There is a phrase which comes from a best selling book*
I tell all of you with certainty, a prophet is not accepted in his hometown.
The economics of this statement are simple. If we want to get paid for you knowledge & skill, then we ought travel to a location where we are the unknown quantity.
*No, I haven’t read the book in question.
The blog posts which I write that have a ‘How to’ element in them get infinitely more traffic and attention than those that are philosophical. It seems people want to know about more about the method than they do the reason. But what we need to understand is that methods are often temporary, when reason can be timeless. If we have the an over riding philosophy, then we wont get caught short once the tactics we employ expire in effectiveness.
Old school, and still cool, business coach Brain Tracy has an important question we should ask ourselves:
“What type of company, would my company be, if everyone in it, were just like me?”
Now, on the face of it it seems like a simple prose. How hard do we work, what kind of effort do we put in, how do we treat people and would we like others to behave the way we do. Honest answers to this question can be revealing. And it’s a damn good question to ask ourselves frequently.
But it goes one layer deeper. When we bring in new people to our startup, do we really need more people like ourselves? Do we really want another person who thinks like we do, acts like we do, has the same skills that we do and approaches things in the same manner? Or do we really need someone who is juxtaposed to ourselves?
The real challenge here is knowing where the similarities and differences are needed. And while that is a decision that only the startup founder can decide here’s a nice starting point: Alignment of philosophy and attitude is far more important than that of capability and aptitude.
This is a favourite saying of companies pretty much everyone whose ever given advice about anything. But as we know, advice is a form of nostalgia, and while nostalgia can conjure important and worthy emotions, it’s not something to live a life by. Personally I believe that encouraging anyone to not make the same mistake twice is bad advice. Any skill I’ve mastered, which was worth mastering involved me making the same mistake over and over again. Repeating the error until I had got it entirely out of my system.
A better version of this advice is as follows: Making the same mistake is fine, so long as you are making it on purpose.
Had a few ideas in my mind for blog posts. But thought I’ll just soundbite them now and go deep later:
1. Selling Potatoes: Startup ideas are often far too clever. Often they represent what is technically possible, rather than what is technically needed. I keep coming back to the idea of selling potatoes. That is, selling something demand already exists for. If we do this, we can stop wasting resources trying to creating demand. Instead we can just do a better job connecting and serving the existential market. Buy for price X and sell for X2. I’m wondering why a ‘potato’ business is rarely considered by aspiring entrepreneurs. We ought resist the temptation to 3D print ceramic fur balls for imaginary cats.
2. Market Validation: Real market validation must be with strangers, not colleagues. If it’s an online business, then validation can’t be done in person. If it’s a physical business then validation can’t be done on line. We ought match the real world. Real market validation should involve money, and avoid surveys.
3. Size & Attitude: The bigger the company the harder it is to maintain a cool attitude. When companies go public, their DNA changes. It’s just a fact we ought accept. At this point founders don’t care, they’ve already made bank. When our favourite companies get big it is inevitable we will suffer from a little bit of startup nostalgia.
4. Business Model & Problem Solution: I often get pitched startups that have a great business model with no real human problem. Or a solution to a human problem which struggles to find a business model. Our chances of success increase dramatically when we have both. We should work hard on having both of these elements when conceiving our next startup.
5. Quiet Self Esteem: It is what we are doing when no one is actually looking that matters. The actions we take that only we will ever know about. This is what we should focus on.
6. Half Baked Ideas: These are the best ideas to play with in the short term. It means we are in the kitchen experimenting. It doesn’t mean we should try and sell these cookies at the market, but we should always throw a few new recipes in the oven.
7. What VC’s Really Invest In: Justifiable failure. They don’t aim to fail, but before they invest a dime they know they will get it wrong more than 9 times out of ten. They’ll never admit this, but they are only ever investing in what will sound like a good bet to their partners. So that when it does fail (and it will more than 90% of the time) it is justifiable to those who stumped up the money. Hence, when seeking capital all we need be is justifiably worth the risk.
I went for a run today and some ideas popped into my head. Every time I exercise I get new ideas (to me anyway) – they just come from no where. Non blog post micro ideas today, but possible bigger post ideas tomorrow. Rather than lose them, I thought I’d document them. Here they are:
- What goes in and out of our mouth determines how long we live, and how much we earn. The former excludes unintended accidents like being run over by a bus.
- People say that you need to be a go getter to find success. I feel like we need to be go givers. It feels back to front.
- Luxury is in a constant state of evolution. Luxury is both relative to the human condition and relative to our own circumstances. What I find a luxury at a given point in time rarely endures for me. (my current favourite is sleep)
- What we do after 10pm has a bigger impact on our tomorrow than what we do during business hours.
- Evolution is a tactical process, rather than a strategic one. Tactics of trial and error executed quickly or consistently over a long period of time yield better results than arduous planning. Most great strategies are written in hindsight to describe what happened, rather than what was planned.
- The depth and wealth of the eco system has a bigger impact on the well being of the cell, than the make up of the cell itself does.
- When it comes to business management, the hard stuff is soft and the soft stuff is hard.
- Time is the biggest investment we can make, because it’s the only one that can’t be earned back. Hence true wealth is measured in time not dollars.
- Many great inventions (including the wheel in some regions) started as kids toys. So why do many organisations have fun police on staff? I am now wondering if there a list of practical inventions which started as kids toys?
- Why do so many companies who are under threat from the emerging digital landscape forget the first lesson in economics, the law of supply & demand? Eg: Local Australian newspapers seemed to forget that supply of news is now omnipresent. Price is a function of availability, so people wont pay for average and undifferentiated content.
- The two types of investments we can make are time & money, most people never get to the second type because they don’t put in enough of the first type.
- We are all entrepreneurs, but some people only have 1 big and important client (an employer). We’d all do better if we regarded all income as a part of the entrepreneurial process than a wage based one.
There were more, but this is all I can remember.
Since I left school around 20 years ago and in that time I’ve learned some things, that might just be a short cut for you. I’m not going to explain them – just state them. This list is non exhaustive and here they are:
- Taking longer to make decisions rarely improves the final result of said decision.
- Large companies primarily make decisions to protect income, startup companies primarily make decisions to grow income.
- Hard work from an average person invariably has better results than average work from a smart person.
- We remember and revere events much more than we do so for things. We should know which one to accumulate.
- People who have money problems while on low incomes have them on high incomes as well. It’s the habits that matter.
- Spare time is a poor choice to allocate anything important to (read here family, exercise, reading).
- Large companies most often reward people on cultural alignment more than actual results of tasks.
- Passion projects often take a lifetime to bare fruit. The short term favours sacrifice of belief systems.
- Great technocrats always get paid well. Great leaders and influencers always get paid more.
- Being aligned to your partners values is more important than alignment of interests. True for business and love.
- Financial independence is always a function of spending less than your income. Regardless of income size.
- Technology is recalcitrant towards the status quo and history. It forges ahead regardless.
- Informal and self education is of greater value than the formal version. It should also never end.
- Over time, prices for most everything relative to income drop. The only exclusion I know of is land.
- The most valuable things in life cannot be bought or sold, they must be earned. Respect, love, health…
- Secrets kill the soul.
- Ideas should be shared.
- Generosity is rewarded on the long run but may be invisible.
- We all have valuable skills, and these skills can leveraged in many ways once we stretch our imagination.
- The people we spend our days with has a greater impact on happiness than the work we do.
What are some of the philosophical things you’ve learned?