they tell us more about the future. It can sample our predicted future reality and test it for truth. In addition to that it has a number of micro benefits which add up to something significant.
- A project helps us get over our inertia. It’s only a project.
- A project can be bootstrapped more heavily, as we don’t need to build in any scale.
- A project allows us to do a minimum viable product, but actually mean it, and actually do it.
- A project is not a life long commitment. We can close it off any time for any reason we choose.
- A project tells our circle and the market that this is temporary, but worth trying.
- A project doesn’t need huge resources, only enough to cover one cycle.
- A project is likely maintain momentum and energy as the finish line is in sight from the start.
- A project let’s us test our assumptions, but in the real world – the market place.
- A project can lead to a better conceived project.
- A project can lead to important collaborations and discoveries.
- A project can lead to something bigger… maybe even a business.
- A project….
In fact, when we really think about it, business is simply a project which worked well and got bigger. Or we could say that a business is a number of separate yet continuous projects linked together in perpetuity, performed by the same people and infrastructure.
And so, it’s pretty clear if we just start with a project or tow, we might be lucky enough to end up with a business.
There is currently no shortage of people talking about the change of the business environment from a linear model to an omni directional one. What we need to understand is that this isn’t limited to business, it’s a wider eco system change.
Last week I was helping a colleague with his transition into his next revenue phase. He was discussing the need to get his credentials and digital footprint in order before he met up with VC’s / recruiters and the like. He didn’t want to go in and meet people unprepared. And it sparked a thought in mind mind:
Why take a linear approach when lessons from each process can inform the other?
We both agreed it makes sense to do things simultaneously, when they interact with each other, as this case seemed to be. If we do them one by one, then the other there is a very good chance we’ll need to rework our effort once we get real ‘in market’ feedback.
The challenge for all of us is knowing which projects are isolated and which ones live in a feedback loop.
The point was this:
“What we do after 10pm has a bigger impact on our tomorrow than what we do during business hours.”
Admittedly it is a bit confusing. It could even be read as the need to get enough sleep for an energetic tomorrow. But what I was actually talking about was the ‘long term tomorrow’ and what we do late at night… the stuff we can only do once our daily tasks and family commitments are accounted for.
First of all, we must get our job done, earn our way, eat, cook, clean, be with family and friends, and generally live the tasks of life. This takes time, in fact it takes up most of it for most of us. So we know that in reality there may only be a few short hours left. But we also we know that education is a process and and not an event. And this statement is about that process. The only difference being that the most important educational process these days is not studying for an MBA at nights and weekends, it’s experimenting with the ideas, tools and technology which universities don’t have in their curriculum yet. Mind you it’s not their fault, the world just happens to be changing too quickly.
While others settle in for a night of TV, I prefer to get busy on projects. Read about technology, write an article, build a new presentation, help a startup, work on an upcoming lecture at Melbourne University, go to a hackers event… but most recently work on the Super Awesome Micro Project with Raul. We skype chat every night and plan our next steps. Not only is it inspiring, but it is building new skill sets which make me anti-fragile. More valued to the market and most importantly differentiated. The problem with traditional education is that most people have it. The problem with corporate experience is that most people have it. The problem with industry knowledge is that it ties us to a location and is probably going to become irrelevant. Technological disruption means we need to be wide in our skill base, not thin and vertical. And the best way to get a wide base of skills is the become a night time projecteer between the hours of 10pm -1am. (or whichever hours work for you). We need to be pyramids, not sky scrapers.
Not only are broad skilled business people now in greater demand, they are much harder to knock over.
We are often told we need to be passionate about our work, our startup or the product we are selling. And while it is true, it is also a little bit ephemeral. Today I heard a better way to describe what we need to do to sell our ideas from Brian Tracy – whose an old school business coach, though his approach is still highly relevant today. Brain says we need to be able to do this:
Transfer our enthusiasm.
I love it, and I’m going to use it as a way to judge myself after I present an idea or project to people in the future.
At the end of 2011 I sat down diligently to plan my goals for the coming year. I had a list of around 10. Some of which were big, and some small but important. We are now more than half way through 2012 and I am ashamed to admit that I have only completed 1 of these tasks.
While I have done some things which were not on the list. I sent a Lego Space Shuttle into Space and got global news coverage, and started the Super Awesome Micro Project which is a new crowd funded world first project that raised $20k via twitter alone… I’m pretty down that I have achieved so little this year. The ironic thing is the only thing on the list that I have actually completed was fixing my Galaga Arcade machine as seen below….
Maybe the lesson from the only thing I have done in 2012 is this – start having more fun?
You may remember that I met a guy on line called Raul – the Rocketeer from Romania which I posted about.
Well we did our project up. Which was not just fun, but a world first. Again it wasn’t a revenue project, just a fun cool thing that is possible with the all cheap technology we have today.
What was it? We sent a Lego Space Shuttle into Space. Into Orbit, 130,000 feet above earth and retrieved it via GPS. We filmed it with a Go Pro camera. Our mini tribute to the now defunct Space Shuttle Program. See video below.
A quirky Fact – we had to super glue to pieces together so that the ship would survive the 200km per hour winds in the stratosphere.
The really cool thing, is that Raul Oaida has become an overnight celebrity in Romania and was featured in the evening news as well as on the front page of their national newspaper below.
There is a lot we can learn from this little micro project. Raul has a massive entrepreneurial spirit. He worked day and night to get the launch up on a tight timeline, and even bootstrapped many of the issues we had before the launch. In fact, he organised a trip to Germany, which was the only country who would give us air traffic clearance to do it in Europe. We both used our different skills sets: Raul was the science man – he did all the hard stuff. I was the ideas man, the Venture Capitalist – I came up with the concept, funded it and worked with Raul on delivering the project. The really great thing is that we matched our skills to create something of value (albeit non-financial). Less than 10 years ago none of this would have been possible, and we never would have found each other (which was via Skype). Very cool.
The kicker – my new mini project is with Raul as the Chief Engineer- and if you think this was cool, the next thing we do is going to blow you away. Stay tuned.
Most of the most important projects I have ever done, I didn’t really know how to do them before I started. Some I didn’t even really know how I did it after I completed it.
I feel one of the most important insights to this new era of entrepreneurialism, is that knowing the answer is not really that important – if at all important. We instead just need to make it up as we go along. Ask a lot of questions and be honest with the people in the process that there is quite a lot that we just don’t know, at least until we build it.
I’ve been thinking about a few different projects I’d like to do. Which at this stage have no real revenue or business associated with them, other than I find them interesting. I thought I’d list them here to see if anyone has similar crazy ‘just because’ projects. Maybe these fun crazy things are what we should be doing and building, instead of working out what other people want. Maybe the thing that really matters is what we want. Either way here they are;
- Take a year to fly to every commercial Airport in the world – without a break. yes, including living in planes and airports for a full 12 months. Document it and what happens for some reason. Find interesting stuff and people. See what happens. Film it. Socialize it on live digital media. Find something no one has ever thought of or seen. Just because.
- Live for a year only on food that is grown at home. Vegetables and animals. Cook using only wood and home made ovens. Every bit of food that goes in my mouth I will have grown, baked, killed cooked and created. Document it all. Just because.
- Walk around the entire coastline of Australia. Beach by beach, headland by headland. 25,760 km’s of it. Learn something. Document it…. Just because.
- Make a short film. Without any false ambitions of becoming the next Tarantino. Just to create. Be part of it. Just because.
- Renovate a house. Yes, a totally dilapidated 100 year old timber home. To see what my eye and hands can really make when they collaborate. Build a house my family can live in, be safe in, grow together in. Take time out and do this. A non Grand Design for me and my people. Just because.
- Start a cult. Just to see if we can make a positive one. A cult of good. To see if I could lead people in such a way that they live for the cause, but to flip it. To make the cause about fixing broken shit in the world….Like the banking system and the 1%. Just because.
- Be a used car salesman. mainly because I think it would be really, really hard. To see how I could sell in a difficult environment. To test my skills, and see what I could learn to take into my future. To be the most untrusted person in the commercial world. To be that guy. The be that guy and see how I handle myself and what I become. Just because.
- Coach A little league team. Pass on some skills, about the game, and maybe about life. Teach some youngsters stuff that matters – have am impact on their attitude without them even knowing. See how it feels to help out the people who will inherit our world. Just because.
- Live in a tropical paradise. Mainly to remove the myth or confirm it. A place where little money is needed, the weather is always warm and technology and financial growth are irrelevant. Find out out if the picture of paradise is real or perceived. Stay forever if it is real. Just because.
- Join a street gang. A real underworld style gang. Think East L.A. Get dirty and down and be part of something bigger than me that is from the opposite side of town. Learn their rules and play by them. Deal, steal and destroy. See if the emotional roller coaster is the same, or different. See if I like it more or less. Understand the plight and political machinations of a crime organization from the inside. Draw the analogies and comparisons to the legal world – find out the truth. Just because.
Sometimes we need to embark on startup projects, that aren’t really startups…. Just because.