Here is What You Can Learn in 30 Days

One month ago today, May 17th, 2011 I started this blog.  I had just quit my full time job to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams and truth be told – I had no idea what I was actually going to do.  All I knew was I did not want to have a job anymore, I wanted to build a company and change the world.  I wasn’t really sure HOW that would happen.

Previously, one of my biggest challenges was I an outsider  and found it difficult to connect with people in the technology industry.  (Or at least the opportunities to connect.)  That changed once I started my blog and writing for major publications.  This has been the craziest month of my life at the same time the most relaxing month of my life.  I joke and say “my life is pretty cool right now, I call the shots and pretty much do what I want to do each day.”

In the last 30 days I have spoken and interacted with entrepreneurs from NYC, San Francisco, Helsinki, Finland, Bangalore, India, Austria, Australia, and many other parts of the world.  After years of tying to build out my company with a small team here in Seattle, I cannot tell you how many offers and business opportunities have come my way.  I do not say this to boast, I say this so your eyes are opened to the opportunities right on the other side of the door you are staring at right now.  It is all due to me taking the leap without knowing if the parachute was actually on my back.

After a failed first attempt I am back to the drawing board with my company Loyaltize.  I am still going to build a company?  Will it be Loyaltize?  How will I do it?  What will it look like?  With whom?  All these questions I could not answer (most I still can’t).  But regardless, this has been the single best decision I have made in my life.   More doors have been opened in the last 30 days than were opened in many years living a double life.

Here is what I have learned in 30 days:

    • Fear of the unknown paralyzes most people.
    • Letting go of the past and embracing the open road will lighten your load.
    • Most people only dream of quitting their job and pursuing their dreams.
    • Pursuing your dream is only one decision away, make it and don’t look back.
    • Once I came to terms with letting go of a comfortable income, other opportunities emerged.
    • Extending your self through written words greatly enhances your influence.
    • Influence is one of the most powerful things in the world.
    • People the world round crave inspiration and want to be uplifted.
    • Great writing is in low supply and high demand.
    • Confidence will get you through the early stages and any foggy future.
    • The blog posts you think will be huge are not, and the ones you write in 20 minutes can be your most impactful.
    • The titles of blog posts directly determines the number of viewers.
    • Learning how to write a blog post and titling it correctly is great marketing education.
    • The dogma of habitual thinking can hold you back.
    • Stripping everything off and starting from scratch feels good and can free your mind for clearer thoughts.
    • When starting something new, doing it every day for 30 days really does make you better.
    • The road is wide open, very long and waiting to be taken for a ride.  If you are thinking about it, just do it.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Jump

Sometimes you just gotta jump ship.

I was sitting with an old college friend the other night catching up with life and I found myself ending the conversation with the saying “sometimes you just gotta jump“.

We were talking about how tough it is to branch off and do your own thing as you become more established with your life.   He is in a different situation as I and finds it more difficult to up and leave his job. Although I agree with his perspective – he is quite established and probably pulling good paycheck – I can’t help but keep coming back to my main point.  “But what happens when you are 45 or 50, are you going to be happy doing what you are doing now, at that age?

It is this question that gets me every time I start thinking maybe I am doing the wrong thing.  I just have to go back and ask myself “which would you regret more when you are older – the decision to jump off now and make it on your own or staying with the same company your entire career, never taking a risk?”

Sometimes you just gotta jump ship.  Start over.  Hit control/Alt/delete and move on.  Most people regret NOT doing something.

Be Iconclastic

Ever look at prominent figures in the world and wonder how they stand out from all the rest?  I believe it comes down to how they think.   I believe you can think like them too.  Or.  Not.  Like.  Them..?    At this point, you may not know what the word Iconclast means, but by the end of this post I hope you will be inclined to think a bit differently.

Gregory Burns talks about people who do things others say can’t be done in his book Iconclast – A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently .  He calls them Iconclasts.

He succinctly describes being an iconclast hinges on 3 things: perception, courage and social skills.

The successful iconclast learns to see things clearly for what they are and are not influenced by other peoples options.  He keeps his amydala in check and does not let fear rule his decisions.  And he expertly navigates the complicated waters of social networking so that other people eventually come to see things the way he does.

If you are like me you’ll want a shorter and easier way to remember the word:

Thinking different is so easy, yet it baffles me how many people do the exact opposite.  They think the same as everyone else.  For some reason they don’t want to be different.  They don’t want to separate themselves from the crowd for they just might have to form an opinion.   They think the same as their neighbor, their classmates, the same as their teammates and they even the same as their competitors.  To me this is just crazy and a recipe for averagism.

Seriously, when did it become generally accepted to think the same as your competitor?  I am pretty sure this type of thinking did not go on in the days of early civilization.  If someone did I guarantee they we’re quickly eliminated…  Thinking the same as the competition is what gets us all these copy-cat products that flood the market.  How many different Groupon competitors do we need?  How many different brands of ‘Bran Flakes’ Cereal is enough.  I could go on and on, but I won’t because I’m not here to inspire you to copy others.  My goal is to inspire you to think differently.  And since we all are capable of thinking… being an Iconclast is now up to you and your thoughts.


Berns describes in detail how our brains actually perceive thoughts.  Being too scientific for this post, I will only encourage you to buy and read the book for yourself.  But to paraphrase: because we learn from past experiences and past experiences shapes both our perception and our imagination, we tend to constrain our views on things as we grow older.  This is not good for much of anything, but most importantly you will begin lose your creativity.  As time goes on you start to see the same things as everyone else.  And if you see everything others are seeing, you are not to unique.  How are you supposed to be innovative when you see just the same as the others?  Berns suggests we continue to bombard to brain with new experiences.

I suggest running the exact opposite direction as everyone else.  I have always been attracted to uniqueness.  It doesn’t have to be anything eccentric, just being different.   Everyone staying in their safe job because of the recession…  quit yours and pursue your dream of building a company.  You will have a leg up since most others are going in the opposite direction.  Seeing a lot of other companies are offering “daily deals for X” and “social networking for Y”?  Why not have an original vision and do something different?   Most importantly, get out of the daily routine you have slipped into over the last 8 years.  Take Berns advice and change your life.  Create new experiences.  Iconclasts do this and succeed.


Plain and simple, humans hate fear and live everyday to avoid the feeling.  Fear prevents people from taking action, and even worse it changes the way they see the world.  The ultimate underpinnings of fear is failure, which is the strongest force inconclasts overcome.  Berns notes fear permeates any business and should only be taken as a warning sign.  Once the fear is recognized, it can be deconstructed and reappraised.  So there you go – everyone experiences fear.  Inconclasts dissect it and figure out what it is actually pointing to.  Then they act accordingly.

Here’s my take:  Most people in the world are scared, weak overgrown children.  Sorry to be so blunt, but this is what I have picked up over the years.  Just as we tried to fit in with the “cool” kids on the playground during recess, we go about our lives in constant fear of what people think.  Most people never live as an independent thinker because they are so worried of what other people will think about them.

I say “who gives a @#$% “and “Screw what they think“.  Why do you care what some random guy thinks about you or your idea?  Here’s the truth: One minute after you leave the conversation he will forget what his opinion of your idea was.  He has enough to care about in his life, why would he waste time thinking about you?

Here is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, an Iconclast I have always looked up to referring to his willingness to be misunderstood.  He has no fear of failure:

If you invent frequently and are willing to fail, then you never get to that point where you really need to bet the whole company. AWS also started about six or seven years ago. We are planting more seeds right now, and it is too early to talk about them, but we are going to continue to plant seeds. And I can guarantee you that everything we do will not work. And, I am never concerned about that…. We are stubbon on vision. We are flexible on details…. We don’t give up on things easily. Our third party seller business is an example of that. It took us three tries to get the third party seller business to work. We didn’t give up.

My mind never lets me get in a place where I think we can’t afford to take these bets, because the bad case never seems that bad to me. And, I think to have that point of view, requires a corporate culture that does a few things. I don’t think every company can do that, can take that point of view. A big piece of the story we tell ourselves about who we are, is that we are willing to invent. We are willing to think long-term. We start with the customer and work backwards. And, very importantly, we are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.

I believe if you don’t have that set of things in your corporate culture, then you can’t do large-scale invention. You can do incremental invention, which is critically important for any company. But it is very difficult — if you are not willing to be misunderstood. People will misunderstand you.

Any time you do something big, that’s disruptive — Kindle, AWS — there will be critics. And there will be at least two kinds of critics. There will be well-meaning critics who genuinely misunderstand what you are doing or genuinely have a different opinion. And there will be the self-interested critics that have a vested interest in not liking what you are doing and they will have reason to misunderstand. And you have to be willing to ignore both types of critics. You listen to them, because you want to see, always testing, is it possible they are right?

But if you hold back and you say, ‘No, we believe in this vision,’ then you just stay heads down, stay focused and you build out your vision.

Social Networking

To be successful, it comes down to one’s ability to connect with other people.  Two aspects of social intelligence figure prominently in success or failure: familiarity and reputation.  Incidentally the two are interconnected, since in order to sell your ideas you must create a positive reputation that will draw people toward what is initially unfamiliar and potentially scary.  Familiarity helps build your reputation.  Simply put: to get their ideas into the mass market iconclasts must be able to connect with people.

Think about someone right now who you admire and feel they are a “success” in your eyes.  And now ask yourself this: “Are they good with people?  Do they know how to navigate the social waters?”  I guarantee they (or someone they are close to) understands this principal.  Being an iconclast, thinking different, changing your perception, and dealing with your fear will only get you so far.  I would argue being great in the people department completes the package and helps you rise to prominence.

If you have been reading the words Think Different and imagining a certain company, I am sure you are not alone.  It’s not a coincidence the largest Technology company and one of the most recognizable brands in the world adopted that phrase in most of their marketing.  Apple thinks differently.  I believe the Different Thinking of their founder Steve Jobs is the sole reason they are where they are today. I will leave you with a video that sends chills down my spine.  It is one of the early Apple commercials and the first one in which they used the term Think Different.  Enjoy.


3 Quick Thoughts For The Entrepreneur

Here are just a few quick thoughts to help you think clearer today.

1.  Most successful founders or entrepreneurs have failed many times before.  Just keep getting up.

2. Most successful businesses come from Blue Ocean Waters, not Red Ocean Waters.  Look for the open waters around you.

3. You are just one decision away from changing your life.  Make it.

Here’s Where You are Great, So Shut Up.

The world has an interesting way of revealing your strengths.  This has become apparent to me in the last few weeks as I have started writing.  Allow me to provide some context before I go any further.

Recently I quit my full time job to pursue entrepreneurship and my dream of building my own company.  Prior to this I was living a double life, straddling the fence as they say.  This sucked.  I hated the fact that I did not (or could not) just let go and dive into pursing my dreams.  It sounds silly actually…. you would think living in America we should do whatever we want?   I wasn’t.  Until now.

During this double life I was part of a small team building a startup, a website which would help local businesses further connect with their loyal customers.  Although we didn’t really have titles or positions, I lead the charge and you could say I held the general position of what would be considered the CEO.  We worked on this for quite some time, all the while holding full time jobs.  We met EVERY Tuesday or Wednesday for like 2 years or more.  Eventually we released a Version 1.0 and I felt we were making some progress.  Ultimately, after about 6 months in the test market we decided to revert (what they now call pivot ) back to closed doors and figure out a better vision.  This is where I sit today.

Shut Up and Listen!

My point here is this: I wasn’t in my strength zone.  I wasn’t actually doing things that I was Great at.  I keep my head to the grindstone for years trying to make things happen – to no avail.  Without resources, connections, money or exposure… and most important the wisdom from previous experience, we fell flat.  And I thought I was a loser and a failure.

Shut Up and Listen!

Until I started listening.  When I quit my job I decided I would start writing.  Being an avid reader of books, blogs and any articles I can get my hands on, this seemed like a natural evolution for me.  Little did I know people actually like what I write.  They think I am good.  They even think I am Great, so Great they think I could support myself doing this.  I had no idea.  I just type what I feel inside… that is all I do.  And things just flow together.

Shut Up and Listen!

Amazingly, the world has started reaching out to me.  People from all over have followed, commented, subscribed, and emailed.  I really appreciate this.  Finally, something is taking off.  This type of reaction never happened with Loyaltize.  On a small level in our test market people would say things like “ya know, this is a really good idea.  Very Cool.”  That was nice of them to say, but nothing ever came together and we finally realized we were doing something wrong.

Shut Up and Listen!

If you listen close enough, the world will tell you where you are Great.  You may be like me – hard headed, focused and dead set on making things happen.  Although these are traits successful people employ to move forward, they can also be an incredibly powerful force holding you back.  Are you a programmer who can’t seem to build anything people actually use?  Are you a teacher who comes home from school each day so tired you just want to go to bed?  As a CEO, are things just not lining up for you?  Are there areas in your life where things just happen to come way easier for you?  You might want to take a closer look at those areas.


My advice would be to shut up and listen to the world.  What is it telling you?  Where is it saying “anything you do here will not work.”  Then look the other way to where it tells you “Keep doing this, you are great.”

I know it’s pretty simple stuff.  But trust me, your Greatness might not be where you thought it would be.  Maybe it’s where it always was you just haven’t looked yet.

I am not sure where this writing stuff will take me, I know I will eventually lead a great business.  But all I can say is it already has taken me further in 2 weeks than 5 years working with my ears and eyes closed ever did.

You Talkin to Me?

Update: The post was republished on

As a youngster growing up I did not know I wanted to be an “entrepreneur”.  In fact I didn’t even know what one was.  It’s kind of a weird, unintuitive word.  But even as small children I think we can tell the difference between a Pirate and a peon.  Early on I just  knew I wanted to do something different, something bigger.  I knew it the first time I saw Tony Montana scorch the earth building an empire in the movie Scarface.  If you are reading this as an entrepreneur, you probably remember your early entrepreneurial feelings as well.

@ev, @jack, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Reid Hoffman, Larry and Sergey, Marc Andreessen and many others – I have incredible respect for you.  Not many will do what you have done and maybe one day we can connect, hopefully some of that can rub off on me.  But I ain’t talkin to you.

I’m talking to the rest of y’all – the other 98%.   You at your desk hoping your boss doesn’t catch you reading Business Insider at work… again.   No need to close the tab, he probably hasn’t seen yet.  And you, reading this on your phone at the restaurant as you wait for your significant other to come back from the bathroom.  Go ahead and finish reading, I assure you they’ll be glad you’re reading a tech blog and not secretly texting someone else.  And yes, you laying in bed reading this on your ipad, you are just trying to squeeze in one last article before you go to bed.

How do I know you are all doing this?  Cause I am one of you.  I’ve done all those things and more.   I have wanted it so bad I couldn’t sleep at night.  Like you I have also put years into my own vision only to come up short on the latest attempt.  Like you I lived a double life, straddling the fence of trying to successfully launch a side project and lacking the cajones to let go of stability in a day job.  Somewhere along the line I found myself living a lie – vicariously living as an entrepreneur but not actually acting and doing like real entrepreneurs should.   That life sucks and I am done with it.

Yes, it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur and things once again seem to be bubbling.  Venture investments are up.  Valuations are rising.  IPO’s are starting to pop again.   With all this talk of Bubbles, IPO’s, Frothiness, and “it’s different this time”, I just have one question for you: What you gonna do now?

Because here is the truth for most of us:

1) We’ve never launched a successful product. We only wished we had.

2) We’ve never succeeded in raising venture capital, because of number 1.

3) Even though things are frothy, this will not change the numbers game.  Our odds of launching a successful product and raising VC are still going to be slim to none.

Well Tony would say eff the odds.  Tony said eff to everything and everybody.  He knew where he was going and nobody was going to stop him.  Regardless how you feel about the word (my apologies), I think it’s a great perspective.  Tony was the quintessential entrepreneur – purposeful, driven, headstrong and at times ruthless.  When he set his mind to something, you pretty much knew he was going to get it.  Great entrepreneurs look odds straight in the face, laugh, and then get back to work.

But what about Captain Jack?

I don’t care if you’re a billionaire. If you haven’t started a company, really gambled your resume and your money and maybe even your marriage to just go crazy and try something on your own, you’re no pirate and you aren’t in the club.

I about jumped out of my skin when I read those words written by Michael Arrington on Techcrunch a few months back.  It chilled me to the bone and was pure poetic justice at a time when I was really needing to hear it.   I wish I would have cut it out, put it in my pocket and showed it to anyone who asked why I was leaving my “stable and dependable” job.  Most people just don’t get how exotic and intoxicating being an entrepreneur really is.  I think Tony Montana would second Michael’s statement as well.

Although I agree with Arrington and his version of Captain Jack Sparrow, I feel Tony is a better depiction of a pure entrepreneur.  Strip away the guns, drugs and violence and you have a great example in Tony Montana.  He has the dedication.  He has the attitude.  He has the street smarts.  He has the charm.  He has the willingness to risk.  In him you have someone so committed to his vision he was willing to die for it.  Love him or hate him, we need more leaders as committed as Tony.

So here’s what we need to do:

Realize you are – YOU.   The best way to beat the numbers game is to be unique.  You cannot be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Ried Hoffman or Steve Jobs.  You were given your own unique vision.  Execute it.  Zuck was given the vision of a world wide social network.  That’s great for him (and for us to use).  But go do something different.  I think of Zaarly or Square.  Andrew Mason figured out how to make daily coupons cool again.  Awesome, think of something farther ahead like what LOCQL, a start up here in Seattle is doing.  Who knows, maybe back when Zuck, Hoffman, and Jobs were getting started they secretly wanted to be the next Bill Gates, Andy Grove or Thomas Edison.   But of course, they couldn’t and didn’t.  So they became the best versions of themselves and subsequently created the world you now live in.  Read that last sentence again…

Channel your inner Tony Montana.  One of the most interesting aspects of the movie Scarface is how it touches on both the light and dark sides of humanity, capitalism and wealth.  Most people who watch the movie see the obvious flaws in Tony.  But more subtle is the notion that we all have the capacity to think and act in this way.  You too have a little bit of Tony fire in your belly.  You also have the choice to use your competitive edge for the better of humanity, not the worse.  Channeling your drive, determination and what-ever-it-takes attitude will lead you to make a positive dent in the universe.  This is more important that you might think.  Although I have yet to raise a round of VC, I am pretty sure investors would rather have someone walk in their office with a Tony-esk chip on their shoulder talking about taking over the world than see (another!?) demo of a new twist on a social application which also shares groupons.   Mark Suster is so right – “There are so many big inefficiencies in this country that need tackling. I feel quite comfortable that our bars & restaurant industry will be just fine.” 

Find something you are willing to die for.  No, I don’t mean head out the door with machine gun in hand ready to do battle with anyone who criticizes your next idea.  But I am suggesting you find something so grand in vision you will spend the rest of your life making it come true.   In my humble opinion, this is the key to being successful – a driving purpose.  Simon Sinek taught me to Start With Why.  Read this book and you will discover true greatness is not about copying the next social sharing feature.  It’s about inspiring society to move forward with truly crazy ideas that have a larger purpose.  Trust me – Bezos, Jobs, Edison, Larry and Sergey… these guys would tell you the same thing.

It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur.  Shall we not let this time in history be remembered only as the “Social Bubble”.  I think there’s more within all of us.

Yeah I am talking to you…. you with me?