You Could Probably Make Much More

You are never stuck. You just choose what you are worth by the value you decide to give others. A little imagination and effort can probably make you much more in the way of money or reward. Consider this simple story for today.

Steven T. FLORIO Vice Chairman of Advance Magazine Group

One day, when I was about twelve, I was down in my carpenter grandfather’s basement workshop when he said, “You should start earning your own money. You clean up this wood shop and I’ll pay you what it’s worth.”

So I spent the next three hours making that place shine. I swept up all the wood shavings; I wiped down every piece of equipment and made it gleam. I stacked all the wood neatly.

Then I found my grandfather and we went back to the shop. He looked around for what seemed like a very long time. Then he nodded slowly and said, “Fantastic!”

You can imagine how proud I felt. Still nodding his approval, he reached into his pocket and handed me my wages—a quarter! Twenty-five cents.

A quarter?! I couldn’t believe it. Even in 1960 a quarter for three hours of work was nothing to an American kid.

He said, “I want you to learn something about the world.”

“In the real world, cleaning up is useful, but it’s not worth much. Anyone can do it. It’s worth, maybe, a quarter.”

“Now, if you had built something useful with these tools, a bookcase maybe—something that was functional—that would have been worth a bit more.”

“But if you had envisioned something new, something no one had ever thought of before, and if you had built that, pouring your heart and your soul into it, well, that would have been worth a lot of money. Remember that.”

And I have. To this day, I still carry that quarter.

It reminds me of the importance of envisioning and building something excellent, something that will last long after you are gone.

And that kind of vision and love of craft is not something you can get from most businesses. You certainly don’t get it from a business plan or a five-year projection. You get it from your heart. It’s got to be something you feel in your heart. That’s where it all begins.

Trump, Donald J.. Trump: The Way to the Top: The Best Business Advice I Ever Received (Kindle Locations 831-847). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Can you consider doing something more and make yourself worth more? Too often the thing that is holding us back is our own determination and imagination.

 

The True Entrepreneur is a Doer

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“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” ~ Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari Computer

I know true entrepreneurs. I love them. They move to action decisively. That critical ability to generate ideas and act on them quickly is a true separation. It creates energy, momentum and something out of nothing.

It’s creativity in action when you see entrepreneurship.

I like to play things loose and see what happens. I like to generate ideas, lots of them. And I turn those ideas into movement. I like to get the universe to react from some action I create. It is what works for my entrepreneurship by doing something quickly and clearly.

Most of my ideas are not perfect. But action helps perfect the concepts. Here are some ways I start the process of moving from ideas to action in my entrepreneurial approach:

  • Sharing my idea with my audience and looking for reactions
  • Tapping my network and starting conversations
  • Building requirements documents
  • Booking a meeting with a person that can move my idea forward
  • Finding a platform to start posting, positioning and engaging
  • Opening a loop so I get dissatisfied
  • Closing a deal
  • Creating a new service offering and pitching it

I like the challenge of making ideas happen, and the more action that is clear, the more fun it becomes to create value in the world.

There are so many resources, technology and people to make entrepreneurship happen. Leading is the key, and that starts with Nolan Bushnell’s insight that action is a critical habit. Anything short of that is simply dreaming.

The Problem with Infrequency

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How do you know the price of something?

Ultimately, it’s an agreement between the seller and buyer. You don’t have to pay the price. You could go elsewhere and get what you want cheaper. Or you could forego what you want if it’s not a need.

Buyers are at a disadvantage on infrequent items. If you only buy a home every seven years, are you calibrated to the pricing and all the fees along the way? Something you do once every seven years compared to sellers along the way that do dozens or hundreds of deals a month makes them an expert and you an amateur.

The same goes for the infrequency of buying a car, college tuition, health care, and a number of items that we run across in life’s journey and demands.

On frequent items like gas, cell phone service and eggs, it’s easy to dial into the price. You see it, touch it and interact with the pricing so much that there is less of a debate between the buyer and the seller.

It’s interesting to watch people get more excited about a 20 cent raise in gas prices and miss the upswing of university rates. We pay attention to things we frequent more easily.

Perhaps being scarce in attention can help you lever up as a seller. Your service could morph or integrate with other offerings. Or you could work in an innovative, infrequent purchase area to have more pull on pricing.

You could also be a price-focused hustler lowering your operational and delivery costs so that the language of price becomes collaborative with your buyers while you move the cost needle down.

Infrequency has its rewards for sellers and finding a game where you can assign pricing based on that value and advantage might be worth exploring in this vast, hyper-competitive marketplace.

A Year’s Worth of Living

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I got to see an unbelievable human being last night with my family, Alex Honnold. If you have not gotten to see some of his work climbing daunting mountain faces, including being the only person to free solo climb Yosemite’s El Capitan simply with his shoes and a chalk bag, be sure to catch his incredible feat on Youtube:

One of the reasons I love living in the mountains is the accessibility of the outdoors and spirit of mountain people. We are always doing something fun and always living with adventure.

Honnold shared his recent trips out to Kenya and climbing Mt. Poi in the North Face Speaker Series. We saw him vomiting climbing Mt. Kenya at over 17,000 feet with his friends. And he had that wonderful perspective,

You get to have a year’s worth of living in two or three weeks.

He had that intentionality and freedom which gets all of us onlookers and fans dreaming bigger. So inspiring and true to hear how he has lived his life and pushed himself.

I’m not sure any of us can get away with excuses on being stuck in the doldrums of life, not when there are people like Alex Honnold out there exploring, pushing and challenging themselves.

Playing it safe, checking off time until we die, doing the known things – these can all be comfortable. Yet there’s a crazy, alluring and adventurous life out there waiting to be opened if we simply make choices to get out of our comfort zones.

With 8 billion people on this giant earth, I’m glad we have those that push the limits and help us dream. Total respect and kudos to a young man that has done unthinkable things and lives fully. It’s got me stoked for sure.

Avoidance is Not a Skill

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Are you comfortable with confrontation? Have you ever thought that the ability and willingness to be confrontational can be a differentiator?

I think when Thoreau observed that, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation,” he was commenting on their inability to confront reality, situations and people when they would be served well.

And in our indoctrinated, secular humanistic culture, we are continually pushed towards a form of tolerance that causes individuals to lose conviction. When there’s the trade between truth and tolerance, our culture overvalues the latter.

Tolerance can confuse people and makes avoidance a default action. Instead of talking about something important or addressing issues before they snowball, we lack the guts to push into something when it is required.

I think you get much better results when you are clear, know what you want and bring up discussions at the right time. Playing in the shadows and avoiding hard things when they need to be dealt with or surfaced won’t get you very far.

At the end of the day, the truth will be validated by the results you see and get. If you see a pattern and abundance of positive results, then keep going. If you are not seeing results or find yourself frustrated, then if you want more, you have to change approaches.

I can’t read people’s minds, nor do I care to. I want to talk about issues at the forefront so we can solve problems in a timely and efficient way. That requires candor and confrontation. And I’m comfortable with those interactions. It’s a form of leadership.

The great thing is that if you find yourself avoiding issues, when they need to be dealt with or presented, you always have the opportunity to lead. No one is stopping you. It’s risk. But it’s also rewarding, and it’s how people enjoy more results in their lives.

Do you avoid confrontation? Why?

The Terrible Idea of Trying Harder

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It is true that when we find ourselves in a hole, the first thing we should do is stop digging. Sometimes that pull to keep digging or keep trying harder can overwhelm our sensibilities. Instead of being smarter, we simply add horsepower and determination. It’s a terrible idea.

When something’s not working despite your honest, forthright efforts, the last thing to do is try harder. Better to think. Think of a new way that can yield different results.

We’re not automatons. We can use our brains to bend reality to our desires. So, a bit of strategy to help you in problem solving and getting new kinds of outcomes.

  1. Find space. Sometimes, when you are too close to your problems, it’s hard to see. Get away.
  2. Get a pad and paper. Computers and smartphones can suck you into convergent thinking. When you need creativity, a simple piece of paper and pen can open you up. Doodle for a second. Then do a brain dump. Get your mind to unlock.
  3. Push ideas out. You need to entertain new pathways. Let whatever you think of come out and keep pushing yourself to come up with ideas, no matter how far fetched, that can be considered.
  4. Try something new. Take a look at what came out of your creativity. Push a small action out into the world. Get someone to react. Send an email to a company or person to get a response and move the ball. Action creates momentum.

Sometimes we can get in a rut or we overvalue effort. In the age of automation and ridiculous efficiency, consider the tactical approach more of a commodity. Having clear ideas that stick in reality with creative thinking is what will tend to get results. Changing directions and continuously evaluating are your better assets to nurture.

Can you stop trying harder?

The Competency vs. Likability Conundrum

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Try doing business without being likable. Getting connections and deals become hard quickly. We live with immense choices in who we want to deal with, and unpleasantness can simply be ignored for the next great option.

Of course, there are a lot of charmers out there as well. They can be completely likable and know how to create that aura of likability through warmth, flattery, smiles, encouragement and so many other gestures we appreciate in friendship.

When given a choice we do business with people that we like. Ideally, the likable people are competent as well. Likability is fantastic when we are talking short-term, but long-term still comes down to competence. We have deliverables, customers to please and dreams to achieve. A likable, incompetent person is not going to help us if the goals are real.

We know to avoid incompetent, unlikable people. I think people will tolerate unlikable, competent people. But those relationships tend to dissolve over time when the right crisis or opportunity come along.

The tricky decisions come into play with likable, incompetent people. Do you have a blind spot, or a soft spot, for such souls? If you find yourself making excuses, rationalizing or defending such people, perhaps your sympathies have taken you too far from center.

The carrying costs for the likable, incompetent person builds up over time. And if times are fat or life is good, fine. Enjoy the company and friendship.

If you are building an organization, the competent folks can grow resentful when they see the deference and overlooking eyes you may have for incompetence. You may not call it that, but it’s there for everyone to observe.

A lot of trying to get where you want to go has to do with your decision making on talent, opportunities and risk. When you look at your results and what you want for yourself, consider this one area and get honest with yourself. Do you reward incompetence? Does likability simply disarm you? You might need a way of getting clear and avoid the traps you create for yourself.

Forget Being Well-Rounded

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I see people every day in business lost on what they should or can do. The old rules where you were a good boy or girl and advanced up a ladder doesn’t play out much today. You can’t simply rest on your laurels and hope someone notices enough to develop a career path for you.

In addition, we have this amazing world of access. You can find out what opportunities exist, and get transparency into jobs far away with ventures of all sizes and shapes. And if you research, investigate and talk to people, you see less of a correlation between formal education and credentials to the jobs that they take on. People are continually reinventing themselves because of necessity.

One strategy for talent has been to be well-rounded. Learning and doing a lot without focusing too much in one area was a conventional approach.

The problem is that you are competing against the world now. Someone looking for talent can find that person who is sharp, not well- rounded.  Sharp skills in areas are desirable because we have the options to keep finding what we are looking for out there readily and we want execution.

We pay disproportionately for top golfers vs. mediocre talent. Same goes for executives that have a special skill or all that cream we see rising to the top.

I think in a flatter world that moves extremely fast, you should forget about being well-rounded. Its better to be sharp and be extremely good at those chosen areas where your competition can’t touch you. It’s a way of standing out and letting your beacon of talent distinguish you when people are looking for solutions that get results fast.

If you find the carpet pulled out from under your feet, or if you can anticipate your comfortable position changing in the next year or so, then how about getting sharper in an area?

  1. Take an inventory of all the things you like to do.
  2. Pick one to move your skills, knowledge and ability to the next level.
  3. Find projects and customers that will pay for this one talent now. Do the research where to find them and put your shingle out.
  4. Execute.
  5. Promote your work.

Get that reputation that you stand out and are sharp in an area.

I’m not sure people have much choice otherwise in a hypercompetitive, accessible world of options. It beats obscurity.

Steve Martin Taught Me to Think 9 Lives

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I grew up watching Steve Martin as The Jerk, a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel, Roxanne, Father of the Bride and a traveler in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. He has that brilliant wit and timing that has made us roll over in laughter for decades and I couldn’t believe he was still performing at 71.

That’s a night pic at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City and Steve Martin has been ripping bluegrass on the banjo. He played with Steep Canyon Rangers in several sets and then spun off on a combination of humor and solo picking.

At 71 he shared all his accumulated talents as an entertainer and we were simply enthralled. The reflections on life and career with his friend, Martin Short, made for laughs and delights as we watched them use sarcasm and underhanded humor to shine a light on each other’s accomplishments.

I kept thinking how lucky I was to sit and behold a life’s worth of mastery in so many areas. He truly kept reinventing himself. Sometimes, there were roles to fill. Other times, there was simply curiosity and passion leading Steve Martin to the next thing.

Not a lot of people want to change or explore as much, but with how the world is continually moving on a blistering pace, we don’t have much choice. The things we are doing today matter little in the future that is relentlessly put on us.

But, I do think there are more than inspiring lessons that Steve Martin shares. I think you can find his upcoming shows at stevemartin.com. Here are some thoughts I took away:

  1. Keep expanding your core. Humor and wit were Steve Martin’s core talent. He started there young and went to stand-up, movies, and any other outlet to express his art. He practiced and refined his core talent relentlessly and made that his springboard to opportunities.
  2. Package and repackage. Movies require a certain approach. So do stand-up comedy routines, partnering, music and juggling displays. Ultimately, storytelling within the context of the medium makes for new artistic expressions. There’s always new ways to present your talent.
  3. Live out your 9 lives. If you try a lot of things there are going to be flops. That’s expected and ok. What you are doing today will not necessarily be the same thing you do in a year. Keep exploring and expanding.
  4. Stay tuned in. Though Steve Martin is old, he uses Twitter and other social media. He creates and distributes. He teams up with Martin Short and puts together a baseline theme that reflects on the past rather than is contemporary in content. He’s tuned into himself and where he is at and the world around him and what is available to use.
  5. Remember where you came from. Your baseline are the hard times, struggles and lessons that got you down the road. Go back to them to remain humble and keep thinking bigger by knowing you can always do it again.

If you get a chance to see his show, I would highly recommend it. He’s a treat to the world. I’m glad I got to see a history of work in the flesh and learn some great lessons about 9 lives.

I Want to Grow Opportunities with Apps

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I saw this recent statistic to date for number of apps for my Apple devices at 2.2 million and 2.8 million for Google Play! It blows my mind how much technology is available for every average person out there with a thought and a click. We got here fast.

When you look at these numbers, do you think creating one more app will be much value? How would you get through all the noise to even be noticed? You might find a micro niche that has been undiscovered. Or you could try and unseat a current app leader in a category. Tough game either way to bet on, especially when the proposition of free or $0.99 apps are expected. We’re app snobs these days and want extreme power with no cost.

But you could take a look at the bigger picture. Much like electricity is a commodity that we don’t give much thought towards, apps have come to be a sort of utility. We use them for travel, productivity, banking, entertainment and many other uses.

How do you grow opportunities with all these apps, however? What if you want to produce rather than consume? The use case for this supercomputer in your pocket can surely go far beyond checking out or checking in.

If you want to grow opportunities with apps, here are some ideas and strategies that gets you thinking about the game of increase:

  1. Networking. If you extend your inbox to include participating in forums or Quora, you can play a game every day. Give a great idea or connection every day. See if you can be a matchmaker and make new friends by giving substantive value. Push your mind and creativity. See if that translates to deal making.
  2. Build teams. Start a project that has a money-making goal. Keep it small. Use an app to add people to the conversation and actions. Move the ball forward with leadership and project management. See if you can set the next steps forward using distributed talent around the globe. You’ll have picked up the skill of managing virtual teams. You might consider Basecamp, Slack or Upwork to drive this initiative and make an ROI the goal.
  3. Curate. If you keep tabs on trends, products, food, technology or other natural interests, find a way to make a daily post on a platform. See if you can turn that into a transaction. Work with those vendors you respect. Become a trusted, curated resource. Build relationships with your audience and your product vendors to find where the deal making lies.
  4. Encourage. Life is tough and most people are carrying around a lot of worries, concerns and problems. Use an app that would facilitate the process of encouragement. Find inspirations, apt quotes, solutions and answers that would help people. Make it easy for yourself to connect the encouragement with the person that needs it.

You are not going to have a million apps on your device. But you can think about what you are doing with your time and attention and think a bit bigger than mere consumption. What if you could turn that powerful middleware someone created and get resourceful to turn the tech into opportunity building? It starts with a purpose.