Starting a Business… Founders Reflect

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As some of you know I am expanding the focus of this blog to include the start up experience.

According to this article in Fortune, the #1 reason founders think their company failed (by a big margin) is that there was no market need.

I am 30+ years in business, many of them working with start ups  and this problem is widespread in start ups. The good news is that the people who tried, learned. The bad news is that a lot of effort goes in to creating a company or a product. With some discipline, this problem can be eliminated.

I have seen so many “technology-push” solutions… i.e. “oh we’ve got this great widget, it’s so cool. Everyone will want one.” But then (shock), everyone doesn’t want one.

I have spent years sizing markets (especially for new categories/products), understanding customer needs and developing “go-to market strategies.” There are experienced people to help you determine the size of and how to approach the market. Please ask. Here’s a local resource and a national one.

Image credit: Fortune

Feel Sorry For the Ferrari Driver

When you see someone driving a Ferrari, are you envious or do you feel sorry for him/her? Do you wonder, what do they, “do for a living” or do you think, ” that poor schlub really needs attention”?

Feel sorry for them? What are you talking about? They have money, probably a big house, lots of friends…

But the truth is that money doesn’t necessarily translate into happiness.

In a meritocracy (a society in which hard work, energy and skills are valued above other qualities), people thrive regardless of where and to whom they were born.  Those who give less and don’t try, end up at the bottom. Of course, this type of society doesn’t exist in the ‘modern world but we can adjust our attitude about effort and ‘success.’

We now view failure as something personal. We don’t see failure as a learning process.

I highly recommend this wonderful TED talk (15 minutes well spent) A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success.

We think we know what success means, but do we?

Are You Learning as Fast as the World is Changing?

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<p>please, email me your link once you post this photo - thanks!</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>blogged:<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<a href="http://www.steadymom.com/2009/10/how-to-teach-your-sons-to-express-emotion.html" rel="nofollow">www.steadymom.com/2009/...

Do you think the world is changing too fast?

Yeah, so do a lot of people. But the question is, are you learning as fast at the world is changing? In order to cope with the world, we need to figure out how to keep up.

There are a lot of interpretations of ‘how to keep up’. I don’t have a prescription. I only know my own way.

In an article titled, “The Best Leaders are Insatiable Learners,” the Harvard Business Review author points out that according to John Gardner most of us are simply bored silly.

Can you relate? When I worked at my ‘corporate’ jobs, I have to admit, I was; at least part of the time, bored. For me, working with start ups, having my own company and being a freelancer has set me free.  If I am bored, it’s my own doing; not because of my work.

Some of the jobs where I made the most money, I’ve also been so bored I could scream like the boy in the picture.

The antidote to ‘boredom’ is learning. An insatiable desire and earnest effort to be exposed to the unfamiliar. Whether it be thoughts, ideas, foods, people, places, notions, experiences, etc.. The goal is to figure out a way to get that ‘exposure’ in a way that fits with our stage in life. If I’m young, this might be easy. If I’m 80, this might be more difficult. But the goal is the same.

My way is to: read, read, read; hang around people who are excited by their work and life; LISTEN to those people; try to do things I don’t know how to do – just for practice. A conscious effort to learn new things is, I think, keeping me young.

Find your way and instead of complaining about how fast the world is changing, you can enjoy, adapt and contribute to the change.

Photo credit: Scream and shout   madanys

Why We Work?

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<p>Operating a hand drill at North American Aviation, Inc., [a] woman is working in the control surface department assembling a section of the leading edge for the horizontal stabilizer of a plane, Inglewood, Calif....

The Buddhist point of view is that work has 3 purposes, to:

  1. give a man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties
  2. enable him to overcome his ego-centeredness by joining with other people in a common task
  3. bring forth needed goods and services

To simplify, we work to:

  1. Develop our unique skills (Do you know what these are? Do you work to develop them?)
  2. Think about other people (get over ourselves) (Many people say they do but… WOW it’s still all about them.)
  3. Make/provide stuff of value to others  (This one is the easiest)
  4. There is an obvious #4. The reason most of us would say we work… to make money to live.

Just for today, When you are working, how about thinking about 1-2 instead of 3-4?  In the photo, the woman probably had never used a drill before the war. Then suddenly, she had to become proficient for a greater good. What ways does your work help you develop your unique gifts and help others instead of yourself?

Photo credit: Operating a Hand Drill   Library of Congress

Life and Death as a Frog

On our rainforest block we have many litoria infrafrenata frogs.  Boy are they loud during the monsoon!

When we think about survival of the fittest, we may not get inspiration from frogs. I’m hoping to change that.

When I mow the lawn, creatures run when they hear the lawn mower coming.  Rabbits, butterflies, large bugs; the vibration and noise from the mower send them scurrying. But I notice that the frogs are not that swift.

I don’t see them in the tall grass but, in theory, they ought to see, hear and feel the mower. And yet, I have run over two frogs in the past two weeks. No matter how careful I am; these frogs do not seem to get the message. In fairness, frogs have limited brain power/access to resources but we don’t. We have access to lots of resources. Do we pay attention?

The frog dilemma got me thinking about times in my life when I saw the warning signs, felt the warning signs and HEARD the warning signs and yet, I still didn’t scurry (read: change my behavior). Instead I carried on about how unfair it was, how upset I was, why did things have to change, etc.

Some of this is a completely normal part of loss and grieving. (see Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief) Things are changing at home, at work, my kids are growing up, my company is downsizing, I’m getting older and so we need time to process these changes and adapt. I’m not talking about this.

I’m talking about the little frog or me, when I hear the roar of the mower engine, I smell the cut grass, I feel the earth shake as the mower passes by and I still don’t do anything. I am stuck.

Truth is, that mower has run me over a few times. I could have gotten out of the way, but I didn’t. When was the last time you heard the mower coming and didn’t ‘get out of the way?” I know it’s hard. We all procrastinate. Maybe this time, I’ll scurry a little, then rest, then scurry a little more and hope I avoid the blades.

Photo credit: White Lipped Green Tree Frog   maggie p 

Are You Cool?

What makes someone cool?

It depends on many things: our stage of life, our interests, etc. For me,  Steve McQueen (the actor in the photo) was Mr. Cool. Fast cars (Bullitt), motorcycles, independent, handsome, tough.

I think that cool relates to 3 things:

  1. Self-awareness – how well do I know myself, my shortcomings and strengths. This takes real effort for most of us. It’s easier just to be oblivious.
  2. Self- asssuredness – this isn’t related to ego, it’s related to believing in our selves long after it’s reasonable (multiple failures!)
  3. Self-compassion – do I know how to make amends to those I hurt and by extension, do I forgive myself when I make a mistake?

These 3 attributes help us lead, follow, be resilient, learn, grow, change and adapt – they help me to be independent. I like to be independent. More importantly and perhaps counter-intuitively, it make more compassionate towards others.

I think people who accept themselves, are cool. I think people who don’t think they’re cool, are often, cool. People who understand that what makes them different from everyone else, cool.

One last thing, I also think accepting responsibility is cool. When I do something that doesn’t reflect well on myself, I hate to admit it. I learned, through much pain, that it’s better to just own it. As quickly as I can. That’s one thing that makes me cool.

Cool can be about they way someone dresses or talks… but really, it’s much more about their attitude; towards themselves and by extension, towards others.

So my friend, what makes someone cool in your eyes?

Photo Credit: Steve McQueen  Barbour

I’m Too Old to Change

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When I worked at Kodak in the 1990’s (and before! yes, I’m that old)… a new program was introduced called, “Shift Happens.” And yes, the pun for “sh?t happens” was deliberate.

The emphasis of the program was personal responsibility for change. It was, of course, ironic that a company that made obscene amounts of money and (while good to its employees) was incredibly risk/change averse; suddenly wanted everyone to embrace the ability to change. A noble effort. Too little, too late.

Clearly the dilemma of “change” is part of the human condition. Socrates wrote the above quote around 400 B.C. So Kodak and the rest of us are all in the same boat.

It took me all long time to learn to want to change, to understand change is important and necessary.

My favorite quote is, “Change is good, timing is everything, patience is the key.”

What are you changing about yourself? If you’re not sure, if you need help, reach out and ask someone. If they can’t help, try someone else and keep trying until you find the person who is right for you… for right now. Happy changes.

Photo credit: Socrates quotes

Building Your Business

When I say your ‘business’ I mean whether you HAVE a business or whether you ARE the business. Today, being prepared for changes is what required.

I work with several entrepreneurs and meet with new ones regularly. It is such a joy because each one is excited about their business. They have energy and a hunger to learn and grow. It is infectious and wonderful.

Many of them, like me, have had plenty of ups and downs. In fact, most of them will experience more downturns that they believe they can stand! What separates a successful ‘business owners’ from the unsuccessful, is flexibility. The ability to pivot.

So how do each of us, whether we starting a business, reinventing ourselves or invigorating our career, take the “just do it” train?

Ideas are easy to come by, in fact, very easy. What’s not easy is making that idea into a business (or career) that works. Here are some rules for navigating the terrain:

  1. Build skills. In my corporate years, I looked for assignments that would allow me to learn new, specific skills.
  2. Try on different roles. Find ways to test out various roles, tasks, assignments. Volunteer, talk to your boss, be specific about what you want.
  3. Fail fast. This one sounds the worst. Most of us don’t want to ‘fail’ at all. What we don’t realize is that we learn the most from our failures. It is what propels us to do new and better. It is what helps us learn quickly and meaningfully.

Are  you excited about your work? Do you wake up ready to learn? If not, perhaps it’s time to pivot.

Photo Credit: Empowering Startup 

Boredom: Wishful or Wasteful?

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Bought $500 of bike gear today! mostly bike shorts and stuff. Also, went swimming for first time in about 2 months. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Took it easy, swan really slow and then...

“We are supposed to be bored. It is a part of life. Learn to put up with it…”  Jack Kerouac

I grew up quickly, in a family of alcoholics. This meant that when other kids were playing or having ‘summer’, I was worrying about food, safety, ‘taking care of other people’.

It is with great pleasure that I report that I am currently exploring the joy of boredom. The “not doing”, the “not having to do”, the “that can wait until later.” I may appear to be sitting around, but I am not doing nothing. My brain is working through ideas. It’s the quiet that we allow ourselves in boredom that feeds our creativity.

Now you might disagree. “Boredom is a sign of weakness.”  “There are so many wonderful things to explore.”

Whichever side you’re on; take a minute to “not do” when you have the chance. Here’s a quiz:

The reason people often have good ideas in the shower is:

  1. the water
  2. the soap
  3. the quiet
  4. all of the above

If we want to improve our problem solving ability and creativity, maybe we ought to sit around more and ‘think’ less.

Photo Credit: Day 151   SuperFantastic

Black & White & You All Over

Some people say that the world is falling apart. Some say it’s never been better.

What do you say?

No really, what do you say? Everyday… do you reflect the “getting better” or the “falling apart”? The truth often shows itself in subtle ways.

Yesterday I was at the dog park. I asked one of the people I often see there, what she’d been up to? She said she’d been on vacation at a nearby lake . I said, “Well you had beautiful weather.”  She replied, “Well, it was a little chilly somedays, not as hot as we wanted.”

Really, I thought? You got to go on vacation. and. you. say. that?

We live in a world of labels. Your politics are this, mine are that. Your  religion is this, mine is that (or worse, I don’t have one). You come from this country, I come from that.

Information overload has made it easier to be polarized. What can we do? Sometimes it’s in our nature to be a negative Nelly. If you’re a curmudgeon then fine; you’re off the hook. But I’ll bet you’re not. I’ll bet you want to be happier.

Just for today, try not to think in black and white. Try the grey. Maybe the person who cut you off in traffic has a sick child. Maybe the person at work who drives you crazy is lonely. You don’t have fix any of these things;  just adjust your attitude.

If you think, I could never be a democrat, a catholic, a republican, a Jew and on and on… Think about why not. The truth is, we are more alike than different. Let their peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Photo credit:  Flying Twigs