What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

I remember it was a rainy, cold and downright depressing winter day in Seattle. The gray skies, piecing wind and nasty looks on people’s faces didn’t help what I was dealing with at all.

That was the day I realized I didn’t know what to do.

I had worked my ass off for almost 2 years on my mobile payment startup Seconds, but too no avail.   The writing was on the wall.  Yes, we had customers and yes we even had revenue.  But no, we weren’t growing and no we weren’t able to raise money to continue forward as a team.

The thing was I didn’t know what to do.

Do I simply shut it down completely?  Quit cold-Turkey?  What about our existing customers?  What about our reputations?  What would others think if we “failed” at our startup?

I was also broke.

I had gone 15 months without pay, barely living off credit cards and other things I scrambled together.  It was terrible.  Some days I didn’t have enough money to eat.  Some days I struggled to buy a ferry ticket home and so I slept on a floor in the office.  I was riding the ferry to and from the office each day because I had no way to pay rent,  so I chose to stay with my sister and her family – an hour and half away across the sound from Seattle.   Graciously, my family and friends helped out when they could which to this day I am ever grateful.

I was definitely worried for myself, not “OMG will I ever be successful” worry but more like “holy crap, I am really on a sinking ship here.”

I didn’t want to admit I needed to jump ship before it sank, I wanted to ignore the holes and guide it to smooth waters.  Why?  Because that’s what “winners” do, right?  But I knew the holes needed patching, and meant getting another job.   I just couldn’t admit to myself the dream was over.

But I just didn’t know what to do.   Then it finally hit me.

It all changed when I re-thought what the dream actually was.  I realized my dream wasn’t about what I was working on at the time, but more about the person I was becoming in the process.  The dream is about being an entrepreneur – the adjective – not the noun.

Entrepreneur – noun.  A proprietor who owns their own business.  A title.

Entrepreneur – adjective.  A person who embodies the qualities of being Courageous. Innovative.  Persistent.  Agile.  Intelligent.  Savvy. Strong.  Personable.  Creative.  Excellent. Fighter.  Winner. 

Once I realized all I needed to do is change the horizon I was gazing towards, everything changed.  I removed myself from the echo-chamber of my head and finally understood, “YIKES, YES THIS BOAT IS SINKING AND I NEED TO GET OFF!”

So I jumped out, found something part time that would plug the hole (support me finically) and was able to live another day.  I started to understand entrepreneurship is a life-long game and to win you need to embody the adjectives, not the nouns.  Once I took that heavy financial burden off my shoulders everything started to get better, my head got clearer and my smile got wider.

I got my mojo back.

Being an entrepreneur is not a title, it’s a person.  Or a persona.   Or a set of characteristics that allow you to dig out of any shitty situation you’ll inevitably find yourself in.

When I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know what to do I simply changed my mindset, which allowed me to see the world in new ways.   Sometimes simply looking at things from a different perspective is all it takes to change your own world.

Doing More Than One Thing At A Time

Should you work on more than one project/company at a time?

Is it good to wear numerous hats at once?

These are the thoughts bouncing around my head right now as I evaluate what comes next for me.  Many of you know I have a number of things going on right now – from Seconds (mobile payments) to Callin’it (the sports prediction app) to Founders RAW to my writing and to other startup ideas I have.  This doesn’t even include the work I do on a weekly basis to keep a consistent income and pay the bills.

It’s good then that I finally figured out a time structure that works for me.  Basically, just get the #^$% done is how I operate.  It doesn’t matter if it takes 30 mins or 10 hours, I just need to get the deliverables – delivered.

And it’s working.

The point of this post – and the questions I opened with – is  I think doing more than just “one thing” at a time works.  For some of us.  I recently noticed myself bouncing from one thing to another after short bursts of energy given to a particular project/company.

It seems to work for me and my personality.

Similar to a workout, I give high intensity attention the particular activity for a short time and then move on to the next thing during the day that needs attention.  During a typical day I might work on 2 or 3 different companies/projects/products but in the aggregate it seems to work.

It’s refreshing to move onto a totally different company and project right after completing a task with the first one.  For me, it means progress since I am starting to see the exponential impact these projects are having on my life.

And it’s a hell of a step in the right direction after the challenging year I had last year, where I felt stuck in the mud.

This might not be sustainable long term, as in trying to run the next big company I decide to start.  Once you have  structure, employees, and a more natural cadence to the daily efforts of the company some of my side projects might need to cool down for a while.

Then again, Virgin Group founder and billionaire Richard Branson pretty much lives the exact lifestyle I am describing above.  So I think the lesson is in finding the right cadence and level of appropriate ADD that allows you to maximize effectiveness in as many things as possible.

If that’s just one thing – great.   If it’s many, you are probably one of the few.

Pedigree Is BS, You Must Work Harder And Smarter

I read an interesting article about Silicon Valley and its everlasting issue with founder bloodline/pedigree and their increased likelihood of success.

Indeed, the notion that anyone with smarts, drive and a great idea can raise money and start a company is a central tenet of the Valley’s ethos.

Yet on close inspection, the evidence suggests that the keys to success in the start-up world are not much different than those of many other elite professions. A prestigious degree, a proven track record and personal connections to power-brokers are at least as important as a great idea. Scrappy unknowns with a suitcase and a dream are the exceptions, not the rule.

Do I disagree with the general theme of the article?  NOPE.  Actually, it’s pretty much what I have been saying for quite some time now.  In fact, one could point to my clear lack of “pedigree” as a reason why I wasn’t able to secure seed capital for my startup Seconds, leading to Startup Death Valley.

But that is not what want to cover here.  There’s no reason to complain about the pedigree issue at hand – it makes logical sense just as breeders/gamblers look for strong bloodlines in horse racing.   Venture Capitalists are basically gamblers, and they will indeed bet on the person who has a leg up on the competition.  “He comes from money so he can support himself during the early times while they are working on the product.”  “He’s more connected so he’ll have an easier time attracting talent.”   He worked at Google!”

It all just makes sense.

Today I want to talk about what the other 95% of us out there need to do in the face of these realities.

Pedigree is BS.  If you are sitting here today with a less-than-steller history,  you cannot do anything about it now.  What’s done is done and you drew the short end of the lucky sperm club stick (whatever that may be…)

So forget about it.  Life is not fair and we all need to get used to it.

Yes, the pretty girls get asked out more often.  The good looking guy with nice hair and muscles gets the girls.  AND the Stanford grad that happened to get hired at Google has a better chance at raising money and attracting talented developers than you or me.


So what to do?

You need to get to work.  You need to work harder than others.  You need to work smarter than others.  You need to GO AND DO SOMETHING so that you IMPROVE your pedigree.

The thing about “pedigree” is it’s fluid.  It can change based on your performance in life.  You are not a predetermined soul in this world, destined to one outcome or another.  Existential and uber-religious arguments notwithstanding, you are free to make your own decisions and completely change your “pedigree” in life.  You can climb up into other classes/pedigrees.

I am sure you think pretty highly of someone like  JK Rowling, who is responsible for the Harry Potter series and now worth almost a $1 billion.  But, you may or may not know she came from modest means and actually struggled mightily in adulthood.  From wikipedia:

Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as “the biggest failure I knew”.  Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:
Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

During this period Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, and contemplated suicide.  It was the feeling of her illness which brought her the idea of Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book.  Rowling signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as being “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless”

Surely you know the rest of her story.

Pedigree is BS.  You simply must work harder and smarter than others if you want respect and the attention from important people.  You need to be willing to do what others aren’t will to do or haven’t even thought of yet.

1) If you don’t know anyone, make it a habit to get out and meet people.  Go to events, shake hands, book meetings often, and generally do good things for people.  They will start to know you better.

2) If you aren’t known for anything, START SOMETHING.  Also, start writing or creating media of some sort and start pushing it out on social platforms.  Trust me, if it’s unique and good in any way people will pay attention and start recognizing you.

3) If you aren’t from family money, BE GLAD.  The bulls-eye is not on your back.  Use this to your advantage and be stealthy in what you do.  And when YOU DO SOMETHING, you will come out of nowhere and surprise people.  Then they will start looking you up on LinkedIn and want to connect with you.  You will be the next “up and comer”.

4) Embrace a work ethic.  Since you don’t have a solid “pedigree” behind you, you will need to instill a strong work ethic into your life which will pay dividends later in life.   A strong work ethic is one of the best attributes you can have in life, and not being born into silver spoons allows you to develop it and take ownership of it as you mature into adulthood.

I recently read where Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList, said something to the extent of “build for the longterm, no one really understands what the compounding effects of 10-20-30 years will do to a business and a career.”  Well said. I believe NOT coming from means plays into ones advantage because they are not part of the  “rich and lazy” bunch and thus will continue to work hard once they summit the first big mountain of success in their life.

Now put your boots back on, grab your ice pick and keep working.

Image courtesy of Flick chriscom.

Trust Yourself And Your Ability To Adapt

A few recent conversations with founders have brought a thought to my attention – Trust Yourself And Your Ability To Adapt.

I am noticing one of the most common issues with early stage founders, or people who are making the leap from employee to owner, is their lack of confidence in themselves.

Who am I to be CEO?

What if I fail?

I am not sure what I am really doing?

What if others find out I don’t know what I am doing?

News flash, we already know, because we also have no idea what we are doing.  The little secret no one wants to talk about is that we all are winging it, trying our hardest to fool others into thinking we know what we are doing all the while running around asking ourself “what the hell am I doing?”

Ok, so it’s a fools game.

If so, how do you win?

You need to actually fool yourself into thinking you know what you are doing.   You need to trust yourself, trusting your ability to adapt and make adjustments in real-time.  This requires confidence.  Maybe even a little stubbornness as well since you will often be finding yourself up against some hard places.

Confidence is achieved by quieting the inner voice you hear telling you things like “you can’t do that” and “who am I to think I can….” and replacing it with a calmness that accepts whatever result that inevitably comes your way.  Confidence is not caring what actually happens because you are at least doing something.

But if you lack confidence in yourself and doubt you are the right person to start your company, all is for not,  Nothing and no one will make up the difference if you lack faith in yourself and what is possible.

Get out of your own way by trusting you can make things happen, and by knowing deep down you ARE ABLE to do it, and then take those first few steps.

Trust me, no one has the answer to your problems and challenges.  Only you do.

Scared, So What.

Ok, let’s all agree we get scared sometimes.  So what.

I want to dissect the notion of being afraid and why it shouldn’t get in your way.

I was having a conversation recently where I blurted out “basically, WE are the only ones getting in our own way of doing whatever we want to do.”  It came out in response to the person describing the challenges they had been experiencing over the course of the last year or two.  These challenges were rooted in pain they felt from a previous experience, and they were acting similar to the kid who burns his hand on the hot stove and didn’t wouldn’t go back and try it again.

Scared_of_the_dark_motivational_poster_5(To finish the analogy, it’s not that the stove is always hot, children learn to observe other things around the stove to help them determine if it’s hot dangerous or if it’s indeed safe to touch.  So should we in other areas of our life.)

I have a sneaking suspicion most people go through their life not acknowledging this truism of being scared.  If they did, they wouldn’t be frozen in a state of  hesitation and frustration, being stuck in a rut and not achieving things in life the way they know they can.

I think the first step out of this rut is to acknowledge your fear and then looking deeper into why you are scared and how to navigate around it.  How you say? Simply shouting out loud “Yes, this is scary.  I don’t know if I can actually follow through with what they are expecting me to do” will go a long way to subside those fears.  Also, once vocally identified we can now pull off the layers and find out what exactly is holding us back.  Usually it’s  something petty and small.

But it’s not that we are scared.  It’s how we overcome those fears through courage that will move you forward.

Think about when you were young and you overcame the fear of the dark.  At first, it was really scary and you hesitated to go into a dark room or fall asleep without a night light. You thought monsters, murderers, big animals or other scary things were waiting for you.  So you just couldn’t have it pitch black.  But over time you took small steps to overcome your fear of the dark, until the time came where you shut off the light and realized “Ha, this is fine!  I am not afraid of the dark anymore.”

Well, that’s how it works in the real world as well.

How do I know?

I have been through it.  As confident as some people may seem, we all have worries and can become afraid of certain things in life.    Being a founder of my own startup, I had to overcome many different scary situations which ended up holding me back.  For me it tended to be investors or people who were more successful than I was in the industry.   My initial feeling  was they would look into my past and judge me for not having the proper credentials or successful previous outcomes that other founders they talk to may have.  I imagined them saying “who does he think he is and how does he think he can achieve that!”   I was self-conscious of my degree, which is in the human sciences rather than the computer sciences.

I was also scared of what people would think if and when I failed.  Would they just say “ha, I knew it.  I knew he wouldn’t be able to do it.

But you know what?  Who the hell cares!  Who cares what anyone says – when you succeed as well as when you fail.  Just like when you were young you basically came to the realization it’s pretty much impossible a huge monster is in your room.

So the first thing to do is get out of your own way.  Then get over yourself and others.  And then, actually identify what freaks you out.  Lastly, go attack it head on and see it crumble right in front of you.

Now go.

Founders RAW: John Cook of GeekWire Tells His Awesome Startup Story

“If you just hang around long enough… you’ll make it.”

In the latest installment of Founders RAW I recently sat down with John Cook, co-founder of GeekWire, a growing media resource here in Seattle covering technology and startups.  It’s a great conversation, ranging from his memories of his entrepreneurial parents to his lessons from youth sports and onto his crazy startup experience with launching GeekWire.

Founders take note, John is not only a budding entrepreneur himself, but since he covers other successful founders he knows what it takes to make things happen.

Founders RAW – Incredible Wisdom From Amp Tab Founder Patrick Henley

Another great Founders RAW conversation, this time with Patrick Henley, founder of Amp Tab.  Patrick lays down some solid wisdom as someone who has been successful in a number of different industries – selling Mount St. Helens ash at 6 yrs old to building houses and now building a software startup to help streamline sales processes.

Listen closely, there’s nuggets of wisdom you don’t want to miss.

Making Entrepreneurship An Infectious Cultural Disease

You have no idea how bad I want you to catch this disease.

We usually have a negative connotation to the word disease, but not in this instance. I believe entrepreneurship is a disease – albeit a good one – that can positively affect entire societies.

I recently ran across this statement on PandoDaily and it sums up how I feel about entrepreneurship:


I believe the key to creating a new Silicon Valley is to make entrepreneurship a cultural and societal norm for the region you’re trying to affect. Once it becomes a norm, it spreads like an infectious disease. If you believe entrepreneurship is what’s expected of you, it’s highly probable you’ll go after it regardless of how many VCs are nearby or whether or not there’s a local tech happy hour.

More and more often I am reading articles touching on a new norm in our society – college grads and people looking for jobs should prepare for a life of ‘temporary jobs” “part-time positions” and “a lifetime of ever changing job markets.”

Sounds promising, huh?

If you are a life long employee this is not good news. The traditional employee mentality will not cut it anymore.

But if you are an entrepreneur, or someone who views the world as a multitude of opportunities just waiting to be jumped on, you are embracing the times like there’s no tomorrow. You know that like it or not, your future is 100% dependent on you and you alone. The world is now your oyster and it requires you to think more like an entrepreneur than ever before.

So how do we spread the entrepreneurship mentality like a disease?

1) Education

There was a time when jobs were secured and a lifetime in one profession or trade was the societal norm. Times have changed, yet we are still educating our children with the assumption they will have one job when we should be preparing them for a life of uncertainty. We need to adequately educate them on how to evaluate markets, find problems, build solutions and market services to the masses. We also need to prepare them for failure, and how to appropriately navigate around it when it inevitably hits.

Formal education such as Entrepreneurship courses and qualified majors are starting to pop up at universities around the country. This is a great first step but not at all good enough. I am encouraged with the movement of accelerators and incubators in the technology space, such as Founders Institute (which I experienced in 2011) as well as YCombinator, TechStars, 500 Startups and many others. Although great organizations, the challenge with these is the fact that they put the cart before the horse at the expense of many would be founders. One must enter pitching their product/service idea, already have a highly talented team, and previous successful experience in-so-much that they can pass the admittance interview. Unfortunately, it’s easier to get into Harvard than it is to get into YCombinator.

What about those who are too early in the process to gain acceptance to these elite programs? I believe entrepreneurship needs to bleed deeper into our society, influencing our youth at an earlier age. Hopefully, junior high and high schools will start to focus on entrepreneurship just as we previously focused on wood shop and auto shop. Also, more media attention and resources can help permeate the spread of the disease. This is where resources like Founders RAW (selfish plug), Under30CEO, Coursera, Udacity, entrepreneur.com and others must continue to focus on educating the early stage founder on a daily basis and in an easy to access virtual environment.

2) Publicity

The stories need to be told. People need to be able to learn about other founders and realize these successful people are no different than the rest of us. Yet, I see a disturbing problem creating an unfortunately negative influence on our society. The stories of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg have become folklore to the point where they are unrelatable to the common man. The story of a Harvard dropout becoming a billionaire doesn’t help most people who are just trying to get to the next level in their newly started company.

The reason is we tend to compare ourselves to the other people, so stories about a billionaire doesn’t necessarily help a college grad taking their first step in creating their own startup. They need to hear realistic and relatable stories from people closer to their viewpoint of society. We need to do a better job of showcasing and publicizing early stage founders stories. We need to celebrate smaller wins, rather than wait till a founders sells their company for hundreds of millions of dollars. Again, this is one of the primary reasons we are starting Founders RAW, to share the truth about entrepreneurship and illustrate how founders can be relatable to others wanting to start their own business.

3) Events

Startup events like meetups, sponsored events and weekend gatherings are paramount to community engagement. We need more! The already established startup community needs to be able to open their arms to newbes who are shy or unwilling to open up in new environments.

Why? These are the places where people can get acquainted with their local startup communities, where they can meet other founders face to face, and possibly even meet their next co-founders. Also, events like Hackathons are a great way to grease the wheels of creativity, sometimes these are seminal events where an individual hatches first project. More events create more connections, which create more opportunities for innovation.

Encouraging entrepreneurship is great, but simple encouragement misses the point. We need to infect our family, friends and neighbors with the “go getta” disease if we are to survive the next century in the U.S.

Have We Lost Our Humanity By Using Technology?

Below is a snippet from my new book The Agony and Ecstasy of Entrepreneurship, available now on Amazon and HyperInk.

Agony and Ecstacy of EntrepreneurshipA few recent experiences have spurred my thinking on the subject of humanity vs technology. Some of this will seem inevitable and some of it will seem common sense to you. Some of it might even go against the grain of what you are currently working on right now. My purpose is to get you thinking about how you go about your life using technology—by yourself and around others.

I am not sure if it’s just me, but I feel we are starting the upswing on what will be viewed as the turning point in our society. We will never have a “slower” life than we do today. Cell phones allowing us to talk to and message anyone in the world was just the beginning of this movement. Now, we have really powerful mobile computers in our pockets that basically bring the entire world to us—instantly—with a touch of a finger. In a not so distant future we will be wearing these computers on our wrists (I hope not) or our faces with such innovations like Google Glass. Will brain implants one day do away with any device or hardware required to access all the worlds information?

Fashion faux pas aside, I think these technical advancements are inevitable yet at the same time very scary.

What seems to bother me is what will happen to our humanity as all these technical advancements come into our lives. We already deal with the quick “phone, text and email check” at the dinner table or during a conversation with someone else.

Is it lost on our society that this action is actually quite rude to the other person you are sitting with? I know I am guilty of frequently swiping my iPhone and seeing what I missed over the last five or ten minutes. In reality, it simply says to the other person, “you are not very important to me and I am wondering what other bits of information I can quickly scan to keep my attention.”

What will happen when we wear a pair of glasses with a screen ever-present right in front of us?

I am afraid we, as a society, are not prepared for this use of technology. Sociologically, we are trained to observe people and gauge them via non-verbal cues as to how we are connecting with them. Are they threatened, scared, turned on, tuned out, distracted, interested, etc. The human eyes/mind/body instantly calculates these millions of inputs and tells us what is going on within this specific human interaction. We live our lives on non-verbal human cues.

Want to read more?  Buy the ebook today >

Why We Play This Crazy Game Of Poker

poker chips2

Startups are all about risk.

Taking risk is healthy, if not required, for any successful outcome – be it business or in life. Yet not understanding the risks you are taking (or choosing not to take) is the easiest way to find yourself out of money, out of business and out of a life.
PandoDaily ran a few great pieces recently regarding risk. A few things jumped out at me as I read them (and if you have time please read them yourself, super valuable stuff here).


The first one talked about the Three Main Risks you encounter as you start a company. Those included:

1) Category risk: Is your market large, valuable, and growing?

2) Competitive risk: Are you about to be disrupted?

3) Execution risk: Can you produce legendary results every quarter?

Although all are valuable, I believe the 3rd one is the most important since ideas are a dime a dozen and quality execution means everything. Of course you must start by picking a large, valuable and growing market. You can even take the most competitive angle on the market, and choose to be the innovator/disruptor rather than the traditional business that gets disrupted.

But if you cannot deliver legendary results each and every quarter, you risk losing the war. My thoughts on execution will be left to another post but suffice it to say executing on your idea makes all the difference.

These three thoughts are very important perspectives to take as you set out on your next adventure, and should’t be taken lightly. I would encourage any founder who finds themselves at the starting line of their entrepreneurial journey to take those three points and write at least one page on each point, detailing how you are exceeding what is required to become a great company in today’s markets.

But I want to bring to light another risk you might not even be aware of – The risk not taken. Or better said, how you view your decision to be an entrepreneur in the first place is worth a deeper look.

Andy Dunn, co-founder of mens online clothing retailer Bonobos, penned an incredible post on taking risk, and the possibility of the risk not taken. I cannot do justice here so just go ahead and click the link and take it all in. Good read…

But it gave me pause. It made me thank God I have chosen this life, for better or for worse. I feel at the end of my life I will be incredibly thankful of the lessons, people, relationships, experiences, money and memories this journey will have provided me.

Each and everyday we are presented with decisions, some small and some large. The crazy thing is at the time we probably don’t realize how imminent these decisions will be on our lives, we are usually so distracted and stressed we pretty much look at the immediate consequences of the choice at hand – make it – and go forward with our life.

Yet, as we all know, consequences can have long lasting effects on our life. Simply by punting – not taking the riskier decision – we are holding ourselves back from fully experiencing the world.

Andy talks openly about his struggles during his entrepreneurial journey. I love it because I’ve been there too! He mentions a time where he realized in the middle of a first date the restaurant where they were dining only took cash. Being a founder living pretty much on credit he basically didn’t have ANY cash – he even went to the cash machine during the dinner only to have the machine deny him any money – so he couldn’t pay for the meal. Talk about the worst feeling in the world, especially for a man.

Outside of those crazy broke stories, Andy dives into why we choose to put ourselves through such difficult circumstances, choosing to take risks, ones that probably seem somewhat unnecessary at the time.

The risk is not in doing something that feels risky. The risk is in not doing something that feels risky.

Very little is obvious in the research on human decision-making and happiness. Very few things are proven. One thing that is proven is this: the only regrets octogenarians have are for the risks not taken.

Here’s why: If the risk taken does pan out, it is good. But if it doesn’t — and here’s the key thing — we find a way to justify the failed risk taken as learning.

So true.

So here we have probably the best breakdown of why entrepreneurs CANNOT NOT take risks. I always found it funny people loosely refer to entrepreneurship as a disease. I think this gets to the bone of why people have been saying such a thing. We are addicted to 1) winning and 2) learning. And either way, being an entrepreneur we will succeed in our journey. We will either win big – financial, social, societal – or we’ll learn a hell of a lot in the process.

That is why we play this game. That is why we bet our stack of chips on our future, because we simply cannot NOT see what happens and learn from the experience.

You can learn more about business, people and life in general in 4 years of a startup than from any university in the world.

That is why it’s so addicting. That’s why we pull up our chair and are willing to place our next bet, because you never know what card will be flipped next.

I would rather ante up to see, wouldn’t you?

You Are Never “Too Good To Step Aside” As CEO

Sometimes your ego will write checks your body can’t cash.

This is so true for the startup founder who chooses the role of CEO in his own company.

I thought of it recently as I read a great post by Jonathan Strauss, former CEO and founder of awe.sm, about stepping down from the founder/CEO role after 4 years.  In it, he very honestly describes his feelings on the decision and what ultimately brought him to remove himself from the leadership role.

Jonathan aptly describes entrepreneurship:

To be an entrepreneur I believe one must have a somewhat irrational belief in your own capabilities, otherwise you’d never be dumb enough to start a company. Regardless of any perceived glamor, most entrepreneurs I know will tell you that starting and running a company is fucking hard and there’s often more misery than joy.

He. Nails. It. On. The. Head.

If you are a frequent reader you will know this description of entrepreneurship can be found here on this blog as well.  No doubt, founding a company is one of the most difficult and emotionally taxing things in the world.  It’s a wonder company creation is actually on the rise when you read statements like these.

Jonathan goes further on why it was so hard to remove himself:

I put hiring a CEO in the same category as taking an acqui-hire or just closing up shop and moving on — things I would think about at 4am in the office on those darkest nights when I’d have a bout of sobriety about the insanity I’d turned my life into. And ultimately, things that represented the one unacceptable option motivating me to push even further beyond my limits I’d long surpassed: failure. In the early days, the only way for me to keep awe.sm from failing was to tie my fate with the company’s. If awe.sm failed, I failed. But as we switched from lean startup to growth company, I didn’t fully realize how making my ego a shareholder went from being necessary for survival to being a limitation on what we could achieve.

One of the toughest “checks” to cash as a founder is to think you are the sole reason for company success or failure.  Notice how Jonathan admits he attached himself and his fate with the fate of the company.  It is indeed one of the inherent flaws of us founders.

I commend Jonathan for his decision but I am also not letting the lesson pass me by, and you shouldn’t either.  The ego issue is very dangerous for both of you and your company.

Founders need to have a healthy balance of ego.  On one side you need to have an almost superhuman confidence about yourself and your vision because that is the only way you can get thorough the really tough times of starting the journey.  But – and THIS IS A BIG BUT – you also need to understand you are not Superman and the company can actually succeed with someone else at the helm.  You aren’t the only person on earth who can identify a market, describe a vision, build a team, sell customers and increase monthly revenue.  Other people can do that too.  And even with you still on the team.

More importantly, others might be able to do it all better than you.

So, take Jonathan’s example and learn from it.  Sometimes removing yourself from the most scrutinized and stressful position in the company is the best decision for everyone involved.

Even you.

Why Do We Do Our Best Work For Free?

Why do we do our best work for free?

The question has been sitting in my mind lately as I contemplate the current entrepreneurial climate in addition to my current situation.  I don’t have a job – I own a company.  As an un-funded startup at the moment we are not paying any salaries to anyone on the team, thus we are working for free.

Let me say it another way: we are working long and hard hours, quite often late into the night or early into the morning, and doing it all for no money at all (well, none right now anyway.)

So why do we do this?

It goes against normal human motivations, which includes the “you give me X per hour for me doing Y for you” mentality.  The thinking seems to go something like, “well, I don’t really want to show up here to do this thing each day but since they are paying me money I guess I will do it.”

That’s the workers mentality.

There’s nothing wrong with it and people who think that way are rightfully doing their duty as a family member, societal member and taxpayer.  And it allows the circle of life to continue around and around…

Fortunately or unfortunately, there is another motivation that drives human behavior and it’s called creativity.  People who are Creatives have a yearning to build and create something from nothing – to see the future before it happens and then go forth and create it out of thin air.  Often times this happens outside of work and does not originate from the “doing X for Y” agreement so the result does not create immediate monetary value for the individual.

Yet they keep doing it.

mad_scientist_at_work_come_on_in_funny_door_sign_ornament-p175291926278339191b7flz_400And more often than not this is the area they excel in their life.  It’s the area they are most excited about and can’t wait to get back to once they are off the clock if they have a day job or other responsibilities.

It’s also the area where they do their best work.

I think they do their best work in these areas because it’s driven by passion, not money. Do you think Thomas Edison clocked his hours in his laboratory?  Or looked at his watch and said to himself “phew… only one more hour and I’m free to go grab a beer with the dudes!”

No way.

The time he devoted to his craft was driven by curiosity, passion and purpose.  He was a scientist first, capitalist second, employee never.  And amazingly, he was paid handsomely for his work in the end because of the quality.  I believe this was due to the fact his motivations were rooted on his standards and not anyone else’s.

This can be said about any artist, musician, entrepreneur or individual who pursues their passion regardless of immediate returns.

I noticed this in my own life recently, as we were diligently working on some new things.  No one is paying me, expecting me to show up at a certain time or demanding the project be done on a certain date.

No one but me.  It’s my standard I am working against.  It’s my passion to work on something challenging, to see it through and learn a hell of a lot in the process.

I noticed this last night as I walked to the coffee shop where I was meeting up with my CTO.  Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything or anywhere else I wanted to be at the moment.  I had to just stop and appreciate the realization we are all not quite so different than Thomas Edison cranking away in his laboratory.

And the craziest thing about it is the fact that when we hold ourself to the highest standard possible, we tend to deliver a high quality finished product.   To do otherwise would be to go against your very self, against your own standards and integrity.

This is when you know you are onto something and in due time you will see the rewards.

If you want to do high quaility work, do it for free.  And when you start to work for free you may eventually be surprised at who will pay you handsomely.

Should He Stay In Grad School Or Start His Own Company?

Below is my response to a recent email I received from a follower asking some very important questions as he ponders his own entrepreneurial journey.   While I was responding to him it occurred to me you too might be grinding over the same issues.  So here’s my answers to his questions.

His questions are in bold.

I am curious if you are having the same thoughts and if you agree with my positions.


Hey ______,

Great to meet you and thanks for reaching out with your questions. Glad you are a fan of Seconds!  First off I commend you for considering a direction as a founder. It’s one of the most exciting experiences of your life, but also will probably be the most scary and challenging. Just know I wouldn’t second guess myself for the world!

1. I’m toying with the idea of quitting grad-school and going full-time on my 4 month old startup..what is your philosophy on the value of education in school vs education via building a business?

If you are serious about your startup, quit school now. In my opinion, grad school will always be there – but your window of opportunity in tech/business will not always be there. Business climates change, technology moves forward, your solution (the idea) will probably not be applicable in its current state a few years from now so if you see something right now – go for it. You will also learn a hell of a lot more about the real world and how to live a successful life when you fully commit to building your startup. The ability to build a product, how to evaluate the market, figure out your product positioning, learning the ins and outs of VC’s and raising capital to fund your business, talking with larger companies when doing business development deals, hiring, firing, leading a team of people, conflict management, doing reviews and salary negotiations, budgeting, cap table/equity allocations, etc…

Do you think grad school will actually give you those experiences in a hards on, real life environment?

2. Do you think it’s possible to build a meaningful business in this modern age of automation without hiring anyone?

It is possible to build a profitable, cash flow business without hiring anyone. If you are technical and can build out the tech side of things, than yes you might be able to go at it alone. And this is probably what you should do until you can affordably bring on others to help you.

In terms of meaningful business and company, I would have to say it will require others to fill in the gaps and help you create the right culture for your company. In my opinion, meaning comes from purpose, passion and culture. It’s the “why” of the organization. “why does your company exist?” is the question you will need to answer. Even in today’s high-tech automated world, there are things only us humans can do, and do well. I would suggest finding others to help you fill those gaps.

Plus, life is more fulfilling when you have others there to experience it with.

3. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done as an entrepreneur?

Ironically, the hardest thing I have done as an entrepreneur is quit my job and going out on my own to build a sustainable company. It’s like being a trapeze artist without the safety net, and it can be really scary. Truth be told, Seconds is not all the way there yet and I am still fighting in the trenches of entrepreneurship, trying to build my company as well as survive through life. It’s a full contact sport. You have to be ready to do more than you ever thought you could with less money than you ever thought was possible and with it taking longer than you ever thought it would.

But to me, that is the most fulfilling aspect of being a founder. You get to overcome insurmountable odds and do things most people are too afraid to do. You get to live your own “Rudy” story. I don’t look at entrepreneurship as a way to get rich or famous, which happens from time to time. I look at it as a duty to move our society forward; a positive contribution to our world. And in the end, that is one of the most rewarding feelings anyone can be given.

Hope that helps!

Is It Possible To Be An Entrepreneur And Not Be Selfish?

Going through a recent state of self reflection a few things became clearer to me.   One of them is how much being an entrepreneur brings out the selfish side of human beings.  Recent experiences have held a mirror to my face to illustrate this in my own life so I am genuinely asking the question, “is it possible to be an entrepreneur and not be selfish?”

It’s an interesting and possibly shocking question, I know.  Pardon me while I think out loud on the subject.

Breaking it down further one sees where two worlds collide – personal and professional – blurring into 0ne and the same, resulting in the entrepreneurial individual acting very selfish.  They instinctually strive to get what they want both in business and in their personal life. Most early stage founders are scrappy, shrewd and manipulating. Why? Because that is how you end up getting what you want.  The fact is you have to be scrappy and find any opportunity you can to move your interests forward against a world suggesting otherwise.   If not, people will doze you over with their own agenda and force you into a life you don’t want to live.

That angst for being dozed over, for those uninitiated, is the root reason entrepreneurs exist.  The problem lies in when one cannot turn it off once they leave the office.  I think the reason why they can’t is because “leaving the office” just doesn’t happen as an early stage entrepreneur.

An unfortunate reality can be found in the tension created between the good hearted and the driven. Through my self reflection I started to evaluate both those stances and realized it can be very difficult to be good hearted; giving-in and acquiescing to everybody in your life while at the same time driving headstrong to give up everything for your dream as an entrepreneur.  The math just doesn’t work.

After all, selflessness can be defined as putting yourself last, which taken at face value runs counter to what entrepreneurship means to each individual. People start businesses to feed their own needs first. More specifically, Bill Gates didn’t set out  at 19 years old with the vision to donate all his wealth to the less fortunate and cure the world of disease. He set out to become one of the greatest technologist and capitalists the world has ever seen, all the while serving his self interests (and his company) earning massive wealth in the process. Based on stories from co-funders and early employees he was quite selfish in his ways. It was only after he made his billions and conquered the world (figuratively) that he decided to give it back, maybe realizing how selfish he had been during his early years in business.  It’s quite easy to be selfless when you already have everything you want.

The same selfish description has been reported with the late Steve Jobs.

The Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

-Head strong
-narrowly focused
-hard working
-self absorbed

Notice that if all you did was replace the title of list above with “The Characteristics of a Selfish Person” it would still make sense. This is when I realized I am not only an entrepreneur but I am a selfish person. For someone who prides himself on being a “good hearted person” this is a tough pill to swallow.

It may not be good news for everyone involved but I think its important to understand it and possibly unravel how to work/live with someone who suffers the entrepreneurial disease.

Newly minted entrepreneurs, or people considering starting their own journey as a founder need to take note of the inherent flaws. You may already posses those characteristics and believe you were born to be an entrepreneur but if you don’t take account and ownership of your DNA, it will be a rough go.  Starting a new venture is very difficult and not for the faint of heart.  It also is not for the selfless, since the ability to overcome the massive inertia requires A LOT of inward focus – which means less time spent focusing on others in your life. You will self evaluate. You will self doubt. You will self organize and self determine. A lot goes on inside the mind of an entrepreneur focusing on their “personal” situation and thus replaces thoughts involving others.

You need to know this, anticipate it and determine how you will live with it.  Others suggest work life balance and the like (which to an extent I do agree with) but at some point you will need to pick which direction you will lean.  Thinking you will be able to lean both directions at the same time is futile.  Be prepared to make A LOT of sacrifices for a period of time in your life.

Family members of an entrepreneur need to understand Entrepreneurship is a disease, and the symptoms are all listed above. Given that, practice a healthy balance of both understanding these inherent flaws in the person you love and firmness in your own principles.  This will help you navigate the unknown road ahead. You need to be ready for challenging circumstances, tough conversations and compromises from both sides.

You also should know that yes, most of time you are right and we are wrong.   But we are actually seeing it from a skewed perspective – similar to how a schizophrenic might argue something you have no idea what they are talking about.  So rather than fighting about right or wrong, gray or grey, work with us in how we can move forward with the least amount of collateral damage possible.  You should also read this book by Brad Feld – Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur.

Close friends of entrepreneurs should know that although we try our best we are going to drop the ball, especially during the early stages.  We will not be able to hang all the time, go on trips with you to cool places or grab drinks on a regular basis.  Trust me when I tell you your founder friends really do want to grab drinks but they feel inferior if they need to depend on you to pick up the tab.  We also work crazier hours than your 8-5 job so don’t be surprised when you text at 8 or 9pm and we’re still hacking away in the office.  Most importantly, we just need your support and secretly we dream of hanging out as if nothing has changed from the “back in the day”.

After all this you may be wondering why entrepreneurs give up so much and risk their livelihood?  We do it because we love the challenge and firmly believe we were supposed to do it, whatever that means…

You may also think I am off base with all this selfish talk, maybe even saying to yourself “not true… I’m an entrepreneur and I’m not selfish”.  As with all things, this topic is not black or white but probably a smearing of grey (or gray).

I am curious of your perspective.

Evolution Of A Founder: Up, Down, Up, Down, Up, Down, Sideways, Up, Down…

Much has been written about the founding experience yet I still feel like more needs to be said about the journey.  Since it is unique to all of us, no one article or blog post will be a sufficient summary of what to do and how to do it.

Life is never that easy.

Hilly RoadThe thing is, you will read one post from someone who is on the upswing, just having raised millions of dollars of funding or sold to Facebook and they’re all giddy about life.  Good for them!

Next article you will hear from someone who has just seen their business tank and is reeling in pain and defeat. Bummer for them.  You will start to notice it’s up and down, up, down, up, down and maybe a little sideways sliding in the middle of all of it.

I think the best approach (and the one I am employing) is to make a daily habit of reading other people’s perspectives and experiences, especially as founders and investors.  This helps me achieve and maintain a pulse of how to best navigate the choppy waters ahead.  I don’t pretend to know everything and don’t expect any one person to know it all either.  So, I make it a habit to cast a wide net on my daily learning.  I grab from other founders and entrepreneurs.  I pull from investors and VC’s whom I have an affinity for in their writings.  I gauge how the startup community is doing based on TechCrunch, Pandodaily, GigaOm, TheNextWeb, VentureBeat, BusinessInsider and other media outlets.  I cast a wide net, gather the information, digest it and make it my own.

The beauty of entrepreneurship is that it is unique in circumstances for each one of us.  Some of us have it easier.  Some of us have it harder.  Some were born into money and instantly have financial backers for their projects.  The rest of us – we must feel and find our way through the room with no lights on.

You, as an entrepreneur, need both perspectives.  You need to learn about how to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly if you are going to survive as an entrepreneur.  Om Malik, founder of GigaOm wrote a great piece recently on his journey as a founder.  Below, I have grabbed a few lessons I saw in it I felt were pretty telling:

Lesson Learned: You have to walk before you run. As a founder, you often don’t understand the gulf between your vision of the future and the reality in which a business exists. It is important to find the right balance between the two.

Lesson Learned: Shun consensus. Don’t be shy about making difficult decisions. If you have conviction, zig when everyone is zagging. After all, the worst that can happen is that you fail. If you don’t try, you don’t fail. You don’t fail, you don’t learn. You don’t learn, you will have failed anyway.

Lesson Learned: People who believe in you also want to succeed. They will work better if you encourage them, not micromanage them. Empower them to win.

Expanding on what Om is eluding to, I believe founders don’t really understand what they are getting themselves into and where they are going right out of the gate.  And that is OK, even expected.  At the time of founding (the)Facebook, how was Mark Zuckerberg supposed to know he was going to create one the largest web service in the world, reaching over 1 billion people (and still growing) making him a billionaire.

No way he could have known that.  If he knew that it would have scared him so much he probably wouldn’t have continued.

Yet he walked before he ran.  He knew he needed to get other smart people around him to help build out his vision.  He started by just focusing on Harvard.  Then Yale.  Then the Ivy League.   Then other universities.  Then high schools.  Then everyone.  Walking.  Before.  Running.

At times, it’s almost easier for founders to have too large of vision and be blinded by what they see.  They end up frozen by the blindness and not even focusing on the right foot being placed in front of the left.  If you didn’t catch it, that’s all that is required for walking.

Right, Left, right, left….

If you don’t try, you don’t fail. You don’t fail, you don’t learn. You don’t learn, you will have failed anyway.  

A truer sentence has never been written.  Failing, or learning, is the essence of entrepreneurship and must be embraced by anyone setting out on the journey.   Success is only a result of entrepreneurship.  I think we get those two facts confused as we blindly pursue our ventures, pushing forward with all our might and not taking into account what we are learning in the process.

I am lightyears ahead of where I was when I started Seconds just 15 months ago.  Yet, if I am not careful I will take a bianary view of my last 15 months and see there has not been a huge round of funding raised, acquisition to Google or IPO on the NASDAQ.

Does that mean I failed?  Hell no.

But that is what the media tries to tell us when they write posts saying “XYZ shuts down!”  StartupX fails to raise money, CEO quits

I urge you to dive deeper into the details when you read that stuff, since they are playing the age old game of news reporting. If you dive further into the story, researching the founders and finding their blogs, you will learn a lot more about the journey and probably the real reason why they chose to go a different direction.  Although lack of resources lead to dying companies, those founders will teach you more about how to start and grow a company than any “XYZ startup raises $10m series A” funding article will ever teach you.

Study the ups and the downs and figure out how others navigated the choppy waters of entrepreneurship.  Cast a wide net and allow all perspectives to sink in to your subconscious so you can make it your own.  No one person or blog post can tell you how it is and what to do.  It takes years to learn all there is to this game.

Actually you will never learn it all.  Just enough to be dangerous.

Founder = Learning To Juggle While Riding A Unicycle On A TightRope

Being a founder is often hard to describe.  When you are asked, “what do you do” at parties or other social events, it’s easier to brush it off and not bring up the fact that you are a founder of your own company, just so you don’t have to go into how crazy it is.  When they realize you are a “founder” and you have a “startup”, it’s quite impressive to them.  They think it’s all glitz and glamor.  “Oh” they say, “that must be really fun!”  They think you make a ton of money and instantly give you more credit than you deserve.   They almost give you rock star status.

Or, ironically, they don’t give you enough credit.

The problem is they have no clue what you are going through and what it took just to get to where you are right now.  They have no idea how much you gave up to get here.  They don’t understand you don’t go back to a desk in an building owned by the company you work for, push some pieces of paper around, report to a boss, provided daily meals by your employer, given a shiny mobile device and a cushy salary with benefits.

They don’t actually realize NONE of that is included.   They have no idea you have given up everything in your life for this moment.

They also have no idea being a founder is like learning to juggle while riding a unicycle on a tightrope.

Why would I use such an analogy?

Most people’s idea of a founder is Steve Jobs – Miraculous.  Incredible.   Innovator.   Charismatic.  Leader.  Someone who’s all put together and very wealthy.  Use whatever descriptive words you want but they will be wrong.

Sorry to ruin the fun, but as founders we are generally running around like a chicken with our heads cut off trying to put out the latest fire threatening to burn down our dream.  Most things presented to you will be foreign and scary as hell to fix.  Customers will leave you.  Investors will say no.  Tech will fail.  Team members will leave.   Bank accounts will go dry.  And that’s just par for the course each day.

Most of the time you have no idea what you are doing or what the right move is, you are just putting one foot in front of the other and feeling your way around the dark room.

It’s feels like this: you attend to one thing, and just when you think you have it figured out another thing pops up.  So now you have two things to look over and figure out.  Yet before you know it, instantly another issue arises.  But this one is specifically attached to how you actually make money so you must drop everything else and go figure it out.  Hopefully, once you get that figured out you remember what the last issue was so you can return and fix it.

Learning. To. Juggle. While. Riding. A. Unicycle. On. A. TightRope.

Yes, it feels that tiring each and every day.  Next time you find out someone is a founder, please just give them a hug and ask them what you can do to help.

And you know what?  Juggling and riding unicycles also have their benefits and the analogy works the other way.  More on that topic at a later date.

Ask The Right Question At The Right Time

There are certain moments, typically in business development conversations, when you sense the entire future of your company is resting on that exact moment in time.  You realize what you say next will either result in an affirmative commitment to your company or a “thanks but no thanks” response.

I just had one of those and boy and I glad I knew it was happening.

The conversation was with a self-identified skeptic for which they were asking why they should consider working with Seconds.  This individual was very cordial and nice, yet opened the conversation with an obvious “you’re behind the 8-ball” tone.  It was up to me to unravel where they were coming from, identify where we fill the gaps and bring them to a point where they wanted to work with us.

I learned (or maybe realized) a few lessons as we were working our way through the conversation towards an agreement.

1.  No is easier than yes

People are naturally programmed to say no.  You must work towards the yes, which requires taking that person on a journey through why they are better off with your solution than not.  Saying yes requires one to actually commit to something.  Saying no requires no commitment, thus it is the easier option.  Remember, most people are commitment phobes and would rather say no than have to stick to a commitment.

2.  Conversations turn with one question

As we worked through our conversation and they received answers to all their questions, it became apparent to me I needed to take control of the conversation if I was going to get a satisfactory outcome.  At one point they mentioned they were already working with a “somewhat similar” company, and asked why they should consider working with Seconds?  My response… “how’s that working out?” and then waited for the answer.  I followed up with “are they rolling out nationwide with your organization being the only organization involved, meaning your organization will be highlighted and singled out?”

At that moment, the conversation changed.  It became clear there was no logical reason for this person to say no and we started down a very positive brainstorm on how to make our partnership even better.

3.  People need to be led

What this really comes down to is the fact that most people just need to be led to a decision.  Since people are programmed to say no – even when yes is the better answer – they need to be led to understand why yes is the better answer.  This takes courage for sure, because going out on a limb and calling someone out can be risky, they might get upset and you might even lose the opportunity.  Yet, it may be the only way you earn a new customer or distribution partnership.

You can learn a lot from one conversation, next time pay attention to how you are handling the questions you are being asked.  You might just help them help you.

The Lonely Man On The Corner Vs. The Lonely Man On The Hot Seat

This is a re-post from something I wrote more than a year ago… 

See the lonely man there on the corner,
What he’s waiting for, I don’t know,
But he waits everyday now.
He’s just waiting for something to show.

Genesis – Man on the Corner

Disclaimer: What I am about to write is controversial.  As you read please remember this does not insinuate I lack caring in my heart for human beings of all levels of society.  It is merely my opinion of how a person chooses to live their life and what opportunities a person chooses to act upon.  There are no right or wrongs here, just observations and thoughts.  Also, it is important to note the thoughts below regard what people are choosing to do in the moment of poverty, not how they got into poverty in the first place.  I anticipate differing perspectives and opinions to be shared in comments.


You’ve seen him.  He’s the lonely man over there on the corner.  What he is waiting for nobody knows.  But he waits everyday, and he’s just waiting for something to show.  The quotes throughout this article are lyrics from a song Man on the Corner by Genesis. The video is below and it’s a must listen.   I recently listened to it and was shook by the emotions I felt during the song.  And so I started to think deeper on the concept of poverty.  I started to think about why some are rich; why some are poor; why I drive a nice car and some are stuck wearing the same clothes every day.  I asked myself, “what could possibly be the difference?”  And why some people find themselves on a street corner just waiting for ‘something to show’.  You may differ in your perspective on poverty in this country, but I believe poverty and entrepreneurship are distant cousins.

This man chooses to sit on a corner and hold a sign.  He has nothing (at least from what we know) and feels his best option is to do nothing, look desperate, and ask for money.  His value proposition rests on the morality of another person feeling remorse when they pass him, forcing themselves to face their inner soul and ask “am I a bad person if I turn my head and don’t give him money?”  He wants to be given something for nothing.  He takes from the world, but does not give in return.  He offers no product in which a dollar value can be placed on it and he has no service to offer another.  He just sits and asks for help.  He has chosen to do nothing.

And nobody knows him,
And nobody cares,
‘Cos there’s no hiding place,
There’s no hiding place – for you.

Genesis – Man on the Corner

I will juxtapose the man on the corner with the man in the hot seat.  What is the difference between the man in the image above and the man in the image to the left?  The man in the hot seat has, in theory, the same intentions as the man on the corner.  He is asking for money and he is looking for help.  He believes he cannot make his dreams come true unless he receives a gift from someone else.  His future, indeed, depends on another persons good faith.  But that is about where the similarities end.

For those have not picked up on it, the man in the image at left is a person pitching Paul Graham (an investor in the red shirt) on a business idea in hopes he will invest money towards his vision.  But in contrast to the man on the corner, the man on the hot seat does not believe in handouts or in receiving something for nothing.  He believes in creating value through enterprise.  He knows that if you have something, anything – a product, a service, a distribution channel, knowledge, land, a water source, natural elements, really anything – you can offer it to another for a profit.  He chooses to live his life working hard to add value to society, not take away from it.  He has taken ownership and responsibility for his life, understanding he can choose to do anything he wants with it.  But with that decision he knows it is up to him, and only him to make it happen .  The man in the hot seat is an entrepreneur.

Looking everywhere at no one,
He sees everything and nothing at all – oh.
When he shouts, nobody listens,
Where he leads no one will go – oh.

Genesis – Man on the Corner

At times entrepreneurs find themselves looking poverty straight in the face.  It might be in a situation where their income (or lack thereof) cannot fulfill the demands of their debts, whether it is a roof for shelter, food for sustenance or gas for their travel.  They choose to risk their current stability for the return of a better life.  There is an eerie aspect of entrepreneurship and I think it’s due to its distant cousin of poverty.  The mere thought of poverty can be the biggest moving force an entrepreneur receives.   It is incredibly scary and immensely motivating at the same time.  Only in risk one really experiences reward.  So we endure the possibility of poverty for the reward of wealth.

For the record, I am quite privileged to have a roof over my head, food to sustain my health and a nice car to drive each day.  I am doing fine but at this point in my life I hover right above to line, choosing to forgo a stable job for a chance to determine my own destiny.  Also for the record I have stared poverty in the eye and experienced what it could be like.  I have had my electricity turned off and creditors calling my phone for not paying bills on time.  I have had to dig change out of my car to buy a $.99 hamburger.   As a late-twenties ambitious entrepreneur who hadn’t “made it” yet – old enough to be established on my own but young enough to have not built sustainable wealth for myself – it’s was a tough slog.   I’m a tweener as they call them.

When you leave a stable financial situation and leap towards your dream, you risk falling into poverty.  Or should I say you learn how to operate with poverty as a strong possibility in your life.  You learn how to acknowledge where your responsibilities lay in the equation of life.  You start to realize your decisions will make or break you.  It is through this experience I start to think about poverty in a new way.   Whenever I drive by the man on the corner, I cannot help but think: “I could be out there right now.  That could be me.  As I am sitting here in my car it is unbeknownst to me how I will pay rent next month since I just took the leap and started my life as a full time entrepreneur.  But I will find a way.  I will find a way to not only pay rent but to grow my business as well.  I will choose to do something, not sit and do nothing. ”  I argue it is at this point of realization you really become an entrepreneur.

So Here’s the difference between poverty and success:

Man on Corner waits; man in hot seat acts

The man on the corner waits for something to fall into his lap, hands or box.  He takes no responsibility for his actions and believes by just waiting, help will find it’s way to him.  The man in the hot seat acts, on everything.  He believes it is through doing something, anything really, value can be created.  And when he creates value, wealth will find it’s way to him.  It is by doing and acting we entrepreneurs find success.

Man on corner values nothing; man in hot seat values everything

The man on the corner values nothing, not even himself.  If he did value himself, he would be doing something other than sitting desperately on a corner asking for a handout.  He has lost the ability to place value on anything in his life, thus has nothing.  The man in the hot seat values everything, especially himself.  He has such a belief himself he is asking others to invest large sums of money into his enterprise.  And he believes so strongly in himself he knows he can bring the investment amount times X back to the investor.  It is through immense value in self an entrepreneur will be successful.

Man on corner plays victim; man in hot seat plays hero

The man on the corner has ultimately bought into the victim mentality, meaning their outer circumstances determine their inner self worth.  A victim does not take responsibility for actions and outcomes, therefore they do nothing to change their circumstances.  The man on the hot seat understands it is he who determines his destiny and thus plays the hero.  A hero understands they are unique and hold power to orchestrate a positive outcome for all involved.  By believing you as an entrepreneur are the hero, your self worth has nothing to do with outer circumstances.  This frees you up to act according to your vision and experience success.

I am not sure Phil Collins would agree with my interpretation of Man on the Corner but I am curious if you do.

Playing The Field Vs. Sitting On The Sidelines

I had a few great conversations this morning and although they both happened independently there was a similar theme to the conversation.

I found myself thinking “I would rather be a player on the field than sitting on the sidelines.”

We were talking about how its such an awesome time in our society and such a great time to build a technology company, and the thought just hit me.   I don’t want to be 50 yrs old siting there reminiscing about how back when I was 20 people started walking around with these things called cell phones.

“Son, back in my day them people used to dial a number and actually talk to someone through that there handset” I imagine I would be saying to my kids.  “now look at all the things you kids do on those damn things.  If I would’ve just been a little smarter and started something of my own I would been a millionaire… “

NO.  I would rather tell my kids “…. and you know what, I chose to jump into the game and ride the wave of innovation rather than watch it go by.  And It’s the been the best decision I ever made!”





  The Player








The Fan





Being a player means actually getting your butt off the sidelines and into the game.  It takes a lot more energy for an athlete to play in the game than for a fan to sit a watch.  And you wonder why athletes are paid so much money?  Ever try to get out in front of millions of people and catch that touchdown pass before it flies by your head in a split second… its tougher than you think.

It also takes courage to put yourself out there and compete in the game of business.  Yes, you might fail.  Yes, you will probably screw up the play.

Yet, it’s 100 times better than being a monday morning quarterback like all media outlets tend to do.   And at least you are out there making something of yourself and hopefully adding value to the world.

It seems funny to me how crazy excited and into professional sports some fans get.  What do they actually gain when their team actually wins?  Besides beating the Vegas odds, not much.

Being a player is tough but it’s also way more exciting.  Have you ever thought about what happens if you actually succeed?  Who knows… but indeed it will be more than the satisfaction of your team beating the other team on any given Sunday.

Look at those two images and ask yourself which one you want to be.

So Apparently My Blog Stats Point To Me Being #1 Asshole!

According to my stats today, someone is searching my name with the words “asshole” associated with it.

Actually, according to this person I am the worlds #1 asshole!  See for yourself down below.

I not sure what I did, or if they are actually looking for Nick Hughes – the entrepreneur – as being the #1 asshole.  Surely I’m not the only one named Nick Hughes in the world.  Right….?

Note to the person searching for asshole me: I’m sorry, it’s just been “one of those months.” But hey, at least I am #1 at something!

An interesting side note is the amount of wisdom tooth searches you see on the list.  No joke, it been happening every day since January.  People must really have issues with their teeth and are looking for a little wisdom from someone who has dealt with them before, and lived to tell the tale.

Go ahead, poke around my blog and decide for yourself if I am the #1 asshole they were searching for.