It’s challenging to blog 16 times a month. I’ve done it, back in my early days of blogging (2003ish), when a company hired me to write two posts a day for their blog. I practically killed myself doing it.
I’ve experimented with blogging three times a week, twice a week, and once a week. Any less than once a week doesn’t work, as my readership tanks.
While it’s true that publishing more frequently does attract more visitors to your blog, I’d rather publish fresh, high-quality content at a pace that’s realistic and doable for me (currently, that’s once a week).
When life happens…
If I need to skip a week due to illness, travel, or a heavy work load, I give myself permission to do that, guilt-free. Okay. ALMOST guilt-free.
For example, during the next three weeks, I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling. I’m also fine-tuning workshops that I’ll be teaching at a conference, preparing to launch an online course, ghost writing and running Facebook ad campaigns for several clients, launching a client’s website, revamping my own website, and drafting several “mega” blog posts. And I’m recovering from a back injury that forces me to spend big chunks of time resting, stretching, and visiting the massage therapist.
I’m not telling you this to gain sympathy points. It’s just the way my life looks at the moment. I’m betting that your life includes a similar set of demands on your time.
Alternative: Group blogging
Unless you’re part of a blogging team in which you contribute one post a week, it’s really, really difficult to blog 3-5 times a week, every week of the year. Yeah, you can sustain that pace for a while. But after about six months, you’ll notice that the quality of your blog posts decreases and your desire to continue blogging flags.
And honestly, I’m not sure whether readers want to hear from you that often.
I’ve unsubscribed from several blogs that publish lengthy articles six days a week. While I’d love to soak in all their content, there aren’t enough hours in the day or brain cells left in my head to absorb that quantity of information.
Quality vs. quantity
I’ve never had a reader contact me and say, “I wish you would publish a new blog post every day.”
But plenty of readers have told me,
“Thank you so much for your excellent blog posts. I look forward to them, and I always learn something new!”
My goal is to publish fresh content at a pace that gives my readers time to digest my content, and keeps them coming back for more.
I’d love to hear from you on this.
How many times per week do you publish new articles on your blog?
Is that a comfortable amount for you and your readers?
Are you thinking of cutting back or expanding the amount of weekly posts you publish?
Coming soon to a blog near you
Be sure to stop by BloggingBistro.com next week, when guest columnist, Lisa Michaels, will share five simple, yet effective tactics to promote your new content.
Plan to blog 16+ times per month?
If you’re rarin’ to blog 16 or more times a month (or maybe 4 times a month), you’ll need a calendar to help keep your blog post ideas and promotional social updates organized.
Have you requested our free 2017 Content Calendar template yet? Just click this link or the button to get yours right now.
One of my favorite blog posts ever appeared exactly eight years ago in the Daily Reckoning, titled, “The Three Things Rich People Do All Day.”
In the piece, Chris Mayer concludes that reading, conversing with people who know what you’d like to know, and thinking are the three things rich people do all day.
After hanging out with some pretty high achievers the last couple years, and aspiring to be one of the wealthy myself, I have to agree with him.
On the ride home from my Ultimate Writing Retreat™ in Chicago nine days ago, I came up with my own list of 5 things that prosperous copywriters do all day:
1. Read. Read classic copywriting books by Eugene Schwartz, David Ogilvy, and Claude Hopkins. Read contemporary classics by Dan Kennedy, Clayton Makepeace, Gary Halbert, and John Carlton.
Read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and your local paper (if you have local clients.) Read classic literature by Hemingway and Hugo, as well as airport paperbacks by John Grisham and Stephen King. Read!
2. Think. You simply have to spend time deep thinking about Big Ideas. How else are you going to come up with a new angle for a client promotion? It’s not all nose-to-the-grindstone, furious writing time that accomplishes that.
Or think about Big Ideas for your own business.
How are you going to convince your prospects to do business with you instead of the dozens of other copywriters who are just as good as you, in the same niche? How can you provide more value while working faster and making sure your clients get a good return on investment? What is your Big “off the chart” Idea that could send your business soaring?
3. Talk to interesting people.
I spent 67 hours recently hanging out with some very interesting people in Chicago. We coined at least three new terms that you’ll probably be hearing about in the next few months. We launched two new businesses, re-launched two more, and came up with strategy that could turn two of them into million-dollar businesses.
When I’m in my office, I probably spend two hours a day on average conversing with copywriters who are trying to get to the next level. I ask questions to get them thinking in a different way. I challenge them. I offer critiques if they ask. I give offbeat advice.
Once in a while, I inspire someone to go out and do really big things. Very rewarding, all of it. I benefit from these conversations, too.
Be selective about the company you keep, and spend the time in meaningful discussions.
4. Write stuff that other people will pay you for. Ask yourself at every turn, “Is this making me money?” or “Is it leading me quickly to a place where I’ll make money doing it?”
If you’re writing a special report that prospects will download to get on your mailing list, which you’ll then use to market your other services to them, the answer is “yes.” Writing an article for “exposure” and the promise of possible work down the road? Your call, but I’d say “no.”
5. Write things that build your own business. One of the “eureka” moments at the Chicago retreat was that you don’t have to figure out how to write copy for clients. Create a business around something you love, and write all the marketing copy for it.
When you’re writing copy for your own high-end luxury watch tours to Basel, Switzerland, or for helping CEOs become insanely great at presentation skills, things get pretty fun! Think of copywriting as a means to an end.
If you were a fly on the wall of my office, those are the five things you’d find me doing every day. Reading, thinking, talking to interesting people, writing stuff that people pay me for, and writing to build my own business.
Do you have any others you’d add to the list? Any you’d take off this list? Where can you do all five of these at once, in a three-day intensive writing experience like you’ve never seen before? Asheville, North Carolina, of course. July 17-20.
We all know them. Those damn lucky bastards at the helm of billion-dollar empires and in command of countless employees. From Oprah Winfrey to Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, rich people always helped shape the world we live in. Not only that, but they haunt us with their quotes. It’s annoying because the all principles from their quotations are correct. But their so damn hard to apply! It’s one thing to know the right path. Quite a different thing to walk it. These guys talk the talk because they’ve walked the walk.
Regardless, whether rich or poor, we can at least enjoy the philosophy from this rich folks and forget for a moment that they’re worth zillions of dollars. In the end, we’re all the same. Most of the people from the list below started out with nothing at all. They were dirt poor. I don’t believe in destiny or luck. There must have be something else at play in their equation ofgetting rich.
Let’s see if they are willing to share their insight and maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of how they made pennies from their thoughts.
I have been experimenting with a new way of Working that is succeeding quite well. I have narrowed down all of the really important things I do every Work Day plus on my 3 Sabbaths and reduced them to 4 (or less) Essential Items. I therefore get up every day and do these 4 Essential Items every day first thing.
Then, and only after these 4 Essential Items are done do I go on to the rest of my schedule and whatever else I have to do. This assures I do the most Essential things first and foremost without excuse or interruption or interference.
This system has worked out extremely well for me… I highly recommend it. This is my Personal System (below). Of course develop one of your own to cover what is most essential to achieve for you.
Successful people often exude confidence—it’s obvious that they believe in themselves and what they’re doing. It isn’t their success that makes them confident, however. The confidence was there first.
Think about it:
Doubt breeds doubt. Why would anyone believe in you, your ideas, or your abilities if you didn’t believe in them yourself?
It takes confidence to reach for new challenges. People who are fearful or insecure tend to stay within their comfort zones. But comfort zones rarely expand on their own. That’s why people who lack confidence get stuck in dead-end jobs and let valuable opportunities pass them by.
Unconfident people often feel at the mercy of external circumstances. Successful people aren’t deterred by obstacles, which is how they rise up in the first place.
No one is stopping you from what you want to accomplish but yourself. It’s time to remove that barrier of self-doubt.
Confidence is a crucial building block in a successful career, and embracing it fully will take you places you never thought possible. With proper guidance and hard work, anyone can become more confident. Once you pass a certain point, you’ll feel it from the inside.
Here are eight bulletproof strategies to get you there.
1. Take an honest look at yourself.
Johnny Unitas said, “There is a difference between conceit and confidence. Conceit is bragging about yourself. Confidence means you believe you can get the job done.” In other words, confidence is earnedthrough hard work, and confident people are self-aware. When your confidence exceeds your abilities, you’ve crossed the line into arrogance. You need to know the difference.
True confidence is firmly planted in reality. To grow your confidence, it’s important to do an honest and accurate self-assessment of your abilities. If there are weaknesses in your skill set, make plans for strengthening these skills and find ways to minimize their negative impact. Ignoring your weaknesses or pretending they’re strengths won’t make them go away. Likewise, having a clear understanding of your strengths enables you to shake off some of the more groundless feedback and criticism you can get in a busy, competitive work environment—and that builds confidence.
2. Say no.
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression, all of which erode confidence. Confident people know that saying no is healthy, and they have the self-esteem to make their nos clear. When it’s time to say no, confident people avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” They say no with confidence because they know that saying no to a new commitment honors their existing commitments and gives them the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.
3. Get right with your boss.
A troubled relationship with the boss can destroy even the most talented person’s confidence. It’s hard to be confident when your boss is constantly criticizing you or undermining your contributions. Try to identify where the relationship went wrong and decide whether there’s anything you can do to get things back on track. If the relationship is truly unsalvageable, it may be time to move on to something else.
Confident people tend to challenge themselves and compete, even when their efforts yield small victories. Small victories build new androgen receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for reward and motivation. This increase in androgen receptors increases the influence of testosterone, which further increases your confidence and your eagerness to tackle future challenges. When you have a series of small victories, the boost in your confidence can last for months.
5. Find a mentor.
Nothing builds confidence like a talented, experienced person showing you the way and patting you on the back for a job well done. A good mentor can act as a mirror, giving you the perspective you need to believe in yourself. Knowledge breeds confidence—knowing where you stand helps you focus your energy more effectively. Beyond that, a mentor can help educate you on some of the cultural inner workings of your organization. Knowing the unwritten rules of how to get things done in your workplace is a great confidence booster.
6. Schedule exercise.
A study conducted at the Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that people who exercised twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. They also rated their body image and self-esteem higher. Best of all, rather than the physical changes in their bodies being responsible for the uptick in confidence, it was the immediate, endorphin-fueled positivity from exercise that made all the difference. Schedule your exercise to make certain it happens, and your confidence will stay up.
7. Dress for success.
Like it or not, how we dress has a huge effect on how people see us. Things like the color, cut, and style of the clothes we wear—and even our accessories—communicate loudly. But the way we dress also affects how we see ourselves. Studies have shown that people speak differently when they’re dressed up compared to when they’re dressed casually. To boost your confidence, dress well. Choose clothing that reflects who you are and the image you want to project, even if that means spending more time at the mall and more time getting ready in the morning.
8. Be assertive, not aggressive.
Aggressiveness isn’t confidence; it’s bullying. And when you’re insecure, it’s easy to slip into aggressiveness without intending to. Practice asserting yourself without getting aggressive (and trampling over someone else in the process). You won’t be able to achieve this until you learn how to keep your insecurities at bay, and this will increase your confidence.
Bringing it all together
Your confidence is your own to develop or undermine. Confidence is based on reality. It’s the steadfast knowledge that goes beyond simply “hoping for the best.” It ensures that you’ll get the job done—that’s the power of true confidence.
One of the start-up world’s favorite words, in addition to disrupt, pivot, and on-demand, is community. Kickstarter identifies as “a community of people committed to bringing new things to life.” “The heart and soul of Etsy,” begins the About Etsy page, “is our global community.” Airbnb calls itself “the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company.” You’re not, in other words, just joining a platform where you can fund your screenplay, or hawk your hand-knit iPhone koozies, or rent your apartment — no, you’re belonging to something bigger than yourself.
But back in 2009, perhaps before the word had lost all meaning, a small-time-invention start-up called Quirky built a community that really acted like one. It told the first-world-problem solver in all of us — the one who thought up single-serve French-fry-makers and foldable coffee mugs and musical footballs while out walking the dog — that she no longer had to innovate in a vacuum. Anybody could join. On Quirky’s website, users would assess and workshop each other’s inventions. The most successful ideas, as determined by a vote, would be designed and built by the company. In some cases, the inventors made a lot of money. And it is for that tiny dreamer that the company’s recent death spiral feels like a true loss.
It all came to a head on what seemed like a typical Thursday evening this July, during the weekly Quirky ritual known as Eval. A studio audience of about 100 people gathered in the company’s former-rail-car-terminal headquarters in Chelsea. Lit by webcams from above and a bank of futuristic equipment behind, Quirky’s 28-year-old founder, Ben Kaufman, stood at a lectern in his usual black V-neck tee and announced a panel of product-evaluation experts by nickname: Anna “Make a Buck” Buchbauer, Justin “J-Bomb” Seidenfeld, Aaron Dignan, a.k.a. El Presidente. Ideas submitted and voted on by the Quirky community — watching the livestream from their living rooms — were presented via pitch videos and commentary from Kaufman: a voice-activated lightbulb, a paper-thin Bluetooth speaker that fits in your back pocket, an on-the-go beverage carbonator. The masterminds who won majority approval would hear the rallying mantra “Congratulations, you’re a Quirky inventor!” and have the chance to be like fellow Eval winner Garthen Leslie, a 63-year-old IT consultant from Columbia, Maryland. Leslie came up with the idea of a smart air conditioner during his morning commute, uploaded a rough diagram of the idea to the Quirky platform, and found the community waiting to help him refine it, suggesting additional features and weighing in on the sizing, specs, and the name, which would be Aros. And keeping with Quirky’s leave-the-rest-to-us business model, the company then patented, manufactured, marketed, and sold the unit into Walmart and Amazon, returning 10 percent of the profits to the inventor and those that played Watson to his Graham Bell (in this exceptional case, that’s amounted to more than $400,000 for Leslie and more than $200,000 for the community).
But this Thursday, July 16, it would turn out, was not an ordinary Eval. In fact, it would be the next to last one Kaufman ever did. Following the broadcast, he tacked on what he called an “after-party” — a.k.a. a crisis-management session aimed at addressing recent bad press that the company had gotten. In June, in a sweaty interview onstage at the Fortune Brainstorm conference, Kaufman admitted the company was all but “out of money,” which had once amounted to $185 million in funding from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and GE. In July came the news that nearly the entire New York City staff would be laid off. By August 1, Kaufman would officially step down from the company he started at age 22. It so happened that for every Aros-type success, the community had waved in many more duds like the Beat Booster, a wireless speaker with a built-in charging station that by one account cost the company $388,000 to develop but only sold about 30 units.
It’s not surprising that Kaufman used the word transparency no fewer than three times in the first five minutes of that after-party, the bottom line of which was that he frankly didn’t know if the company would survive — Quirky’s fate was in the investors’ hands. Because, for all the aspirational, rarefied Bushwick-bar vibes telegraphed by the Evals, Quirky was, of course, all about being real. Its cluster of a million members included folks like — to cite some of the most recent inventors featured on the website — Tony Lytle, a welder and proud grandfather from Larwill, Indiana, who’d dreamed up the Pawcett, a step-on drinking fountain for dogs; and Hadar Ferris, a licensed cosmetologist in Oceanside, California, responsible for decorative muffin-top molds called Bake Shapes; and Pennsylvania-based Navy veteran Jason Hunter, who gave birth to the Porkfolio app-enabled piggy bank. (In the age of artisanal everything, just as we want to know where our pickles were brined and our former-church-pew coffee tables were carved, here, too, was the meaningful personal backstory behind your magnetic bottle opener.)
A few weeks after he was ousted, Kaufman emailed with me from his first-ever personal email account: “It’s weird waking up one day and not even having an email address,” he later said on the phone. “This had been my whole life.” He was a small-time inventor himself at first, for a range of iPod accessories he started in high school that went on to become the company Mophie. At the 2007 Macworld Expo, he handed out pens and sketchpads and asked people to help design Mophie’s 2007 product line (sound familiar?) and then held a vote for the top three ideas. That same year, he sold Mophie, reappropriated the Macworld crowdsourcing schtick, and tried to launch a similar concept to Quirky. What helped Quirky finally get off the ground in 2009 was the recession-driven push for alternative incomes (no coincidence that Kickstarter as well as the entrepreneur-competition show Shark Tank, another bastion of scrappy innovation, also launched in 2009). Plus, there was more of a universal comfort with the practice of online sharing: We were now very used to telling our Facebook friends what we ate for breakfast, and by extension, we might as well tell the Quirky forum about our concept for a better egg-yolk extractor. Our notion of community, then, was evolving, and Kaufman — Mark Zuckerberg wrapped in a teddy-bear build, with the mischievous smile of your son or younger brother (depending on where you fell in Quirky’s wide-ranging age demographics) — was a relatable leader.
On the consumer end, seeing these ordinary tinkerers immortalized on the shelves of the Container Store (a big Quirky perk was that inventors’ names and faces appeared on their products’ packaging) was like watching the Spanx lady on QVC for the first time in the early aughts — a humble fax-machine salesperson from Clearwater, Florida, who just wanted to wear control-top pantyhose without the hose. Inventors were just like us! And now everybody could be the Spanx lady (albeit for only a tiny fraction of the profits), because unlike her, we didn’t have to side-hustle all alone. Next it could be my cousin in Westchester, who had four kids but no one to help her prototype her idea for a mother-baby bath towel. Next it could be my semi-retired father, who was in a private war with his never-shuts-properly pantry door and needed a constructive, supportive outlet for his aggression. Next it could be my friend Sarah, who was full of lightbulb moments — an Oreo-dunking robot claw, a universal key for all your locks — but was too stoned to sort through the mechanics by herself.
Quirky was catnip for the press: The Sundance Channel produced a short-lived reality show on the company in 2011. Kaufman appeared on Leno. This magazine featured it as a Boom Brand of 2013, noting, “It’s a pretty rare company that’s so hippieish — Let’s have everyone get a say! — yet so purely free-market.” The Times devoted several thousand words to a piece called “The Invention Mob, Brought to You by Quirky” just last February (by then its financially unsustainable business model had given way to a pivot — a smart-home subsidiary called Wink — that was too little too late).\
Another Timespiece, from this past April, cited Quirky as a springboard for the realest of all Real People: older people. “There’s a boom in inventing by people over 50,” John Calvert, the executive director of the United Inventors Association, told the paper. And indeed, Quirky had plenty of them in its hive — like 59-year-old Lorin Ryle, a full-time caretaker for her dementia-stricken mother. When her clip-on baby monitor for the elderly won at Eval, she says she cried, watching from her Hutto, Texas, home. It never actually made it to development (in fact, only about half of the Eval winners ever do), but for Ryle that didn’t take away from the experience of “working with people to make something work,” she says. “I’ve made lifelong friends on there.” (Another Quirky boomer, Marc Rumaner, who came up with a nifty little wine-bottle anchor called Vine Stop, has even gone so far as to host barbecues for fellow community members in his Chicago area.)
Of course, the inmates didn’t always like running the asylum. There was much talk in the forums that the Eval system seemed too democratic. “I failed to see how any of us could know what a product scout from a company like GE or Mattel could know,” says one community member. And indeed, when you look at misfires like the Drift, a $200 wooden balance board that simulates snowboarding and surfing, or the $80 Egg Minder, an app-enabled egg tray that signals to your smartphone when you’re running low on eggs, it would appear that the company’s raison d’être was also the reason for its downfall, a colony of amateurs green-lighting unscalable solutions to nonexistent issues. Quirky brought more than 400 products to market in just six years.
Yet Kaufman points out that the community had much less say than all the high-pressure voting would suggest; the real decisions were made when the cameras stopped rolling and he and the actual experts did the math on a product’s marketability. (So, maybe not so much power to the people, after all.) But, he adds of Eval, “There had to be a thing to look forward to on a regular basis — otherwise how are you going to keep the community engaged?” Quirky steered the ship, you might say, but the community was still the North Star.
Steering the ship — handling all of the engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and retailing, even when you’re taking 90 percent of the subsequent profits — was ultimately too expensive of a proposition, especially in comparison to other, less-handholding-oriented start-ups. “The reason why Kickstarter makes a ton of money is they don’t have to do anything besides put up a website,” Kaufman notes. After that, the failure (and let’s face it, many Kickstarter-funded products go on to fail) is all on the individual. Which is not meant to be a dig, Kaufman clarifies. He won’t confirm his next venture but says, “I love Kickstarter.” And: “I will likely use it.”
You may live as the King Fish in a small pond for as long as you wish but one thing you will never do is cause the pond to grow any larger. Therefore if you would truly reach your real mass you must swim for the sea.
Here’s a quick and fun way to enrich your business knowledge: streaming documentaries on Netflix.
The online movie and TV service has a vast cache of business and tech documentaries that anyone with a subscription can watch instantly. The topics range from profiles of great tech innovators like Steve Jobs to deep dives into industrial design.
Each of these 12 documentaries offers an entertaining storyline, as well as valuable insights into business success.
Alison Griswold contributed to an earlier version of this article.
How lifelong dedication and obsession with quality can pay off
“Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” profiles Jiro Ono, a Japanese sushi chef and restaurant owner who is widely revered for his skill and $300-a-plate dinners. It follows the 85-year-old master as he works with vendors to secure the finest ingredients, manages and mentors his staff, and prepares his son to succeed him when he retires. The movie brings viewers inside the dedication, obsession, and decades of hard work it takes to achieve perfection.
The best tricks to transform your life
“TED Talks: Life Hacks” is a collection of 10 popular TED lectures that offer tips and insights for success in life and business. You’ll learn body-language secrets from Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, research-backed productivity tricks from positive psychology expert Shawn Achor, and more.
How to stage a dramatic turnaround
Screenshot from Netflix
“Inside: Lego,” a short 2014 film by Bloomberg, takes viewers inside one of the greatest turnaround stories in recent history. Lego, the Denmark-based toy maker, was in trouble in the early 2000s. It had overextended, lost its identity, and was bleeding money. After executing CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp’s strategy to refocus on the core business, Lego rebounded to become the world’s fastest-growing toy company.
“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” takes viewers deep inside the business of the late Joan Rivers. After following the comedian for a year, filmmakers reveal the highs and lows of Rivers’ decades-long quest to stay relevant. What does it take to get to the top and stay there? From meticulous organization systems to her willingness to take any job to make sure her staff got paid, the movie shows the fierce determination necessary for success.
Few people know pressure better than Hank Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and the US Secretary of the Treasury during the height of the financial crisis. “Hank: 5 Years from the Brink” explores the momentous task Paulson was handed in September 2008 — saving the global economy — and how he dealt with it.
The items you think the least about may have the most effective designs, according to the 2009 film “Objectified.” Take the Post-it note. Have you ever considered that someone put a lot of time into its appearance? The movie explores the unconscious but influential relationship we have with the objects around us, and why the smallest tweaks in design make an enormous difference.
How to rise to the top of an ultra-competitive industry
If you’ve ever thought about starting a restaurant, Danny Meyer knows a thing or two about success in the business. “The Restaurateur: How Does Danny Do It?” offers a behind-the-scenes look at Meyer, the New York City restaurateur and man behind Shake Shack and Gramercy Tavern. The movie shows how Meyer’s philosophy of putting great food first launched his career.
How early venture capitalists helped build American tech giants
“Something Ventured” portrays some of the most successful and prolific venture capitalists, who through genius or luck made big early-stage bets on tech companies like Apple, Google, Atari, and Intel. For a crash course in venture capital or a modern business history lesson, this 2011 documentary shows how entrepreneurs partnered with investors to build some of the greatest American companies.
Behind the scenes of the business world’s biggest scandal
Screenshot from Netflix
The 2005 documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” is a cautionary tale. It’s a deep dive into the fall of Enron, the energy company that was at one point valued at $70 billion but filed for bankruptcy in 2001. It’s become one of the most well-known cases of financial corruption and accounting fraud, and this film explores the psychology behind and fallout of the collapse of an empire.
Why showmanship and great marketing is just as important as the products you sell
Steve Jobs was one of the most revered entrepreneurs and designers of our time. In the PBS documentary “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing,” the filmmakers trace Jobs’ inspiring career and lasting legacy in technology and retail, as well as his legendary product presentations.
How Silicon Valley became a hub of innovation
Screenshot from Netflix
The 2013 PBS documentary “American Experience: Silicon Valley” chronicles the beginning of the modern technology age. It follows a group of eight technologists who took a risk and decided to start their own company in 1957. It’s a telling look at the history of the Valley and the birth of a culture characterized by openness, innovation, and idealism.
There’s just one caveat: you have to write it first.
A few years back, Licht needed a bio for something, and the process of writing it actually changed the way she saw herself. Now, it’s one of the exercises she recommends to everyone — and recent research suggests she might be onto something.
In other words, the way we tell ourselves our stories matters — and Licht isn’t alone in thinking so.
Gerardo SomozaAliza Licht.
To be clear here, she’s not saying you should be writing a 300-page retrospective of your life and choices — at least for the purposes of this exercise — and she’s also not talking about a high-concept version your three sentence LinkedIn blurb. Imagine you’re a journalist writing a profile, Licht advises. It’s just that the subject of that profile happens to be you — and you’re the only one that needs to read it. (That’s why it’s a “biography” and not an “autobiography” — as much as possible, you want to be outside yourself.)
“It’s such a great lesson in self-reflection, and I think it can really help a person get outside of themselves for a minute.” In the book, she describes it as an “out of body experience,” key to taking stock of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where you might be going.
Here’s how it’s done:
1. Write in the third person. Not only is it more effective — pretending you’re not yourself gives you something much closer to an outside perspective, she says — it’s also more comfortable. “It is so awkward to talk about ourselves,” Licht acknowledges. Switching from “I” to “she” can be freeing.
2. Be thorough. You contain multitudes (and so should your bio). Things to cover: education, career path, jobs and titles, hobbies and passions, talents and awards, affiliations (charities, societies, groups), personality, physical attributes, and family status. The total effect should be an “aerial view,” she tells Business Insider.
3. Read it back to yourself. Evaluate the person you’re reading about like you aren’t you. Do you like you? Would you hire you? Is the story you’re telling about yourself the same story someone could piece together by Googling you? Is that the story you want told? The goal is to get an honest assessment to help you figure out what you’ve got — and what you might be missing.
“The best thing that can happen is you don’t like it,” Licht says. “Because if you don’t like it, you have the power to change it.” That’s why she thinks the exercise is especially critical for people who are “consistently getting the door shut on them when they apply to places.” If doors keep closing, then something isn’t working. The bio can help identify what that something is.
And if it feels a little unnatural? That’s fine, she says. “I don’t think it’s natural to constantly think ‘how am I doing? What do people think about me?'” Licht points out. But then, that’s the point. “You kind of have to make yourself sit down and do it.” The effort is worth it, she says.
Some people get more done than others — a lot more.
Sure, they work hard. And they work smart. (While “smarter, not harder” is fine, smarter and harder is way better.) But they also possess a few other qualities that make a major impact on their performance:
1. They do the work in spite of disapproval or ridicule.
Work too hard, strive too hard, appear to be too ambitious, try to stand out from the crowd… and the average person resents you. It’s a lot easier and much more comfortable to dial it back and fit in.
At times we all lack motivation and self-discipline. At times we’re easily distracted. At times we all fear failure — and success.
Procrastination is a part of what makes people human; it’s not possible to totally overcome any of those shortcomings. Wanting to put off a difficult task is normal. Avoiding a challenge is normal.
But think about a time you put off a task, finally got started, and then once into it, thought, “I don’t know why I kept putting this off — it’s going really well. And it didn’t turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined.”
(That’s no surprise; it’s always easier than we think.)
Start Blogging, Start a Business, and Build an Authentic Brand
Bestselling author and successful entrepreneur Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere on building a thriving business.
BY JEFF HADEN
Some months ago I published a post about commonly misused words. Several hundred thousand people read it, so it was reasonably popular, but as with most posts, in time the views slowed.
Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, tens of thousands of people read it.
I did a little digging and learned that all those readers came from one small link in a post called “Links I Love” on the fashion, food, and lifestyle inspiration blog Cupcakes and Cashmere. That’s far and away the most readers an external link has generated for one of my posts, including tweets from people with millions of Twitter followers.
Tell me where the idea came from, what you were doing at the time, what your hopes were.
I started my blog in 2008 as a purely creative endeavor. I was working in online ad sales at the time, which was a good job, but didn’t provide any sort of outlet for creativity or cover any of my passions, which are fashion, food, beauty and home decor.
I didn’t have any specific goals or ambitions, other than to document ideas and create simple content that I enjoyed and perhaps a handful of others would appreciate. Over the first six months I noticed a slight increase in traffic, which led me to think I might be able to earn a little extra income to supplement my normal salary.
Early on, what challenges did you face and what mistakes did you make?
One of the biggest challenges I faced early on was trying to do everything by myself, rather than delegating or working with other skilled people. I’m not tech savvy, so when my site would crash or I wanted to add a new feature I would spend hours looking up tutorials and sloppily coding pieces into the backend of my site… which would often make things worse.
I eventually turned to people (specifically my then boyfriend, now husband) to help find support for the growing site. Thankfully he worked in the digital media space and called in a few favors, but I definitely learned you can’t build or run a successful enterprise singlehandedly.
How did you differentiate yourself in such crowded space?
One advantage I have is longevity. I started my site when blogging (specifically fashion/lifestyle) was still a nascent area of media, so the fact that I’ve been doing it for over seven years has provided a little bit of legitimacy. I’ve also evolved over time, so rather than focusing on the same content I’ve tried to diversify and expand on the categories I cover.
A lot of the readers have grown up with me, so there is a very personal connection we share and they relate to a lot of the experiences I’ve showcased (like getting married, buying a home, having a baby) that provide a more authentic experience than simply sharing pretty photographs.
Lastly, consistency is key. I haven’t missed a post in seven years, so readers know there will be something new each morning… and I’ve heard from a lot of them that they love starting their day with a cup of coffee and reading the latest post.
Tell me about your overall theme, “aspirational meets attainable.” Intuitively I get it, but I would think striking that balance is tough.
This has been the core idea of the site since day one primarily because I wasn’t making a lot of money–so my goal was to create a lifestyle that felt elevated without draining my bank account. (A lot of this stemmed from my experience at Teen Vogue where I was exposed to a mix of amazing designers and media that was semi-relatable but simply out of reach.)
As my business has grown and I’ve been lucky enough to increase my income, I’ve worked hard to maintain the tenets of the “attainable” tone, primarily through the data we’ve collected. We know the price points readers respond to, we know the retailers they prefer… so while not every piece of content will resonate, we make sure most of what we put out is in line with what people expect to see and makes them feel comfortable.
There are a lot of blogs that suddenly change their tone or content once they begin to grow, but I feel a big part of my long-term success is built on knowing the audience and not straying from the core messaging.
How do you decide on your topic mix? You have food, clothing, household items, career advice, fashion…
Every topic is based on something I’m passionate about, but we also have a set editorial calendar to make planning easier. This has evolved and been refined over the years, based on audience response, but we look at it kind of like TV programming (i.e. Monday = Fashion & Decor, Tuesday = Food & DIY, etc.)
I think consistency and knowing what to expect on a certain day gives the audience a sense of comfort.
You make your living with your blog, which means partnerships and advertising. A great offer from a potential advertiser has to be tempting, even if it isn’t great for your brand or your audience. It’s always tough to turn away revenue.
As with many bloggers in this category I receive dozens of advertising opportunities each week, almost all of which I don’t accept.
However, the advertisers I do work with are a natural fit for the content we’re producing; you wouldn’t see me driving a Hummer in a post.
That’s not one of the advertisers I’ve turned down, but I have had offers from companies who clearly have never read my blog and have offered a lot of money to integrate a product into the site, regardless of whether their audience was even remotely aligned aligned.
You get dozens and often hundreds of comments on every post. Why do you think your audience is so engaged?
I don’t mean to sound redundant, but consistency and authenticity are the key elements to building an engaged audience.
The readers have built an emotional connection with the site and ultimately they look at it as more than just some text and words. I’ve had people approach me on the street and say, “You’re Cupcakes and Cashmere,” rather than calling me by my name, so there is sometimes a disconnect between the brand and myself… but either way, the connection is real and they relate to what I’m creating.
You’ve published one bestselling book and have another book in the works. How have you leveraged your online presence to offline products and ventures? And do you have a longer-term strategy?
My second book, Cupcakes and Cashmere at Home, comes out on May 19 and I can’t wait to share some of my favorite interior design and entertaining tips.
I’ve been working with a licensing agent for the past two years to explore and expand retail opportunities with the brand and we’re actually launching a new product line this summer. I can’t say more about it yet but it is within one of the main categories I cover on the site. We’ve locked in two large retail partners (one is brick/mortar online, one purely e-comm) and we’ve been in the process of developing two other product lines within another category.
The long-term goal is to establish a successful line of branded products that benefit from the blog but are a stand-alone business.
Say I meet you in an airport lounge, find out what you do, and say, “I’ve always wanted to start a site on (my passion.) Any quick tips you’d give me, and common mistakes to avoid?
Be patient with your goals since success will most likely come slowly, if at all.
If you’re creating original content, be prepared for it to consume a lot of your time.
For areas that you’re not skilled in, find great collaborators.
Get a basic understanding of the digital media landscape. Learn about analytics, do some research on advertising, and be able to speak about your audience value.
Be authentic and learn to differentiate yourself. Most likely the category you’ll cover is overly saturated with content, so you need to find a way to make your work stand out.
Mistakes to avoid:
Sacrificing quality over quantity. Your audience will be built on trust and the entertainment value you provide. If your quality slips, so will they.
Taking every offer that comes your way. At first it’s very tempting to accept offers from an advertiser, but ultimately, it degrades your credibility if you become an advocate for anyone willing to pay you. Be selective.
A very interesting perspective and one I agree with to a large extent. Actually I think one should set out to create a Brand – with a certain type of Vision, and adapt accordingly as one meets particular circumstances in and through the world. (Which is basically what he says later in the article.)
In other words one begins with a Vision and then discovers and develops as one goes along. It is not either/or, but both…
Over $500 billion is spent on advertising each year. The average American is exposed to an estimated 3,000 ads per day. Fifteen minutes out of every hour of television programming is devoted to commercials.
Branding: 2 Key Lessons in Brand Building
That’s a lot of marketing. And a lot of marketers. With six million companies in the United States alone, that’s a lot of people competing to get their message out. How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you get noticed?
This is where branding comes in.
What is branding?
Branding is the art of distinguishing a product or service from its competitors. It’s the term for creating a recognizable “personality” which people will remember and react to.
A company with poor branding is throwing away marketing dollars. Why? Because without a focused message, companies weak in branding are invisible. Nobody remembers them and they blend in. They become just another leaf swirling in the wind, amid all those marketing messages consumers see each day.
In marketing, the point is to actually reach someone, to connect. The way to do this is by focusing attention, not dispersing it.
Discovering your brand
Too often, people try to “dream up” a brand for their company. However, a brand isn’t something you dream up — it’s something you discover. Specifically, it’s something you have to discover about yourself.
True branding must be based solely on the mission and culture of the organization. When people try to create branding separate from the company itself, the result may be pretentious, clichéd or ambiguous marketing. It waters down the company’s message.
Instead, a brand should reflect the company’s business plan, its mission and values. It has to be authentic. Therefore, when you brand a company (or anything else for that matter), you’re trying to capture its core identity. You have to look past the clutter and opinion and distill its true essence. This is what you convey to consumers — your brand. And your fonts, your design, your writing — all aspects of your marketing — should all align with that central concept. Now, you have focus. Now, you have penetration, because you’ve conveyed your company’s identity by first discovering yourself.
Related: The Basics of Branding The ingredients of a brand
While there is probably no foolproof formula for discovering a company’s brand, there are pathways to accomplish that. Consider the following points the “ingredients” that go into making an authentic brand:
Company mission. This is the most important element of branding. Your mission is the spirit of your company, it’s the beating heart of what you do. In fact, your brand can be thought of as the outward expression of your company’s internal mission. Think of it this way: Why does your organization exist? What is it there for? You have assets, employees, vendors, relationships and internal systems. . . but why? Values. What’s important to your company? What do you stand for? Every company has certain ideals that define what it is and does. These ideals could be environmental, social or ethical or could be standards of quality Whatever your company’s values are, they’re the very center of why you’re unique and are a crucial part of your brand. Culture. Each company in the world has its own ethos — a particular style or panache. Whatever you call yours, embrace it. There may be a million competitors in your market space, but there’s only one you. Your company’s group culture is part of the fabric of who you are. History. Your history tells a lot about you. Look to the company’s founders to help define your identity today. What were their values? What were they trying to accomplish? Every company came from somewhere. Your roots are an integral part of your company’s brand. Plans. When you look at your next 10 years, where do you see yourself going? Your business plan and marketing strategy both influence how you present yourself and should be included in your branding. If you’re going after an entry-level market segment, don’t position yourself as a luxury brand. Your brand must encompass your real-world objectives. Consumers. This is really what it’s all about. Your customers are the reason you exist. What are their needs? What do they think? Understanding your customers is a vital part of branding. Because if you don’t know whom you’re talking to, why bother to say anything at all?
It might take a bit of soul-searching to get at the essence of what makes your company special. The trick is to take a clear-eyed look and see what’s actually there. Because every brand is beautiful, every brand is inspiring.
The best employees will be able to easily recall their struggles, says SpaceX’s CEO.
By Laura Montini
If your company frequently runs into complex-problem issues, it helps to be surrounded by a team of experienced problem solvers.
While that might sound overly obvious, the hard part is detecting this skill during the hiring process. You’ll want to make sure that your employees have cracked tough codes by themselves–not just by blindly following someone else’s instructions, says Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
That’s why, as a hiring rule, Musk asks job candidates to recall a problem they solved. Then he has them explain how they arrived at each and every step, up until the solution.
“If someone was really the person that solved it, they’ll be able to answer multiple levels. They’ll be able to go down to the brass tacks,” Musk said in an interview at Ignition, an annual Business Insider event. “Anyone who’s struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”
Note that when a candidate says he or she was able to arrive at a conclusion by asking someone else or consulting a book, that’s a perfectly acceptable answer. Musk said this is exactly how he’s been studying rocket science for more than a decade. The grueling process has made him more confident in his abilities.
“When you struggle with a problem, that’s when you understand it,” he said.
I can attest, from personal experience, both the powerful bias effects of some of these items listed below, and to their disastrous effects on the behavior and psychology of certain people…
In my experience, as well, not all of these biases are equally dangerous or even problematic, but they can all be barriers to success at one time, or in one set of circumstances, or another, if you allow them to be.
Especially when such biases become habitual and completely unexamined. Bias is bad when it comes to critical and acute assessment, but it can also be catastrophic when habitual and stubborn.
In fact, we are prone to hundreds of proven biases that cause us to think and act irrationally, and even thinking we’re rational despite evidence of irrationality in others is known as blind spot bias.
People are overreliant on the first piece of information they hear.
In a salary negotiation, for instance, whoever makes the first offer establishes a range of reasonable possibilities in each person’s mind. Any counteroffer will naturally react to or be anchored by that opening offer.
“Most people come with the very strong belief they should never make an opening offer,” says Leigh Thompson, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “Our research and lots of corroborating research shows that’s completely backwards. The guy or gal who makes a first offer is better off.”
A cousin of confirmation bias, here our expectations unconsciously influence how we perceive an outcome. Researchers looking for a certain result in an experiment, for example, may inadvertently manipulate or interpret the results to reveal their expectations. That’s why the “double-blind” experimental design was created for the field of scientific research.
When you choose something, you tend to feel positive about it, even if the choice has flaws. You think that your dog is awesome — even if it bites people every once in a while — and that other dogs are stupid, since they’re not yours.
This is the tendency of people to conform with other people. It is so powerful that it may lead people to do ridiculous things, as shown by the following experiment by Solomon Asch.
Ask one subject and several fake subjects (who are really working with the experimenter) which of lines B, C, D, and E is the same length as A? If all of the fake subjects say that D is the same length as A, the real subject will agree with this objectively false answer a shocking three-quarters of the time.
“That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern,” Asch wrote. “It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct.”
A phenomenon in marketing where consumers have a specific change in preference between two choices after being presented with a third choice. Offer two sizes of soda and people may choose the smaller one; but offer a third even larger size, and people may choose what is now the medium option.
When people overestimate the importance of information that is available to them.
For instance, a person might argue that smoking is not unhealthy on the basis that his grandfather lived to 100 and smoked three packs a day, an argument that ignores the possibility that his grandfather was an outlier.
This is where you attribute a person’s behavior to an intrinsic quality of her identity rather than the situation she’s in. For instance, you might think your colleague is an angry person, when she is really just upset because she stubbed her toe.
The tendency to put more emphasis on negative experiences rather than positive ones. People with this bias feel that “bad is stronger than good” and will perceive threats more than opportunities in a given situation.
The omission bias creeps into our judgment calls on domestic arguments, work mishaps, and even national policy discussions. In March, President Obama pushed Congress to enact sweeping health care reforms. Republicans hope that voters will blame Democrats for any problems that arise after the law is enacted. But since there were problems with health care already, can they really expect that future outcomes will be blamed on Democrats, who passed new laws, rather than Republicans, who opposed them? Yes, they can—the omission bias is on their side.
The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by “burying” one’s head in the sand, like an ostrich.
Priming is where if you’re introduced to an idea, you’ll more readily identify related ideas.
Let’s take an experiment as an example, again from Less Wrong:
Suppose you ask subjects to press one button if a string of letters forms a word, and another button if the string does not form a word. (E.g., “banack” vs. “banner”.) Then you show them the string “water”. Later, they will more quickly identify the string “drink” as a word. This is known as “cognitive priming”
Priming also reveals the massive parallelism of spreading activation: if seeing “water” activates the word “drink”, it probably also activates “river”, or “cup”, or “splash”
Once upon a time, three groups of subjects were asked how much they would pay to save 2,000 / 20,000 / 200,000 migrating birds from drowning in uncovered oil ponds. The groups respectively answered $80, $78, and $88. This is scope insensitivity or scope neglect: the number of birds saved — the scope of the altruistic action — had little effect on willingness to pay.
Over-reliance on expert advice. This has to do with the avoidance or responsibility. We call in “experts” to forecast when typically they have no greater chance of predicting an outcome than the rest of the population. In other words, “for every seer there’s a sucker.”
An error that comes from focusing only on surviving examples, causing us to misjudge a situation. For instance, we might think that being an entrepreneur is easy because we haven’t heard of all of the entrepreneurs who have failed.
It can also cause us to assume that survivors are inordinately better than failures, without regard for the importance of luck or other factors.
As many of you WordPress Users know by now WordPress has reduced their Classic Editor to an extremely hard to get locate set of complicated linkage maneuvers and basically replaced it with an extremely inferior “new” post editor. This has frustrated and outraged many WordPress Users, and with very good reason, especially since the problem was entirely self-created and would be extremely easy to resolve had WordPress either the foresight or the desire to do so.
But to me this points to any even bigger set of current problems in and with WordPress, those being: their total lack of response to user complaints both with the new editor and with a desire to return to easy access to the Classic Editor (and believe me it’s called Classic for a reason, they seem to be entirely missing their own definitional admissions), their willful attempt to avoid problem-solving (when this would be an extremely easy problem to resolve), and their apparent reliance upon an attempt to woo millennial and younger customers with hipster-huckstering tricks like a slick-looking and streamlined yet vastly inferior posting editor.
None of these things bode well at all for the WordPress Business Model.
WordPress is publicly displaying exactly how you do not run a business. Recently though, in an attempt to persuade WordPress to fully understand the type of business suicide they are committing by pursuing this entirely unnecessary course of action I have been participating in this thread and forum:
If you too are bothered by the inferior nature of the new editor and would like to to see a return to easy user access of the Classic Editor then let your opinion be known.
Here was my first reply to this entirely self-created and easy to resolve fiasco:
For God’s sake this would be so easy to correct. A single line of code that allowed the user to choose by which method and editor he would like to make his or her post.
If this were the marketplace, or a business, the idea of imposing upon your customer, client, or user a choice they find distasteful, inefficient, and functionless would be suicide. And the idea of making your customer, client, or user wade through a large number of entirely pointless steps to correct a “problem” that should have never existed in the first place is utterly ridiculous and juvenile.
There is a certain distasteful arrogance to the modern Geek that borders on a desire to be a petty tyrant. Look ma, I’m powerful! Technology – BOOM!
This is simply a programmer or group of programmers with a month-long hard bone to gnaw, doesn’t matter whether it is infected and full of maggots or not. It’s his to gnaw and tough luck everybody else, get your own maggot-filled bone to gnaw.
In the time it took some code-writer or technician or board-monitor to read this complaint (or any of the other complaints on this easy to resolve matter) some clever code-writer could have devised a simple line of code to install at the top of the editor that allows the user to choose “Classic Editor” as their editor of choice. As a matter of fact a clever or smart code writer who cared about the end-user would do that very thing. Immediately.
This ain’t rocket-science boys and girls.
This is mere psychological and professional pettiness to make a juvenile point.
I used to worry about this, but the truth is, I’ve always needed very little sleep. As a kid (a teenager and in my twenties) I got by with as little as three or fours hours a night, and sometimes as little as two. When I was a boy this aphorism/line of verse by Longfellow hung on my bedroom door, as many of my friends can probably recall:
The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Nowadays, unless I overtrain (physically overtrain – I rarely mentally overtrain, it happens but I rarely really tire mentally or psychologically), I still need relatively very little sleep. About 5 to maybe 6 hours at most. And despite aging I’ll often have to make myself sleep that much.
I do not like sleeping in the daytime, unless injured or sick, so that becomes unavoidably necessary, and have always been nocturnal by nature. Often even when I am actually in bed (supposedly sleeping) I am making notes, writing, inventing, composing, developing new business projects, working cases, etc. The bed and the dark are good stimuli for my creativity, and since my wife can sleep anywhere and sleeps a lot my bedside lamp doesn’t bother her (she tells me). So I’m free to work in bed too. Additionally I will often wake from dreams or during the night to make notes on things that have occurred to me in my sleep. People often tell me I am prolific, and that may well be true. Often however I am simply awake and working far more than they are. I have always been this way and it is natural and enjoyable to me to walk outside at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and hear the silence of the world long ago asleep around me and know I am just finishing up or about to restart at my Work.
I also rarely take stimulants, except I’ll drink a cup of coffee sometime during the day. I do take supplements and drink a lot of water. Watch my diet and exercise frequently (and that is my real problem with rest, either physically overtraining or becoming dehydrated – I have to guard against both things).
As I get older I do tend to rest more, as in relax more and recreate more and take more breaks from Work, but as far as sleep goes, I still seem to need very little.
And this both greatly affects and effects my level of productivity. As in I can get far more done with little sleep and by instead concentrating upon my Work.
Unless, of course, I drive myself to injury, sickness, or exhaustion. Then I know I have overextended myself. At those points I force myself to rest and to sleep until I return to normal.
“I get three or four hours sleep a night, and I never get tired.”
Collages by Eugenia Loli
While most people don’t function well after an extended stretch of four or fewer hours of sleep a night, there may be a very small percentage who can thrive under these circumstances. In a landmark 2009 study, researchers discovered a genetic mutation in a mother and daughter who seemed to need much less sleep than the average person — the first time any mutation relating to sleep duration had been found (while the sample size wasn’t huge, the effect was replicated in mouse and fruit fly studies). A more recent study, by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, revealed a variation in that gene, and other researchers are currently observing the sleep patterns of research participants who claim to function on very little sleep.
Nobody knows exactly how many true “short sleepers” exist, but estimates put it at one percent of the population. They wake refreshed and energized after just a few hours of sleep, and those who have been studied tend to pack their lives with tasks that they perform well unaided by stimulants or other crutches. For instance, the very productive Thomas Edison may have been a short sleeper. “Cells don’t sleep,” he said in his most quoted anti-sleep rant. “Fish swim in the water all night. Even a horse doesn’t sleep. A man doesn’t need any sleep.”
Recently, Science of Us spoke with Jenn Schwaner, a 43-year-old short-sleeper from New Port Richie, Florida.
How much sleep do you usually get each night?
On average, I get about three or four hours, and I never feel tired.
Have you always needed so little sleep? What about when you were younger?
When I was a little girl, I’d wake with my father at 5 a.m. I can remember getting up with him that early from when I was about 3 years old. He worked as a computer programmer at Fort Hamilton. On average, we’d get about four hours sleep a night, but we didn’t know that there might be a medical reason for why we didn’t seem to need much.
When we were up, we had to be quiet, because we had a very small house and we didn’t want to wake the rest of the family. My dad would go on the computer or we would watch TV together: old movies like Laurel and Hardy,The Three Stooges, or Shirley Temple. He moved to Florida when I was around 7, but when I was older I had a computer, so I taught myself programming.
Did your lack of sleep impact your performance at school?
I went to a private Catholic school and I was always a very quick, sharp student. But I was also very bored in school, and looking back, I should have pursued so many other things but instead I studied to become a court reporter. I was so bored that I wasn’t looking forward to another four or six years of study. My mother told me about court reporting, which you can do at your own pace.
What did you do when you finished that course?
I got married the very next day — I was only 20. I had my first child when I was 26. Then I had a son in 2000 and another daughter in 2006.
What was pregnancy and nursing like for you? Did you get tired then?
Not really. In fact, with my third child, I didn’t find out I was pregnant until I was 20 weeks in. I wasn’t trying and I was very busy. I was coaching sports, sitting on community boards, and I was president of PTA. I couldn’t even remember when I last had a period, I was running around and doing so many things like a chicken without a head.
But I always said I was made to have children. It never bothered me when I got up in the middle of the night. It didn’t matter if it was every two or three hours, and I nursed all my kids. And then I started taking in foster children. A lot of the babies were born addicted to drugs — meth or prescription meds — and they need somebody to cuddle them and hold them in the middle of the night when they are going through withdrawal. I felt like I didn’t sleep at night anyway, and I knew that these kids really needed someone who wouldn’t get frustrated being up with them all night.
When I had my first baby, my husband was working nights, so he’d sleep during the day. I couldn’t make noise in the bedroom, so I was up doing all the things I normally did during the day while I was also nursing the baby at night. I breastfed her for 18 months. It was just the way it was. It never bothered me.
Was it just the fact that you didn’t need sleep that drew you to foster care?
I worked as a court reporter in dependency court for 23 years. One of my first jobs was in a very small town where everyone in the court system knew each other. I remember one Friday afternoon a 4-year-old kid came in — he had just been taken away from his parents and there was no place for him to go. They were arguing about where he should go. It totally sickened me. Here we were fighting over where a child needs to lay down for the weekend.
So that was my first experience of it, but I didn’t start taking in kids for long-term care until my kids were a older. I’d been hosting foreign-exchange students and I didn’t feel like that was a help. They were all so privileged and I wanted to do something for kids that needed it. And also, it’s not that my parents were hippies, but I was kind of a Peace Corps “I want to make the world better” person.
What’s it like sharing a bed with you? Do you bother your husband in the night?
I was married 22 years, but we are now divorced. My sleeping was an issue for him. He was a very light sleeper, so I slept on the couch for a number of years, probably for about the last eight years of our marriage. It definitely put a strain on our relationship, because he’s the type of person who has to sleep either eight or nine hours a night, and if I walk into the room at one in the morning, I would wake him up and he couldn’t go back to sleep. It caused issues.
You know, when I got divorced, it was kind of a relief. It was like, “Oh my gosh, I can walk around my house without waking anyone.” We had a one-story house for the majority of our marriage. I would think nothing of vacuuming at 2 a.m. and of course that would wake everybody, but now I didn’t have to worry about that. And I have a two-story house so everybody is asleep upstairs and I can vacuum all I want downstairs.
Are you single at the moment?
I have a boyfriend who understands it, and he’s not a light sleeper, so we can share a bed without a problem. There are some nights when he turns around and is like, “You have not slept all night.” And I’m like, “I know. I’m sorry.” He asks, “How do you function?” And I say: “it’s just the way I am. It doesn’t bother me.”
Can you talk me through a typical day from the minute you wake up to when you go to bed?
It really depends on which children I have at my house. At the moment, I have my kids plus three foster kids — a 13-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 17-month-old. So the babies sleep through the night. I don’t use an alarm clock. I generally get up between 3 and 4 a.m. and I will start to do some work or laundry or cleaning and then I’m usually taking kids to the bus stop starting at 6:30 in the morning. Then I come back and wake up the others who get ready for school for 7 a.m., and then I start the rounds of dropping them off at different bus stops.
I drop the babies off at child care at about 8:30 and I start court calendar at 8:30 or 9 a.m. and I work until between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Then I start picking kids up again. The babies first, usually at about 3 p.m.; my 8-year-old gets off the bus at 4 p.m. and then the other kids usually get home between 4 and 5 p.m.
It’s softball season right now, so it’s crazy. We go five days a week at about 6 p.m. One of my morning rituals is cooking dinner. I’ll crock pot so everybody can grab something to eat before their evening activities. And we do homework in the car, then we come back home and the kids shower. If you walk into my hallway, there’s charts everywhere: the rules of the house, who gets showers at what time (to avoid any bathroom collisions).
My oldest is in by 11 p.m.; on the weekends, she’s in by midnight, but that doesn’t mean she shuts down because her friends come to our house and they stay up until about 2 a.m., and they sleep through to 10 a.m. The babies and little kids are asleep by 9 p.m. and the older kids are asleep by 11 p.m.
I don’t worry about my oldest too much anymore, but she can still keep me up. Her curfew is midnight and because I sleep when I’m tired — I don’t fight sleeping — I might sleep from eleven until two. If she’s not home yet, I have to wait for her. My house has always been the hang-out house. I am a big cook and she has a very large room with a fridge and a couch in there, which is the hang-out room for all her friends.
But I usually go to sleep close to 12 and then start all over again. It’s crazy. My life is extremely hectic.
Do you ever feel tired?
If anything gets me tired, it’s stress, and it’s more that I get stressed than tired.
Can you describe what that feels like?
You know, I think as I’m getting older — I’m 43, so I feel it more in my muscles, but my mind still doesn’t shut down. I’ll sit at the computer for an hour. I’ll do a load of laundry. Then I’ll go back to the computer for 45 minutes. And I’ll start making dinner and then go back to the computer and start doing something else. I’m not a very sedentary person. There’s always something to do: laundry, dinner, clothes in the dryer. It never ends.
How did you learn that you are a short sleeper?
I only found out I was a short sleeper about a year and a half ago. My father was working at FSU and he had heard of a study that was being led by a geneticist at the University of Califonira, San Francisco, so he contacted them. When the media heard about it, he was interviewed and he said, “Well, if anyone has this worse than me it’s my daughter.” So ABC came and followed me for 24 hours. My father was characterized by researchers as having features in common with other short sleepers. They think it’s caused by a variation in a gene, but they don’t know a whole lot about it — for example, if it’s more likely to be passed on from men to their daughters or if we even carry it.
Do you think any of your children are short sleepers?
I don’t think so, but if there is a candidate, it might be my youngest … She’s nothing like I was at her age, but she does come through to my room all the time in the night. She’s a light sleeper. She could fall asleep in a wheelbarrow and then be awake after 15 minutes.
When I found out that “short sleepers” were a real thing, it relieved me. I wish that I had looked at it the way the reporters saw it. They thought it was so great, that I was so lucky because I had so much more time in my life to accomplish things. Even though I always had an instinct to fill that time, I didn’t really cherish it and I should have from a much younger age. I fought it for so many years. I would lie in bed and tell myself go to sleep, go to sleep. Shut down! I did everything possible with the exception of medication. I tried meditating and nothing did it. I’ve embraced it a lot more seeing how jealous other people are of me. I have overfilled my life with things, but it’s what I enjoy doing.
You work as a court reporter. I bet that requires a lot of concentration and attention to detail?
It does. I mostly do high-profile criminal cases — first degree felonies. I do death-penalty cases and I have to write real-time, verbatim reporting of everything everyone is saying in the court room. We do it on a steno machine. You can only touch ten keys at a time and you make a language based on phonetics. I’m certified at 235 WPM on the steno machine.
Given that your job deals with such heavy subject matter, do you find it hard to switch off from that? Do you think about the court in the middle of the night?
Very rarely now do I dwell on my work. But when I was young, I would come home and I would be really bothered by the divorce cases. It was terribly hard to see people who had once loved each other treat each other so horribly. I used to joke to my husband, “Don’t ever try to divorce me because I will take my chances in criminal court before I take my chances in divorce court.” We had a very amicable divorce since I didn’t want to do anything that would hurt my kids. But very rarely did the criminal cases bother me.
What happens when you’re sick. Do you find it hard to take to your bed?
Yes, I find it hard to lay still, but it’s actually very rare that I get sick. It actually stresses me out to have to be sick, even just the thought of it, because I can’t imagine being stuck in my bed and recuperating. Who is going to look after all the kids? Who is going to take care of them? Who is going to make dinner? Some of them are getting old enough now that they can function, but they don’t function well. I have to come downstairs and spend three days cleaning after I have been sick for a day, so being sick really stresses me out.
What’s air travel like for you? And are you impacted by time difference?
I never get jet-lag and it annoys me when I travel and I see people asleep on the plane. I don’t sit still. In any relationship I’ve ever been in, they ask me to please sit still and watch the movie and I can’t, it’s like I have laundry to do or this other task to do, so being on a plane just drives me absolutely crazy. I feel like I need to get up and jog or something.
I’m happy to go on very long road trips — I’ve driven very, very far. I’ve taken my softball team to Louisiana, to Tennessee, to North Carolina. I’ve driven from Florida to New York a few times, and California. I usually take the kids and go straight through the night, so there’s about six to eight hours of everyone sleeping. I just keep on driving.
Does drinking impact your sleep?
I don’t get hangovers. If I overdo it and I get a headache, that’s saying a lot. Most people in their 40s are sick for a day and a half. If I drink too much, then I may go to bed at two and get up at six — maybe I get an extra hour’s sleep!
What happens when you take stimulants? I’d imagine things like a 5-Hour Energy or recreational uppers would have an extreme effect on you?
I have one cup of coffee a day, usually in the morning. I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts junkie — I love my iced coffee, so I usually have a medium whatever their specialty coffee of the month is and that’s my thing. I do think I need the caffeine.
What would you say is the best thing about being a short sleeper?
The best thing is that I have so many more hours in the day to get things accomplished. I still say I wish I had more hours in a day, and I have more hours than most people.
Do you get annoyed with people who count how much sleep they have had and complain about being tired?
Yes. Even when my kids sleep crazy amounts of hours I get annoyed. Teenagers can sleep probably for 12 hours straight, and I get so annoyed because I think they are wasting their lives. Why are you wasting your life sleeping? There are so many things that you could be doing. That’s how I see it. So, I don’t like them sleeping for longer than necessary because they are wasting their lives. That’s always been my thing. You have plenty of time to sleep when you die. You might as well embrace life.
I thought about posting this to my literary blog, but… then I thought to myself, no, this story contains so many of the lessons I’ve learned in business and regarding corporate espionage that I’ll put it here, on Launch Port.
I’ll continue writing the story in sections and then serialize it here on Launch Port.Enjoy.
THE BUTT-NAKED BUSINESSMAN
Chapter One: The Breeched Bureau
End-Over placed his luggage at the foot of the bureau. The important thing about a bureau in his mind, if you were going to have one at all, was that it be tightly arranged and well ordered. Most people didn’t understand this, even those who made much use of bureaus. Then again, most people started at the over, and not at the end. He had been born breeched. The end as the logical starting place was natural to him.
It also struck many people as either odd, or humorous, or both, that he would bring so much luggage to a Nudist Camp. But to him, if you were going to camp, the important thing was to always be prepared. Being naked in the face of being nude was to him a very different thing than being both naked and nude. The nude part he had worked himself up to without much trouble. Truth was he had always preferred being nude. The being naked though, that was another matter. They didn’t mesh well in his mind with the other parts of himself. Nude was just another form of camouflage, and another form of gregarious sociability. Naked was, well, it was being naked. You either got that, or you didn’t. End-Over got it, and because of that, he avoided naked.
Everyone at the colony, for he preferred to call it a Colony rather than a Camp, called him John. Or Tule. Because he told everyone his real name was John Tuli. It wasn’t of course, and it wasn’t the only alias he employed. After all real names left one naked, and considering that he was a businessman and considering his business, he was satisfied to let everyone else see him nude rather than naked. His name didn’t interfere with his time at the Colony, it didn’t interfere with his fun, it didn’t make him any less likely to be what he was or to do what he’d do, it was just a name. A corporate structure. He wasn’t attached to it. He wasn’t even attached to his real name. It implied certain things about him, helped clarified aspects of his past. Like all names though it was self-limiting, wasn’t really descriptive at all, other than the meaning others attached to it. Public names, real, or imagined, or created, were like terms to him. Something you could hang an idea on, not something you could develop a solid, working description from. He had a secret name for himself, something no-one else knew. Well, no-one else except maybe God. But it wasn’t a naked name, and it wasn’t a nude name, and it wasn’t a public name, and it wasn’t even a private name. It was a name he used when he talked to himself. Which was often enough that he was respectful of it. So he never used it otherwise, and never spoke it in vain.
He turned from the bureau and examined the room he stood in. It was part of the same cabin he always stayed at when he visited the colony. The floors were stained hardwood, dusty and warm, it seemed to him, no matter what time of year he visited. The furniture was typically resort issue. Standing floor lamps, warm yellow bulbs that shed very little light. That was perfectly fine by him.
The bed was low slung, with no headboard. The mattress was new, and the sheets clean and well tended. On his pillow lay a single wrapped chocolate and with a white rose topping a crisp, bright, white envelop with gold, calligraphic insignia cut to conceal a card rather than a letter. The card was no doubt the typical greeting he always received whenever he visited.
The small kitchen would be clean, swept, dry, and sterile. The floor tiles black and white, the polished faux granite counters would gleam dully. The sinks would shine, the faucets would be scrubbed. Dishes would be neatly stacked and put away in their proper places. The silverware would look as if just purchased. The white-frosted, spherical, enclosed light fixtures would hang halfway between the roof and the floor of the vaulted kitchen ceiling. The refrigerator and freezer would be completely empty of anything but ice, which would be plentiful, and the cabinets would be entirely bare. This didn’t matter to him though; he would stock his own larder. He preferred it that way.
The single bathroom of his cabin would be spotless, the toilet almost pristine, a large shaving mirror would hang above a sink free of all traces it had ever been previously used, and a full length door mirror would decorate the inside door of the bathroom. The bath would be part programmable Jacuzzi, part rounded tub, and would conceal a detachable, multi-pulse showerhead. He liked the set up and looked forward to a few long, relaxing soaks at night while he listened to opera and dozed in the warm water. Which he would salt and pour white wine in for the smell, and because it would relax him all the more…
Any entrepreneur will tell you that startup life is not for the easily daunted. Rejection, product failures, and isolation are just a few of the tests that many entrepreneurs are put through on a routine basis. Add youth and inexperience to the list of things working against you—and you can see how a startup can seem like nothing but a harsh, uphill endeavor. Luckily, entrepreneurs tend to be more optimistic than other workers, a factor that keeps them pitching to prospects and looking for ways to prove their value.
As I gather my thoughts for a panel tomorrow on how to build credibility as a young entrepreneur, I’ve been reflecting on what has helped my partners and clients say “Yes” to the diversity consulting and training pitches I’ve put in front of them over the last five years. Mind you, even if it’s not your age that presents a credibility issue, some other factor (industry experience, knowledge of a certain product type, geographic reach) may put you or your business in an ‘underdog’ position.
Here are my top strategies for proving your worth, regardless of your age, experience level or other factors you’re being judged on:
Identify What’s Sacred To Your Customer: What quickens the pulse of the group you’re pitching to? What most excites them or eludes them regardless of their efforts? In my case, a focus on amassing lots of cutting-edge inclusion best practices and focusing on Gen X and Y women helped turn pitch meetings into signed contracts. Additionally, tying innovation payoffs to diversity efforts more often than not grabbed clients’ interest. Still, what ‘did the trick’ last year for many entrepreneurs won’t necessarily pay off now. Who can inform you about what this group cares about most now? What groups and discussions are they participating in on LinkedIn? What types of events or publications do they promote and with what angle?
Don’t Wait To Go After Whales: As a new entrepreneur, I pitched to top business programs around the nation to train their students on the lessons in my first book, The Next Generation of Women Leaders. Plenty of deans and career offices didn’t respond. But thanks to casting a big net, plenty of people said “Yes.” To my sheer delight—and admittedly, terror—the first client to invite me to speak was Harvard University. That wonderful opportunity served as an instrumental “door opener” for future pitches, helping me get into Princeton, London Business School, Duke and inside many large organizations. As a new entity, many people will advise you to start small or go after the “low hanging fruit.” Don’t. Aim high.
Borrow Credibility Where Needed: Many a deal has been closed thanks to a warm introduction being made early on. When a trusted professional enthusiastically introduces you to a corporate insider, you’re getting an endorsement, and therefore a chance, that others won’t. Even if you don’t have deep relationships inside the company, go through the exercise of asking yourself who in your network could act as a strategic partner or co-creator of a compelling pitch. Your partner may have age and experience you don’t, a value added service, a Fortune 500 company on their resume, or experience in a key area that you lack. I have personally benefitted from partnership and found repeatedly that two minds were better than one, especially in client meetings.
Forecast Future Success: Even if the vision for Year 3 of your business depends heavily on performance in Year 1 and 2, have a clear path forward to share with your clients. The fact that you may be adjusting your plans minute to minute is not going to be compelling to decision makers. In a large bid that a partner and I made and won, one of the last questions we were grilled on was, “Where do you see yourself making an impact in 3-4 years?” We had a ready answer about an exciting area of research we wanted to spearhead and how we’d devise services around our learning. How can you look ahead and create a vision for the future? Your prospect may not be looking for total certainty, but they need to know you have a strategy with future mile markers of value.
More than anything, if you want to get hired, you need to promote trust. Are you creating certainty that you’ll deliver ably on what you’re selling? Even more important, are you demonstrating to prospects that if you take a wrong step or a crisis erupts on their end, that you’ll have the kind of smarts and agility to correct your course of action or manage the change?
What has worked for you to build credibility? Would do you think that young entrepreneurs need to know most?
Selena Rezvani is a women’s leadership speaker, workplace consultant, and author of Pushback: How Smart Women Ask–and Stand Up–for What They Want. Connect with her at nextgenwomen.com and @SelenaRezvani on Twitter.
Posted: 02/06/2014 2:57 pm EST Updated: 12/31/2014 1:59 am EST
I have spent decades “being educated” — in college, graduate school, numerous professional certifications, and now a Ph.D. program. All of that schooling and training helped shape the person I am today, but at no point in my life has there been a more profound education than my time working for Enver Yucel and Oprah Winfrey.
Enver and Oprah are two extraordinary people. And on top of that, they’re both billionaires. On the surface, they appear to be totally different people. They are in different industries, have different family structures, practice different religions, and speak different languages. However, once you get past their written biographies and dig deeper, you will notice they possess many of the same successful habits.
I had the opportunity to work with both Oprah and Enver for six years collectively and those were, hands down, the best professional experiences of my life. I worked my ass off for them and in doing so absorbed everything I could.
It’s my honor to share with you what I learned from them. Here is Part 1 of the 20 successful habits I learned working for two billionaires:
1) Invest in Yourself
This is a very simple concept, but something you would think someone who has “made it” would stop doing. Not at all for these two. I saw them both spend a significant amount of time dedicating their resources to self-development (whether it be a new language, exercise, social media classes, etc.). The moment you stop investing in yourself is the moment you have written off future dividends in life.
2) Be Curious… About Everything
What the average person sees as mundane or overly complicated is not viewed the same way with a billionaire mindset. I once had a 30 minute conversation with Enver about the height of the curbs in Washington DC versus Istanbul, Turkey. Billionaires are incredibly curious; what the rest of the world thinks is a problem and complains about — that’s what these people go and work on.
3) Surround Yourself With “Better” People
I hope this is why they kept me around. Seriously, I never knew my bosses to keep anyone less-than-stellar in their inner circle. There were many times I thought to myself, “Damn, they have dream-teams built around them.” Jim Rohn had it right, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
4) Never Eat Alone
The last time I had dinner with Enver, as well as the last time I ate dinner with Oprah, there were easily 15 people at our tables, respectively. Coincidence? While most of us derive our key information from blogs or the newspaper, power players get their information from the source (other power players), directly. However, just because you can’t call up the Obamas and break bread with them doesn’t mean eating with others in your circle doesn’t carry value. In one of my favorite reads of the last few years called Never Eat Alone, author Keith Ferrazzi breaks down how you can identify “information brokers” to dine with you. I’ve seen first hand how enormous the benefits are of this strategy.
5) Take Responsibility for Your Losses
I was working for Oprah during the time she was taking heat from the media about poor network ratings. I was also working for Enver during the closing of one of his prized divisions. What I witnessed them both do in response was powerful. Opposed to covering the losses up with fancy PR tactics, both stepped to the stage and said in essence “I own it and I’m going to fix it” and dropped the mic. Guess what? They sure did fix things (It’s widely noted Oprah’s network is realizing ratings gold and Enver’s assets have probably doubled since the division closing).
6) Understand The Power Of “Leverage”
This is something that was quite a shock to me. From afar, a billionaire appears to be someone who is a master at everything. But, in truth, they’re specialists in one or a few areas and average or subpar at everything else. So, how do they get so much done? Leverage! They do what they do best and get others to do the rest. Here’s a great article on leverage. Keep in mind I see this done with wealthy people and their money all of the time — they use OPM (other people’s money) for most or all of their projects.
7) Take No Days Off (Completely)
I recall going on vacation with Enver several times, yachting up and down the southwestern coast of Turkey (also known as the blue voyage). Sounds ballerific, right? No doubt we had a great time, but mixed in with all that swimming and backgammon was discussion of business, discussion of strategy, planning and plotting. The best way I can describe this habit is thinking about your business or your idea like your literal baby. No matter your distance, you don’t stop thinking of him/her (and after just having a second son, I can attest to this).
8) Focus On Experiences vs. Material Possessions
When you have money, your toys are big. However, the vast majority of money I saw spent on their “leisure” was on actual experiences versus the typical car, jewelry, and clothes we’re familiar with seeing in music videos and gossip blogs. I recall one time at dinner with Oprah, I spotted a table of about 20 girls off to the side. I later found out Ms. Winfrey was treating some of her graduating girls from her school in South Africa to dinner in NYC. Experiences create memories, and memories are priceless.
9) Take Enormous Risks
This is another one of those successful habits every entrepreneur can attest to. A matter of fact, Entreprenuer.com created a great infographic outlining commonalities of the world’s billionaires and one of the most prominent was this characteristic: billionaires are not adverse to risk. What intrigues me even more about Enver and Oprah was that even at their high financial status and success level, they still possessed a willingness to risk their most precious asset (their name and legacy) on new and bolder projects. If you’re not taking risks, you’re not making moves!
10) Don’t Go At It Alone
Nothing great in life is achieved alone. Especially in business, success isn’t a solo act. This character trait is akin to “surrounding yourself with better people.” It takes teamwork to make the dream work.
Which I think is a true premise and statement, and for the most part I agree with the list of qualifications and traits Anders employs to distinguish and recognize Rare Talent, but while reading the book another thought occurred to me as well.
Suppose I reversed the premise of the book (for the book is written from the point of view of the talent scout seeking talent) and instead developed my own plan to making my talent more easily recognizable to others (such as agents, editors, publishers, scouts, etc.)?
So I am sketching the book out in reverse with the intent of developing my own 8 to 12 Point Plan for making myself easily recognizable to those who are scouting for new talent.
Once I have this plan developed I will post it here, on Launch Port, along with a lengthier article on how I plan to employ that plan.
Committing to a relationship with a VC is committing to the long-term. In romantic terms, it’s a marriage, not a casual drink or weekend getaway. In fact, venture capital/startup relationships last just as long as most marriages — around 7 or 8 years — and can be just as emotionally taxing.
Entrepreneurs often struggle to feel confident when they are presenting to VCs. Pitching your startup can be as nerve-wracking as waiting at the bar for a blind date, and what VCs want can seem as mysterious as members of the opposite sex. Entrepreneurs are reluctant to ask important questions because they are afraid of scaring the potential partner away, but the answers to those questions could seriously impact the happiness and fruitfulness of your “life” together. Startup life means there are a lot of ups and downs, but the downs don’t mean you should settle for a ‘safe’ VC choice. Everybody deserves somebody. As with significant others, you want someone who sees the unique positives in you, not the generic negatives.
What VCs care most about is how much their investment will be worth, or equity value. This leads to the question facing all entrepreneurs — how do you build equity value? Revenue is a metric (and an important one), but not the metric. Other factors include market leadership, unique IP/capabilities, disruption in a big market, and an A+ technology team. The right “fit” isn’t the same for everyone. What works for one person or startup may not work for another. Here are 5 things to consider before entering the bonds of venture capital funding.
1. Know your value as a partner
As the philosopher Beyonce says, “If you like it, then you should have put a ring on it.” A great start to a marriage or partnership of any kind is when both sides feel they lucked out and are excited about the commitment. Find someone who appreciates the potential of your business and what you have to offer. As a founder, you are giving away your most prized asset — your equity. The VCs are buying a piece of a company that they believe has value. It is important to remember your self-worth and your company’s value before you embark upon a relationship . This is a much more compelling approach than “I hope someone gives me money,” because desperation doesn’t look good on anybody.
It is also important not to have baggage walking into the partnership. Plenty of entrepreneurs play hard to get in the beginning, but as soon as you commit, the games should be over. You don’t want to spend years explaining or justifying yourself. A strong relationship means being honest and appreciative of each other. This also means it is important to be on the same page about terms, so everyone feels they got a fair deal. For example, Carbonite really loved working with us at Menlo Ventures because the investment was fair on both sides and we said ‘I do’ with a clean slate. In a strong VC-startup relationship, both parties want the other to succeed. Mutual respect and excitement should come before a ring.
Forbes’ annual ranking of the Best Countries for Business grades countries on 11 different metrics, including property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance (click here for complete coverage). This year Denmark returns to the top spot, where it ranked three straight years between 2008 and 2010.
We enlisted mapping firm Esri this year to plot the top 25 and bottom 10 countries on an interactive world map that allows users to scan through the countries and access basic economic data by clicking on a country name (see below). Europe dominates the top 25 with more than 70% of the entries. These countries score well almost across board on trade and personal freedom, as well as innovation and corruption. The Asia-Pacific region landed five locales on the list with the U.S. and Canada making up the final components of the top 25. The U.S. ranks No. 18 this year, down four spots from 2013. It is the fifth straight year of declines for the world’s largest economy.
African nations make up 60% of the bottom 10 with high levels of corruption, red tape and taxes registering as major issues. Guinea, which is at the center of the Ebola breakout, brings up the rear at No. 146.
I am not a particular fan of modern branding. Or I should say, the modern idea that branding should be a separate entity from the person or individual it brands.
Or to be even more accurate that a brand is something the person who developed the brand submits himself or herself to, regardless of whether the “Brand” actually and accurately reflects the individual’s nature, or whether the brand is upright, honest, and honorable. (Or for that matter whether the person behind the brand is upright, honest, and honorable.) This is not even to mention the modern idea that somehow a brand is a thing in itself and has some sort of imagined or separate value devoid of any real product or service backing the brand. Which is to me the real danger and disaster of so much modern “branding,” the idea that the brand is a thing of value in itself even when it has nothing of real value to back the brand.
However, that being said branding has always existed and always will. From Standard Oil/Petroleum to Walmart. From Old Farmer’s Almanac to SpaceX.
The question to me is not whether “branding exists” (either in modern form or in ancient form), or whether much of what passes as advice on modern branding is worthwhile or not (I suspect much of it is not, being construed in the way it is), but how to best go about the idea and process of developing and promoting your own brand.
Therefore, based upon my own experience with my personal process of having developed my own brands in the past, and with my current process of developing my own brand as both a writer of fiction and as an inventor, below is my advice regarding how to go about setting up your own brand, the types of things you should concern yourself with in creating your brand, and finally with the attributes your brand should encompass.
As for the final section of this post, your Personal Brand Attributes – these are, of course, the specific attributes and characteristics of your brand and what you want that brand to both entail and promote. It will vary with each person and each brand.
Some brands may focus upon customer service, some upon high quality product development, some upon rapidity of product delivery, some upon entirely unique collaborative or customer design. Whatever the particulars of your case may be develop a list of attributes you want your brand and/or your company to encapsulate. And work to achieve and make these attributes real in the body of your brand.
My list of Personal Brand Attributes for my Writings I have listed in this section. Many would be the same but some would be different for my business and for my inventions.
You cannot, of course, encompass all beneficial qualities of a thing in a single brand because certain attributes are competitive and resource consuming in nature (add to one and you basically subtract from another) but there is absolutely no reason your brand, be it personal or corporate, cannot encompass many beneficial qualities and attributes.
As a matter of fact, it should.
In branding yourself do not make your brand in any way alien to or different from your actual and best nature, but rather let your brand flow naturally from the best true qualities of your own Character, Nature, and Personality.
Later, as you Incorporate and grow yourself and your creations into a self-sufficient, self-sustaining Business let your Business both reflect your Personal Brand and allow your business or corporation to exceed your Personal Brand so that your business can develop a Brand of its own.
However only let your Business or Corporate Brand be of the Highest Character and Nature, paralleling your own brand.
1. Pursue useful personal idiosyncrasies and imperfections
2. Be immanently and immediately relatable to as many people as possible
3. Be unique in both execution and style
4. Create a Unique Signature, Logo, and/or Mark and Symbol
5. Have an Individual and Easily Recognized Name or Moniker
6. Protect your Copyrights, Trademarks, and Intellectual Properties (of all kinds)
7. Take Appropriate Risks and take them often
8. Be Profitable and Well-Disciplined and Well-Managed
9. Market Cleverly, Consistently, and Well
10. Hire Excellent and Reliable and Upright Agents and Representatives and employ them consistently on your own behalf
11. Take on Big and important Projects as well as Personal and Intimate Ones
12. Constantly Practice, Study, and Improve yourself
13. Keep Careful and Useful Notes on all Good Ideas
14. Execute Promptly and Completely – Focus on one thing at a time and finish what you start
15. Network and Collaborate – build your Community and Base and treat them respectfully and with loyalty
16. Develop a “Personal Legend” around yourself based upon your own best individual Qualities, Character, Personality, and Nature. Eliminate as much as humanly possible your own failings, vices, and weaknesses. Guard your reputation like a treasure.
IN ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR BRAND BE HONEST AND HONORABLE AND SERVICE ORIENTED
PERSONAL BRAND ATTRIBUTES
Those aspects of your brand that you want to make most directly associated with yourself and your brand
Driven and Determined
Friendly and Personable
Highly Honorable and Honest
Polymathic/Renaissance Man or Corporation
Precise and Scientific
We all procrastinate every now and then. Whether it’s putting off a simple task like organizing files or a bigger project like writing a business plan, it’s something we are all guilty of. The excuses vary from “too busy” to “not the right time” and so on, particularly with the more important, time-consuming projects. We continue to rationalize delays to the point where we start to believe just about any excuse we give ourselves.
So what’s really holding you back from being productive and accomplishing what you set out to do? The answer is simple: fear–the fear of taking a risk and failing, the fear of looking foolish and wounding your pride.
“Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part,” according toPsychology Today contributor Hara Estroff Marano. “Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.”
The problem is that as time passes, our fear often grows and can become so overwhelming that we may give up entirely.
Here are four steps to loosen the grip of procrastination and encourage productivity:
Give yourself a deadline. Write down what you want to achieve and set a date by which it must be completed. Another useful tip is to place this written goal somewhere where you can always see it; both tangible (e.g., a Post-it) and intangible digital reminders are helpful. I use Asana to schedule tasks and sync them to my Google Calendar, so I’ll have reminders of upcoming tasks wherever I go digitally.
Start small. It’s normal to get swept up in the overwhelming feelings that come along with a big project or goal. The most effective way to combat this is to break your goal down into small steps. When you’re trying to be productive, don’t think in terms of projects; think in terms of specific tasks. This will keep you on track and help you stay positive in the process.
Don’t just focus on the easy tasks. This is a very seductive distraction, as many of us open our inboxes and look for easy, unimportant tasks rather than focusing on big projects. Rely on Step No. 2 above to focus on smaller, crucial steps of key projects, rather than simple tasks that give you a false sense of true accomplishment.
Create consequences for success and failure. As you complete each step, reward yourself: positive reinforcement provides incentive and will make you feel good about yourself. Likewise, don’t reward yourself for not following through. If you are looking forward to checking out that new burger joint, make visiting it conditional on completing an important task. If you don’t finish the task, you don’t get the burger. Be a fair but stern boss to yourself.
Soon enough you’ll be building so much momentum that you’ll become eager to accomplish your goals and excited to see the outcome. Today is a perfect day to start cutting down on procrastination. Take five minutes now to think of a few tasks you’ve been putting off and make a plan for tackling them. Do it now. Don’t procrastinate.
He’s absolutely right. Too many Chiefs, not enough Braves. But you can’t win a war with only the Chiefs fighting, too few of them to matter, and most aren’t good fighters anyway… the Braves win the war. Or not.
Back before founding a company was cool, it was a lot easier to get a lot of smart people in a room. Rock stars were hireable because they weren’t forging their own paths. That led to powerhouse teams like the “PayPal Mafia” seen below.
Alongside the future founders of LinkedIn, YouTube and Yelp at PayPal was Keith Rabois, now of Khosla Ventures. Today at the Postseed Conference in SF, Rabois explained how PayPal was lucky to start at the right stage of the talent dilution cycle.
According to Rabois, during down times when there’s not a lot of funding or fever to start companies, it’s easy to hire great talent. With enough intelligence centralized on a few startups, they grow. With time and success, hype builds around the idea of entrepreneurship and being a founder becomes a full-blown fetish.
Eager to coin on the success of the ecosystem, funding becomes plentiful and smart people found their own companies rather than join others. It becomes tougher to get a critical mass of talent on the same team. These companies raise money but don’t have the skills to win big and deliver returns. The bubble deflates, hype around startups cools off, and it becomes easier to hire strong people again.
But what should startups do if they’re unlucky enough to be getting off the ground when there’s a ton of recruiting competition and everyone wants to start their own company? You know, like now?
Rabois laid out four strategies for founders facing a tough hiring climate:
Sell The Mission – Founders must learn to convince potential recruits that their company will do good for the world, not just make a lot of money. Sure, they could go start their own company and potentially get rich, but joining this one will let them have a real impact. Founders have to sell both this macro mission, but also the micro mission of why the recruit’s contribution will be critical to making people’s lives better
Recruit Outside Of Central Casting – Rather than just trying to hire seasoned technologists or entrepreneurs, Rabois suggests sidestepping that scene and looking for people beyond the startup sphere. That could include prodigy college kids or geniuses from other industries, who haven’t seduced themselves into founding a company.
Create A Founder Culture – People often become founders because they can’t or think they can’t submit to being managed by someone else. To hire these types, companies have to build a culture where free-thinking self-starters can flourish. Rather than process-driven bureaucracy and hierarchy, founders must empower employees to make and execute decisions so they feel self-actualized while still having a boss.
Mentorship – Create a culture of learning, not just doing. When founder types know they can get an education that could help them start a company later, they’ll be more willing to join one now. If they only stay two years before fleeing, that’s still two years of valuable talent, and it’s on the founders to make the company interesting enough that employees want to stick around.
The tactics might seem time-consuming, but early hires set the tone for the company, and mediocre recruits can be toxic. It’s worth the effort for founders to enlist lieutenants they can trust to inspire the rest of the troops.
Today I went out and finished buying the final pieces of my new hard file filing system.
Now all of my thousands of post-it notes, scribbled notes, torn out sheet notes, doodles and hasty idea sketches for my various writing, novel, poetry, invention, composition, business, and gaming projects are stored in their own separate storage containers and I can go through them one by one, without all the mess and mix-up.
Plus I can finally see my desk again, and finally have space for my new office equipment.
In 1980, Ron Shaich was just a 20-something kid looking for a way to draw customers into his single cookie store in downtown Boston.
Today, he is the founder and CEO of Panera Bread Co., which has nearly 2,000 locations in the US and Canada, 80,000 employees, and a market capitalization of $4.5 billion.
Through a series of ah-ha moments and happy accidents, Shaich took a simple idea — sandwiches, soups, and salads that people feel good about eating — and built it into a dominant American brand.
It wasn’t always easy. The company started as Au Bon Pain, and Panera was just one of its divisions. In 1998, Shaich made the difficult decision to sell off most of the business and bet on the little-sister brand Panera. He also stepped back from his role as CEO four years ago. The time away made him realize all the ways the company was vulnerable, and he wrote a 20-page memo about how he would destroy Panera if he was a competitor.
Shaich sat down with Business Insider to talk about how he got here, the single most important strategy in Panera’s success, and what’s next for the business.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Business Insider:When did you first want to be an entrepreneur?
Ron Shaich: In college, I was the treasurer of the student body and came up with the idea of launching our own nonprofit convenience store. We ended up building it, and for a kid who couldn’t dance or sing, I found the creation of this store the most creative thing I ever did in my entire life. I loved it. I began to realize that business was creative and a way to make a difference in the world.
BI: How did Panera get its start?
RS: I went to business school. I tried to figure out my life. I ended up in D.C., running a chain of cookie stores for a large company. I established that this is the food I want to eat and created a single cookie store in downtown Boston in 1980. By late ’80, I had 50,000 people a day coming in, but no one bought cookies before noon. So I decided to put in French baked goods, and I became a licensee of a classic French bakery called Au Bon Pain.
They were the most screwed up vendor I ever dealt with — sometimes they delivered, sometimes they didn’t. I went to them with a proposal to merge the businesses. In February of ’81, I took on their debt, their three stores, and my one. And, after a number of iterations, that became Panera today.
BI: What was the moment when everything clicked for Panera?
RS: In 1984 I had an epiphany. I’d been working in the bakery, and people would walk in and say, “I want that baguette. Slice it from top to bottom.” So I do and hand them the loaf, and they pulled out a bag of deli meat and some cheese and made a sandwich out of it. You didn’t have to be a marketing whiz to recognize it was an opportunity in sandwiches.
Panera Bread In the early ’90s, Shaich decided to shift to serving soup, salad, and sandwiches.
We said, “Let’s be the platform to sell soup, salad, and sandwiches.” It took off from Day 1. In 1991, we took it public, and by 1996, we had evolved to a thesis that I call “decomodification,” today called “fast casual.” Then, the contemporary paradigm of fast food was a lot of food for not a lot of money. We recognized that there was a large niche, say 30% to 40% of the market, that wanted something more special. It was not simply how much food they got for the money, but the quality of the food and how they felt about themselves eating there.
Then I had another epiphany. I was sitting on the beach in 1999 and thought, “Wow, for every 100 guys who talk about having a dominant brand, one makes it. Maybe one out of 1,000.” It’s so hard. Panera was one of four divisions. Somebody said to me: “What would you do if Panera owned Au Bon Pain and not the other way around?” I said, “This thing is a gem. If I had any guts, I’d take myself and the very best people we had, and I’d let it fulfill its destiny.” So I did it.
BI: Just like that? How did it feel to say goodbye to most of what you’d built?
RS: The next few years of selling everything else off but Panera were the most horrible years of my life. Au Bon Pain was my first child. It’s only in retrospect that these decisions feel OK. When you’re going through them, if you’re honest, they’re horrible and difficult. Bottom line, I did it. We made the bet on Panera.
BI: If you could pinpoint one strategy, what do you think made Panera so successful?
RS: What sustains a company over the long term is how it thinks, not what it does. Because what is does is a byproduct of how it thinks. Panera in its core comes from a view that competitive advantage is everything. If we don’t have a reason for people to walk past competitors and come to Panera, then we don’t exist. Losing competitive advantage is the greatest risk in business, and that’s where our focus is.
Panera/David ElmesRon Shaich serves a customer in a Panera Cares cafe, the nonprofit arm of Panera offering pay-what-you-can prices.
BI: How do you stay ahead of the curve?
RS: I view my role as CEO as protecting those that discover ways to build competitive advantage. Often, when businesses first start up, they’re driven by people who discover new ways of doing things. They’re able to best the competition because they’re clearly disruptive and better. Then they get larger, and behind Discovery People come Delivery People, and they speak a different language.
Discovery is the language of what could be, of where the world is going. Delivery is the language of what happened yesterday, of limited risk. And in most companies that scale, you eventually wake up and realize you have tremendous delivery muscle and no discovery muscle, no ability to regenerate competitive advantage.
Our job as leadership is to protect and enable leaps of faith, making sure the company is there when the future arrives.
BI: After being CEO for decades, you stepped down from the role about four years ago. Why did you come back?
Reuters“Competitive advantage is everything,” Shaich says.
RS: I didn’t step down; I stepped back. I became executive chairman. Instead of six days a week, I spent three days a week on Panera.
My mind started racing one weekend, and I sat down at the typewriter and wrote a 20-page memo about how I would compete with Panera if I weren’t Panera. I undertook this vision and, after a year, found myself working 60 to 70 hours per week on it!
Panera has 80,000 employees and serves 10 million people a week. I’m back as CEO because I ultimately concluded it’s the most powerful platform I have to make a difference in the world.
BI: A lot of leaders talk about the need to carve out time to think about the big picture. How do you do it?
RS: I go to the beach every Christmas, and every year I write down initiatives for myself, my family, my health, my work, and my God — all the things that I think matter. I write where I’m trying to get to and how I’m going to get there.
BI: What’s an example of one?
RS: In my 50s, having never really exercised, I realized if I don’t do it now, I never will. I committed to it and hired a trainer to help me. I’ve been at it for over eight years, and I’m in better shape today than I was 20 years ago.
BI:Is that how you approach business strategy? You have annual think sessions?
RS: That’s exactly how it works! We sit down every year and try to figure out where we want to be in five years. How do we stay competitive? What do we have to do to ensure we feed the growth monster that goes with being a public company? And then we literally draft on paper what we want to achieve in the next 12 months.
Panera/David Elmes“Our job as leadership is to protect and enable leaps of faith,” says Shaich.
Good strategy is continually changing. Strategy begins with where we think the world is going. Innovation begins with understanding what job you’re trying to complete for whom, and then determining what matters to that audience, looking for patterns, and trying to understand it. That’s hard work; that’s in the details.
RS: We’ve been working on it for four years. It brings together a range of technologies, and it’s meant to change the guest experience. If you’re coming to eat in, you simply walk in, sit down at a table, and use your phone to place an order. That order goes up into the cloud and comes back down to our kitchen, goes to our production systems, and the food is delivered directly to you.
Alternatively, if you want the order to go, you can place it from your office, from a kiosk in the café — anywhere you like — you just walk in and that food is waiting for you at a designated time. We’ve made this major commitment to technology.
RS: Anything that offers convenience to our guests would only be good. We already have a very significant digital presence, and we’re moving aggressively in that direction.
BI: Is this something your customers have shown an interest in?
Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesPanera is aggressively incorporating new technologies into its service.
RS: What customers want are things that add joy and value to their lives. They don’t want another app; they don’t want more technology. What they want are things that make their lives easier.
Apple Pay offers the potential to be significantly easier for those carrying their iPhone 6s. All you have to do is tap it and you’ve paid. It also offers a very high level of security, since there is no transfer of the credit card number. On both of those fronts, it offers the potential for ease and joy and a reduction of friction, and those are positives for the guests.
BI: What advice would you give to others who want to follow in your footsteps?
RS: If you can do something to get somebody excited — not everybody — but if you can be the best for somebody, then you can win. What it’s all about is figuring out what you can do for somebody that nobody else can do better.
Tonight, now that everything is settled I’m going to order my new literary business cards. The ones declaring me as a fiction writer.
Next week after thinking on the designs awhile I’ll order my cards as a game designer.
At the same time I’ll order my new business cards but first I’m going to rearrange the way I intend to incorporate the business.
This is my intention at this point:
Open Door, Inc.
It will consist of three separate divisions.
Brokerage and Consulting – I used to be both a business and private offerings Broker and a Consultant and want to do both again, if only in a limited capacity. Plus the Funding and Venture Capital contacts will do me a lot of good.
Communications – which is what already exists between my wife and myself, with me as the writer and her as the speaker.
Designs– which will consist of my designs and inventions, and will cover my scientific and technological ventures, and when I can get the funding for it settled, the Museus (my hopefully joint-venture inventions laboratory with the state of SC).
Once all three divisions are up and running properly and have grown to a significant degree I will withdraw from Brokerage and Consulting (except as an adviser and board member) and Communications (handing that over to my wife to run) and thereafter I will concentrate only upon the Design division, helping to run the Museus, and working my inventions, and writing fiction, poetry, non-fiction, songs, etc.
Have you ever read a business book and thought, “I could write that,” or imagined publishing a business book that would catapult you to the front of your industry? You are in good company. Whether to help lift their business profile, get more speaking opportunities or become an industry trendsetter, many entrepreneurs wish to publish.
If you ever decide to take it a step further, you’ll likely compare self-publishing and traditional publishing as I did a few months ago. I checked in with fellow entrepreneur Dan Emery, of New York City Guitar School, who has self-published several guitar books. “I decided to use my own lesson plans instead of published lesson plans and somewhere around student one thousand, I decided to turn it into a book,” says Dan.
He was eager to design a curriculum that reflected the school’s uniquely friendly and positive approach to learning guitar that combines having fun with the science of deliberate practice. He quickly found out, however, that no publishers were interested in the book. That’s when he decided to publish it himself, which has turned into a successful endeavor for him.
When I first decided to write a book — about women entrepreneurs who are running multi-million dollar businesses — I wasn’t going to consider traditional publishing. But I went for a run with my old friend Paul Greenberg, who is an award-winning published author. He expressed outrage at my plan while we jogged along the Hudson. “You can’t to pay to write a book! You should get paid!” he admonished. I protested that I was not an actual author, like he was, and would never get a meeting at a publishing company, but he insisted I should at least try the traditional way before going the self-publishing route.
Paul put me in touch with his former editor, who was took a personal interest in my topic. She then offered to connect me with three of the top literary agents in New York. To my delight and surprise, all three said they wanted the book. That’s when I knew I was on to something. I chose as a literary agent Zoe Pagnamenta, an entrepreneur herself who owns a boutique agency where all her authors get terrific individual attention, and we were off to the races. We set to work putting together a 40-page proposal, which I wrote over my Christmas holiday last year.
In 1966, a dyslexic sixteen-year-old boy dropped out of school. With the help of a friend, he started a magazine for students and made money by selling advertisements to local businesses. With only a little bit of money to get started, he ran the operation out of the crypt inside a local church.
Four years later, he was looking for ways to grow his small magazine and started selling mail order records to the students who bought the magazine. The records sold well enough that he built his first record store the next year. After two years of selling records, he decided to open his own record label and recording studio.
He rented the recording studio out to local artists, including one named Mike Oldfield. In that small recording studio, Oldfield created his hit song, Tubular Bells, which became the record label’s first release. The song went on to sell over 5 million copies.
Over the next decade, the young boy grew his record label by adding bands like the Sex Pistols, Culture Club, and the Rolling Stones. Along the way, he continued starting companies: an airline business, then trains, then mobile phones, and on and on. Almost 50 years later, there were over 400 companies under his direction.
Today, that young boy who dropped out of school and kept starting things despite his inexperience and lack of knowledge is a billionaire. His name is Sir Richard Branson.
How I Met Sir Richard Branson
Two weeks ago, I walked into a conference room in Moscow, Russia and sat down ten feet from Branson. There were 100 other people around us, but it felt like we were having a conversation in my living room. He was smiling and laughing. His answers seemed unrehearsed and genuine.
At one point, he told the story of how he started Virgin Airlines, a tale that seems to capture his entire approach to business and life. Here’s the version he told us, as best I can remember it:
I was in my late twenties, so I had a business, but nobody knew who I was at the time. I was headed to the Virgin Islands and I had a very pretty girl waiting for me, so I was, umm, determined to get there on time.
At the airport, my final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled because of maintenance or something. It was the last flight out that night. I thought this was ridiculous, so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands, which I did not have the money to do.
Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines. $29.” on it, and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.
I took this photo right after he told that story. A few moments later I stood shoulder–to–shoulder with him (he’s about six feet tall) and thanked him for sharing some time with us.
In my professional life, I’ve found that the best lessons, whether they’re spiritual or related to business, have come from scripture.
I want to say upfront that I believe in God and that there is design to the world and the people in it. For those of you who don’t believe this, I am asking you to allow me to hold these assumptions temporarily for specific reasons that will hopefully become clear. The purpose of this article is not to convert anyone; it is to build some logic into why, for me, the Bible is the best business book I have read.
Suppose it were actually true that God existed and sent his Son to us. If it were, then it would likely follow that the guidance He gave to us would help us deal effectively with people since people are part of His design. The biblical story is that God sent His son Jesus with a mission and message of reconciliation to mankind. If it is true that God created us, then looking at the invitation that He gives through Jesus tells us a lot about what people will respond to, and gives us a model for effective relationships.
Since working with people is most important in business, then, a by-product of following the Bible would be becoming more successful in working with others. Like the law of gravity, there would be basic things that work or do not work with people. For example, when dealing with customers who cheat us, if our first move is to punish the customers in some even small way, on average that would yield a set of outcomes. Rather, if our first move is to forgive the customers, that would also probably have a different set of outcomes.
When Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who attempted to capture Christ, Jesus admonished Peter. (John 18:11). If we go about our daily lives judging people in a harsh way, then this would likely come through in some intangible way in how we are perceived by others. As much as we try, it is difficult to hide who we really are over a long period of time. In the Bible, when the mob was about to stone the woman convicted of adultery, Jesus asked that the person guilty of no sin come forth to cast the first stone (John 8:7). If we align our goals with those of a power much greater than ours, we are swimming with the current, not against it. I also believe it helps with leadership since people end up following, not really individuals, but the ideas those individuals stand for.
The best business book I have read is the Bible. Specifically, the New Testament contains rich instruction on relationships, both descriptively (how Jesus treats us) and prescriptively (how we treat each other in response). Ideals such as directly confronting people over offenses, working without garnering praise, and acknowledging that we have a limited ability to change people, are all emphasized in the context of His teaching. If you follow the guidance in it, I believe that, while your worldly success is not guaranteed, your chance of success will be higher. (For those of you reading this who are Christians, my intent is not to convey at all that we follow these principles for an outcome: it is to state what I have seen in my business life. God does not promise us any earthly reward for our submission to His principles).
Now, to end where I began, I want to say a few other things. I realize there are people who are very “successful” in business who do not believe in God or in a design, perhaps do not give it much thought, and have discarded these things. However, if you look closely at the majority of them, they were or are more or less following the guiding principles of the New Testament. Also, there are probably some very successful “bad” people who just go about and do as they wish with no reverence for anything other than themselves; however, I believe this case is much rarer than the popular media would make us believe.
I realize that not everyone shares these views and thoughts, and I, of course, respect people’s right to disagree. However, I am trying to convey what has been helpful to me– and in my professional life, I’ve found that the best lessons, whether they’re spiritual or related to business, have come from scripture.
I promised you a story.
Here it is my friend.
It may be a little bit hoary,
But if you get it, then...
You'll be way ahead of the game.
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY LIE-ING
A guy decides to go into business for himself. Not really knowing how to start he goes to a local “business start-up expert-consultant.” She tells him everything he’ll need to know about all of the technical aspects of getting started, what local offices to visit, bureaucracies to speak with, etc, etc.
So after taking copious and careful notes he goes the next day to the local government offices and begins his trek to start his new little enterprise. First he goes to get a business license but they tell him that he will need to make sure he’s zoned properly first. So he goes to the zoning office and they tell him that they cannot help him until he gets a business certificate. He goes to get a business certificate and they tell him that in order to get a certificate he will have to be approved for business by the local business council. He goes to the council who tell him they cannot approve of his business until he pays his business taxes in advance. He goes to the office of the tax assessor who tells him that before he can pay his taxes he must first have a business certificate.
Thoroughly bewildered, disgusted and angry he starts to go home thinking he’ll just give the whole thing up, so stupid, useless and illogical is the procedure for even getting started. On his way out he passes a little glass door which he had not noticed before, with a sign which read: Office of Doing Business. Curious and with nothing to lose he knocks to announce himself and then walks into the office. Behind a little desk sits an old man in a causal shirt with a desk clear of anything except a battery of telephones and a glass of water.
“What can I do for you?” asks the old man in a friendly and helpful tone.
The guy starts to unload about all of his problems, how he was passed from office to office and bureaucratic desk to bureaucratic desk and how no one would help him actually get started in his business. Then he tells the old man how he did everything right according to the consultant and how he had tried to follow every procedure of every official he encountered and how that only led to disaster. The old man listens patiently and with great sympathy and then bursts into laughter.
“Son, you might know a lot about how business is supposed to work but you haven’t learned anything yet about how it really works.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean business is not a game of rules kid, it’s a game of people who know what the rules really are. If you know the proper people and play them in the best way possible then even the wrongest of rules can be made right as rain. Because business is all about people, and those people are either standing in your way, or standing beside you going your way.”
With a sudden look of understanding spreading over his face the guy asks the old man, “So suppose you help me set up my new enterprise…?”
“Yes…” asks the old man.
“Then what can I do for you in return?”
To which the old man replies with a smile, “Son, pull up a chair, because now you’re talking real business.”
I have long believed this for I have seen far too many personal examples of it not to understand these facts:
1. Intelligence is no guarantor of success
2. Intelligence can become a definite detriment to your success (and the success of others) if you concentrate only upon your intelligence, your theories, and you ideas while you ignore or discount Reality and the way things actually are.
3. Intelligence has no direct correlation to Creativity and the smart man will practice developing his Creativity and not just his intelligence.
4. It is far more important to be Wise than merely intelligent. Wisdom breeds foresight and foresight breeds understanding of what is to come and that kind of understanding breeds Creativity.
Modern man is childishly and slavishly enamored of his own supposed intelligence. He’d do much.much better to seek Wisdom and to continually practice his Creativity than to merely cultivate his intelligence. I am in no way anti-intelligence, but the shortcomings of mere intelligence are obvious and everywhere evident if you but look with clear and critical eyes.
BurnAwayAt a certain point, creativity reaches a threshold, no matter how intelligent you are.
How smart do you have to be to succeed?
What about to become a creative genius? Did Picasso and Mozart use superhuman intelligence to create their masterpieces?
How intelligent do you need to be to become a successful entrepreneur?
How good does your training program need to be to become an elite athlete?
How perfect does your weight loss program need to be to burn fat?
These are questions that we don’t often ask ourselves, but they are built into our beliefs and actions about many phases of life. We often think that the reason we aren’t succeeding is because we haven’t found the right strategy or because we weren’t born with the right talents.
Perhaps that is true. Or, perhaps there is an untold side of the story…
In 1921, there was a psychologist at Stanford University named Lewis Terman who set out on a mission to conduct a research study unlike any before it.
Terman began by finding the 1,000 smartest students in California between the third grade and eighth grade as measured by IQ.  After much testing and searching, Terman gathered a final sample of 856 boys and 672 girls. The children became known as “The Termites.”
Terman and his team began testing the children in nearly every way you could image. They tracked their IQ, analyzed how many books each student had in their homes, took their medical histories, and on and on. But that was just the beginning.
What made Terman’s study unique is that it was the first longitudinal research study, which meant that Terman continued to track and test his subjects for years afterward. The study, which is now famously known as “Genetic Studies of Genius,” collected data from the students throughout their entire lives. Terman collected additional data in 1928, 1936, 1940, 1945, 1950, and 1955. After Terman died in 1956, his colleagues continued tracking The Termites in 1960, 1972, 1977, 1982, and 1986.
To summarize, the study started with the smartest group of children in the entire state of California and then tracked their success throughout their entire lives. Decades later, the researchers had discovered something very interesting…
The surprising discovery that came out of Terman’s study is best described by creativity researcher and physician, Nancy Andreasen…
“Although many people continue to equate intelligence with genius, a crucial conclusion from Terman’s study is that having a high IQ is not equivalent to being highly creative. Subsequent studies by other researchers have reinforced Terman’s conclusions, leading to what’s known as the threshold theory, which holds that above a certain level, intelligence doesn’t have much effect on creativity: most creative people are pretty smart, but they don’t have to be that smart, at least as measured by conventional intelligence tests. An IQ of 120, indicating that someone is very smart but not exceptionally so, is generally considered sufficient for creative genius.” 
Remember our question from the beginning: “Did Picasso and Mozart use superhuman intelligence to create their masterpieces?”
According to Threshold Theory, not necessarily. Being in the top 1% of intelligence has no correlation with being fantastically creative. Rather, there is a minimum threshold of intelligence that you need to have, and after that it comes down to a lot of deliberate practice, putting in your reps, and developing your skill set.
If you look around, you’ll see that Threshold Theory applies to many things in life. Success is rarely as simple as “just work harder.” The fundamentals matter. There is a minimum threshold of competence that you need to develop in nearly any endeavor.
After that, however, the difference is between those who put in the work and those who get distracted. Once you have a basic grasp of the right things to do, it becomes about the consistency of doing the right things more often. Once you understand the fundamentals, it comes down to your habits.
My daughter is young and has recently had a few new jobs. These are her first jobs (entry-level) and we are letting her work some during her gap year between graduation and college. She was not allowed to work during the time she was homeschooled and prior to graduating High School.
(This is the way my parents did it as well, although I was not homeschooled. That is to say that I was not allowed to work a real job, except during the summers, before graduating High School although on the weekends as I got older I would often sneak off on my own and work secretly without them knowing of it.)
Anyway, that aside being what it is, my daughter has recently held a job at a deli preparing food. At the close of each business day any food not sold must be disposed of. And so they do. By throwing it away like garbage.
Now I fully understand as both a business and a health matter that any food that might be rotten or unsanitary in any way must be disposed of in this way. But what about the food that has simply gone unsold during the day’s normal business operations?
Many employees have written to the owner of this particular establishment asking, even begging, that this food not be disposed of meaninglessly but rather be donated to public shelters or to the homeless or the poor.
The owner’s answer to these requests has, so far at least, always been along these general lines, “I pay for the food and pay my employees to prepare and sell the food for a profit, if I give the left-over food away for nothing I make the same profit as if I just throw it away (that being none) so it is easier to just throw it away.”
Now I fully understand that as businessman this can be a somewhat complicated and even tricky issue for several different reasons. First of all, you have individuals, people who could easily work to make the money to buy their own food but choose not to harassing you all of the time for “free food,” especially at closing time. Many people nowadays feel as if they are owed something and will happily beg and live a life of outright dependency simply because they can, not because they must or should. They wish to be a consumer of society only, and never a real producer. How do you avoid encouraging or promoting this disastrous habit (and it is a disastrous and malignant habit – both individually and societally) by giving away free food to undeserving recipients?
Secondly you might very well end up with several organizations vying for your leftover food, and how do you determine who is truly needy or in the most need. (This might be the organizational equivalent of the undeserving individual, or it might simply be an honest contest between equally needy or equally responsible organizations.) Indeed nowadays you might even inspire bad publicity from one organization or another offended that you chose another cause over them in their quest to obtain your leftover foods.
Third, as a businessman (or as anyone who has ever started-up or run their own business or company) I know that there is the simple but sometimes daunting logistical problem(s) involved – how is this left-over food distributed, to whom, where, and when?
Finally there is the liability issue. Suppose some of your donated leftover food is consumed by someone who becomes ill, and regardless of whether it can be reliably and scientifically established that your organization was at fault, or not, you might still face a lawsuit or at least the threat of one at some point in the future?
Now, as I said above I am fully aware of the difficulties involved in giving away free and left-over food in this manner. I happen to agree that all of the points I addressed above are valid concerns and worth consideration. They are all liabilities arguing against the giving away of free and left-over food at the end of each business day. (And since food is an immediately perishable item it is difficult to store and properly retain, it is not like simply putting paper products into inventory. Food must be used and used quickly, or it will be wasted. Therefore it has a very short-lived half and shelf life.)
However, all of that being said and true, I am nevertheless both a Cristian and a Capitalist. In either case I do not believe in or find it to be a good business or personal or economic or even spiritual practice to needlessly waste perfectly good resources (even if those resources have a very short useful shelf-life).
And to be perfectly honest there are viable and workable solutions to each problem I listed above. You could rather easily (though it may take some time and experimentation) develop a relationship with reputable non-profit organizations that assist and feed the homeless, the helpless, the poor, the wounded veteran, or the medically disabled. You could develop contractual agreements with such organizations that state that they accept any left-over foods at their own risk and that you are free of liability.
(An unnecessary risk you say, and not worth the effort? Well, anyone who works with food knows that sooner or later, either through the food itself or through the employee handling it, you will make a customer or client ill, possibly even, though no fault of your own – such as undetected infection at a processing plant – kill someone with the food you serve. Tragic accidents such as those occur all of the time handling food, and although people don’t like to even honestly and realistically consider the idea, it is true. Sooner or later, whether the food be sold or given away as free leftovers, someone will be made sick or worse by consuming it.)
As for encouraging unnecessary and counterproductive dependence in the lazy and slothful, that will require a policy similar to that of determining the best organizations to work with in distributing the leftover food. You don’t want to give your leftover foods to the lazy and irresponsible but to the deserving, hard-working, truly indigent, and responsible end-user. But that can be done.
Finally, as regards the logistical problem(s) you can insist that anyone that takes the left-over food do so at their own expense, that they provide their own pick-up and transportation services so that this does not eat into your own profit or disrupt your own business operations. The risks might seem great at first glance, but each problem is soluble and just to be honest all of life and all of business is, by very nature, risk. Modern people might not like to hear that, they might do all they can to flee risk or to mitigate risk (and mitigating truly reckless risk is always wise, mitigating all risk always foolish) or to simply avoid risk, but the truth remains business and life itself is risk. That’s just the way life works. Many modern people don’t like that fact but it still remains, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a true and unavoidable fact. Business is risk. Life is risk.
Now let me return to the fact that I am both a Christian and a Capitalist.
As a Christian I am in no way in favor of unnecessarily wasting resources, especially resources that given our current national and world economy people are both in desperate need of, and which are perishable and not immediately replaceable or retainable (to many at least). As a Christian I do not want to encourage dependency but personal productivity, and the useful and vital employment of each individual’s particular talents. That is one reason we exist as human beings, to make best and most productive use of our individual human and God-given talents. Yet I am also fully aware by both simple observation and personal experience that individual people fall on hard times, become injured or ill on occasion, or become faced with some problem (sometimes unwittingly, sometimes through no fault of their own) that they cannot solve alone. That is exactly when charity is most needed and most effective. Therefore it behooves the Christian businessman, or any businessman, to remember those salient facts of human existence. And to assist others whenever and wherever and however they can. This is not only a business matter, it is a moral matter.
As a Capitalist I am also acutely aware of this Truth – the injured or ill man, the needy man, the indigent man, the man who yesterday or today was down on his luck or awash in unfortunate circumstances may very well tomorrow be the successful man, the profitable person, the businessman, a potential partner, or even a wealthy client or customer. Capitalism feeds itself in this way, as it should, for it is not a static and self-consuming economic system (when functioning properly and when properly applied) such as socialism, but a dynamic and vital system that continually makes millionaires of paupers, and sometimes paupers of the wealthy. Therefore as a Capitalist it is a reckless and entirely self-defeating act to ever senselessly waste vital and useful resources; especially much needed resources that perish quickly. Resources that could save and rebuild lives. Just to be honest to waste food is an entirely anti-Capitalistic idea because contrary to the current and popular misconception of Capitalism as a purely profit-driven (in the low sense of the term) and inhuman mechanism (it is definitely not) it is always actually an entirely voluntary exchange of free human motivations and drives seeking both best self-interest and the best self-interest of the other in commercial and social exchange. For if your client and customer always remains indigent and poor and ill and incapable then he is also too indigent and too poor and too incapable to purchase your own products and services. Especially your best products and services. In other words the poor client or customer is not a good client and customer, whereas the wealthy client and customer is a good client and customer (in a business and commercial sense). Therefore the Wise Capitalist seeks communal and mutual Profit, not just individual and personal Profit. The True and High Minded Capitalist is like the True and High-Minded Christian, he knows that the better off is the Other Person, then the better off is he himself. And it will always be that way. The profits lay in the margins of advantage between the Self and Other, not in the separating disadvantages between the self and the other.
Therefore my conclusions in this matter are that it is both a senseless and anti-Capitalistic act to dispose of and waste food such as my daughter’s employer and business owner does, and an immoral and un-Christian act to do so.
This is not even to mention the obverse of the equation: the possible enormous public relations advantages that might be gained by being widely known as a responsible, morally-driven, and socially beneficial company or corporation as well as a highly-profitable one, both now and in the future.
I am writing this article therefore, and this is far from all that might be said on the issue (as a matter of fact this might even become an Interactive Essay on the issue, and perhaps it should), so that currently operating companies and corporations can take a good and honest look at their own operations in this regard. Are you needlessly and senselessly wasting valuable customer, human, and property resources merely because you have a misguided conception of both Capitalism and Profit, or merely because you fear risk in making and developing your True and Foundational Profits?
Because if so then I say to you, my friend, “there are profits, and then there are Prophets of Profits.”
Be not a slave to mere profits, but rather a Great Prophet of High-Profits. And you will discover that as a result not only you, but the whole world will thrive.