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.

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.

Creativity Not Productivity

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We had this age of efficiency and continuous improvement for a long time. When the Japanese were destroying us in the auto industry with better quality cars we buckled down and hyper focused on quality. It worked. ISO standards, Deming Cycles and Six Sigma drove quality to new standards, and we produced a generation of managers that ensured statistical quality for the masses.

There’s money to be made in efficiency for sure. I enjoyed conversations recently with an executive friend at UPS who shared the relentless focus UPS has on logistics and using unmanned vehicles and drones in their R&D. They are in the efficiency business, and both workforce productivity and the market demand for immediacy are driving their initiatives. We, as consumers, get to partake in what will be a surreal future of fulfillment based on our whimsical desires. The speed, precision and customization are being worked on while we consume from our mobile on-demand lives anytime, anywhere.

I think the business of productivity and efficiency fit well for enterprises that can move the needle in our lives from a mass perspective. They are productivity behemoths and get rewarded for consolidating around this value proposition.

However, there are many more slots to fill for customers that go beyond productivity. As humans, we still want to consume creativity. That boutique hotel experience or the out of the box retreat attracts us in a way that relieves our tired minds from consumerism, efficiency and boring.

If you are in the productivity business, keep pushing the bounds of faster, cheaper and efficient. That’s the value the market expects.

For all other endeavors, your creativity, not necessarily your productivity, will have a larger impact on selling and being relevant. The ideas you are able to generate and implement will be the differentiator in such a ridiculously competitive world.

I had a friend recently say, “Stay in the mess.” He was talking about the complexities of IT problems he is involved with that AI has not touched yet. We were talking about how that will likely change with deep learning technology that is continuously pushing the envelope.

Today’s mess is not necessarily going to remain hard or obscure.

And the challenge becomes looking for new messes using the efficiencies, tools and platforms that productivity has solved for our creative benefit.

I am not sure what the future beholds in business. But I do see, from the front lines, how those who are creative stand out. Getting in the mess where strategy, forward thinking and the ability to connect the dots tends to gain trust, respect and relationship gets rewarded.

Simply trying to make efficient things more efficient has marginal value.

If you are not productive at this point, you may be fighting an uphill battle. Give it up and do what you can. There’s already consolidated and large leverage players that accomplish productivity far better than you. Partner with them.

It’s a far better strategy to invest in creativity. Find a new angle. Straddle multiple industries and blend those ideas into a new approach. Take some time to get above the fray and see the forest from the trees. You’ll add a lot more value in today’s world being a creative resource that can make ideas happen quickly. Oh, and you don’t have to be frenetic. You just have to commit to being insightful, strategic and creative.

Reinvent Yourself Before You’re Forced To

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“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ~ Robert Greene

Things work … until they don’t.

We bought stories previously that made sense. Advertising works because people pay attention. A horse and buggy is the way to travel. Everyone should meet for lunch to do business. Conglomerates are responsible for the news.

There were entire industries and armies of workers ready to fulfill what scaled and worked. And there was reward for a time with cash flow and stability that all the participating players enjoyed.

However, we don’t have the luxury of a static world that simply allows us to drink forever from a wellspring of opportunity. Too often, we have to get slapped hard out of our delusion and heed Baltasar Gracian’s words,

“Fortune soon tires of carrying anyone long on her shoulders.”

We did not have a world where everyone carried a supercomputer in their pocket, 24/7 news continually streamed and anyone could put their opinion out in the endless information stream of social platforms. The story people tell themselves continually changes and consumers are able to make choices for themselves on their time, attention and buying based on convenience and innovation.

I can remember too many times where work was hard. Building systems, sales engines and collaboration processes were hard. It’s much easier. We don’t have to code anymore or lay out inflexible, expensive requirements to test our ideas. We don’t even have to be perfect from the start. We can try what we conceive and tear it down and rebuild technologies and platforms to see if they work in reality or not.

Innovation is sweet and relentless.

We don’t even have to sweat the underlying mechanics or even hope for infrastructure.

However, the flip side of innovation is that it threatens the current position you find yourself in. Things will be different. They have to be. The collective is forcing and demanding better, faster, cheaper and entertaining.

Whether you align and reinvent yourself today or are forced to change when the world ignores your value is not something you control.

IT will be different. So will education, medicine, law, marketing, and every other industry out there that has enjoyed some form of stasis.

Sure, there’s a latency for Luddites that can ride the down wave. However, they can’t control the forces at play and the demand side that is creating this ridiculous pace of innovation we are all riding and insisting on.

The strategy for the value provider that wants to get paid has to move towards continual relevance. You have to stay in tune with what works, but you don’t need to get so far ahead that consumer demand lags.

Reinvent yourself by:

  1. Having a parallel path of selling/doing that ramps up while your current cash flow ramps down.
  2. Experimenting with and integrating new technology that makes things more convenient for your customers.
  3. Creating new use cases for your competencies.
  4. Selling something new and test for traction.

The last thing you want to experience as a businessperson is irrelevance. Fear and comfort can blindside you. The great news is that you can always get ahead of the inevitable changes to your position by keeping your own innovation habits in play.

What’s next for you and how can you keep reinvention continuously going?

Building the Boring Business

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I enjoy drama, action and suspense when I watch a movie to relax and let my mind and emotions wander. However, I don’t find heroics and craziness entertaining or useful in business. In fact, my goal with entrepreneurs and business owners is to build a boring business based on systems, processes and execution that produces consistent cash flow.

That sounds reasonable, but often it goes against the programming and nature of the owner operators that believe charisma and heroics has won the day. I get it. We like superheroes and long to be one.

Emergencies pop up and uncertainty continually deals a hand here and there. When I see volatility or repeatable drama, then my conclusion is that something foundational is not working.

If you ever have gone on factory tours of large manufacturers of cars, electronics or packaged goods, you don’t see chaos and frenetic energy. You see systems that drive output. The systems are there to drive towards a singular result. It’s a boring business and it works to get goods into the hands of customers. The goal is making the customer happy and drive revenue.

But well-run businesses do not simply appear overnight. There’s thought around how materials, information and talent flow. Systems work well with focused results by removing the crises, variables and gotcha’s that snare lesser performing operations.

The boring business happens because of strong leadership and a commitment to not repeat insanity from continual failure. This not only includes project management or operations but in how the business cares about and manages client relationships, grows revenue via a continuous pipeline and continually innovates. These are all parts of a business that can be creatively systematized. The energy and creativity for a boring business can be put in the design and execution of processes that stay ahead of chaos.

Sure, you can spend time getting lost in details and putting out daily fires. But when you step back and take a look at anything that repeatedly pops up and slows down the main event – making your customer happy – have you really solved the root problem of poor systems? Is a lack of commitment to process simply leaving the door open for problems later?

Perhaps team members need regular training and testing of their knowledge and skills. Or you may need a knowledge base and repository to keep information so you don’t have to keep reminding people how business should be done.

In many cases, you might simply need to notice the repeatability and frequency of problems. Do you like heroics simply because it appeals to the ego or makes you feel like you are working on something?

I like drama to stay at the box office or in my recreational fun going up or down mountains. When it’s completely possible to keep a business focused on delivering value and driving revenue, no thanks. Give me the boring business instead and leave the adventures for other parts of life where it belongs. #nodrama

Create More Options and Stop Working Harder

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When you are not getting the results you want, is it better to try harder or diversify your options? While there are myriad circumstances, when the law of averages governs the game you are playing, more options, attempts and scenarios can be a strategic move.

Instead of working hard on one relationship build a hundred more with different people.

Instead of trying to make one market or channel work, test others to uncover more opportunities.

Instead of putting everything in one employee’s responsibility, load balance and create redundancies with several team members.

The strategy fits situations where working harder with determination has diminishing returns. And instead of getting locked into less optionality you can open up more channels for opportunity and feedback. You mitigate risk and get to look at what percolates from diversification.

In addition, you can add the hard work and number of attempts into your new options to see what outcomes will produce results.

When I was a kid, I played a lot of sports. Some came easier than others. At some point, I had diminishing returns playing baseball. I put in hours and hours throwing, catching and batting. But I could easily see how teammates had better results for their efforts. It didn’t discourage me, but even as a young kid, I could tell I had an upper limit.

I went on to other sports with some successes and some mediocrity. But trying a lot of them and testing for what I could get out of myself gave me perspective on what would work for me, much like many other youngsters discover.

Eventually, I found that distance running fit. I got results from putting work in. Not my first pick of sports, but I had to go with what worked and I made that my bread and butter sport through high school and college at the expense of other sports. It was worth it to me for the work I was going to put in.

There’s a world of options we can easily get overwhelmed by out there.

A platform that your customers interact on would make for the best use of your time, for example.

A group of friends can be much more fun and rewarding than other social groups with different tastes.

And if you find yourself getting stuck, merely working harder, then how about taking that energy, time and focus to diversify far and wide? Use that strategy to create new momentum and insights that help you get out of the rut. Going wide can create new energy and opportunity in contrast to simply pushing deeper into things you are comfortable doing.

This is especially true for things that used to work in a different era and don’t work as well anymore.  The better strategy is to diversify and open up new channels you may not have considered. Do it at the expense of what you already know or are accustomed to.

Ultimately, you are giving yourself better probabilities of finding higher returns of your time, money and attention.

What do you need to stop working harder at and go wider with instead?

Don’t Waste Your Time and Commit to Personal Growth

It sure is easy to get distracted. No doubt you can zone out with so many entertainment venues that are accessible. But while you are snoozing, there are so many people that are committed to personal growth in their downtime that are getting ahead.

Think about the reality of the high-tech world we live in. Will getting more muscles or working harder and longer truly get you ahead?

We have machines that do the work. There is a relentless pursuit to make our world like WALL·E where humans didn’t have to move or lift a finger to do anything. Artificial intelligence, heavy machinery and automation put in the hard day’s work.

No, much of what is leverage and value today comes from hard thinking and creativity. And you don’t get creativity by checking out. You have to focus on personal growth in your downtime where you can gain insights, knowledge and awareness.

Your ideas will make you more valuable.

Your creativity will cause you to be in demand.

Your strategies will be launch points to test from.

But how can you generate ideas, creativity and strategies by working like a machine and then checking out? You might be able to fake it and get along in life for a bit. But people are pretty good at detecting substance from salesmanship.

When you have downtime, how about listening to an Audible book like Zero to One to understand how the future will be shaped. Or work on an article and pull your ideas together on a topic from other content and books to solidify your thinking?

Personal growth allows you to become more valuable. You cannot give what you do not possess.

We don’t have a scarcity of technology or ways of doing things anymore. Everyone can use the same tools, platforms and avenues.

However, there is more noise than ever. And if you can create clarity because you have developed in your own personal growth, then you can help solve the myriad complex problems that everyone is bumping around trying to harmonize in their chaotic worlds.

That supposes that you have taken time to think, gain insights and invest in your personal growth.

Can you change your habits to focus on your personal growth for half an hour a day to start? Pick up a book. Share insightful thoughts. Develop ideas. Make them happen. Become more valuable.

Strategies to Hack Uncertainty

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Everything you know right now probably won’t be intact in a few years. There are too many changes and forces that are acting on your present version of reality. And the pace is only picking up.

Simply look at people’s LinkedIn and see how fast they are switching jobs. Or do your research on wages, productivity and market enterprise displacements. What was true a few years ago is changing so fast.

You may feel the effects, and the worst strategy is to simply sit and hope that it won’t affect you. It’s a losing strategy. Hope hardly works.

If you make a key decision in your life and business to tilt the odds in your favor, then there’s not necessarily any guarantees that uncertainty will harm you, but you do increase the probability that you can be positioned for opportunity and avoid downsides.

But you do have to make that decision to be strategic and intentional. Here are some strategies to hack your life and position yourself:

  • Minimize your downside. Take inventory of your overhead, costs and commitments. Examine what is essential and keep those in play. Eliminate everything else. Imagine the worst case scenarios playing out in your business and how you can maintain what is essential. We like to think about the upside so much that we forget that there is a downside. A little attention and care can get you prepared for uncertainty.
  • Open up boring, predictable cash flow. There are many avenues, likely within your own industries, where you can build cash flow models. Set it up, work hard to make the cash flow work and let it run. Passivity is a critical component to freeing up your attention. You may need insights and strategies to find what those flows may be, but it is well worth the work to open up cash flow. You want to get ahead of this before uncertainty overtakes you.
  • Make friends. This is a daily habit that needs to be part of your rituals far before any negative events enter your life. Making friends is about trading. You have to be a person of value that people enjoy engaging. Try to be helpful and always ask, “How can I help someone today?” That focuses your lens. Business is about relationships and trading. Also, don’t burn bridges. Life is short and also has a way of resurfacing old relationships.
  • Cannibalize your position. You may avoid trying something new because it affects your current position. However, you could be a sitting duck if you don’t continually innovate. That’s because someone out there is already competing with you. Better to compete with yourself. This may mean cannibalizing your current position, but you will be better set up to move to the next advancements by setting up a parallel path, a separate project that is designed to innovate. While one position may come down, you have another path that will rise up.
  • Choose the most options. The antidote to uncertainty is to make the choice with the most options. Exercising and retaining optionality allows you to go with what makes sense in the unfolding of uncertain events. Make the habit of always choosing optionality. It’s gold.

These are strategies that focus your efforts in anticipation of what is bound to come in this fast-changing world. Sit still and you become irrelevant in the midst of large market forces changing the game under your feet continually.

Work Less

There’s a viral article at Medium, This Morning Routine will Save You 20+ Hours Per Week.

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The overall thought is that our workdays are antiquated. Where you work, how long you labor, and the fact that your energy levels approach diminishing returns are valid constraints to take into account in our brave new world.

What if you cut your work day in half? Perhaps work 4 hours a day?

Have you tried such an experiment?

Perhaps you gain more efficiency because you can’t waste time. You have to have your stuff together. It’s Parkinson’s Law used in reverse to your advantage. You start gaining efficiency and focus on what matters.

We are in the age of robots. Relatively speaking, massive amounts of the workforce made money because we were inefficient before. Human beings did legal work, worked accounting jobs and analyzed information to create meaning in the knowledge space.

But when there are initiatives like IBM Watson and artificial intelligence relentlessly working to take input and output information, trying to become more efficient than a robot is a losing strategy. Robots win when they can perform millions of computations and look for trends, local maximums and crunch data better than humans.

The Luddite can argue their position, but that is what blue collar workers pleaded when automation took over manufacturing jobs. The output was too great to argue with.

Trying to work longer, harder and faster may not be the best overall strategy for your business.

How about freeing yourself up. Build your health back up. Clear your mind. Invest more in creativity rather than productivity.

Your input/output ratio for money may reflect a much better outcome and you will be the better for matching your workflow and lifestyle to the speed and efficiency you see all around you.

Dare to try working less? What’s holding you back?

The Feedback Advantage

 

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The worst thing that you can do in your work is to continue with business-as-usual when there are unseen forces acting on you. Whether you feel content working a job or continuing to work in a market that is obsolescing, the lack of feedback on a daily basis can build up into a cataclysmic event, rather than be a simple daily up and down.

Just because something worked a few years ago does not mean things will remain unaffected for years to come and your cash flow will simply continue unhindered. The forces of automation and globalization are pushing forward relentlessly. In effect, markets are continually getting efficient and if you are simply maintaining the status quo then you can have a sense of false security in your position.

When you have paying customers that vote with their purchases, you get feedback on a daily basis. This helps you gauge changes and the frequency and speed by which your market deems you valuable. It’s a feedback advantage that requires vigilance but it is an invaluable way to stay in tune with what is happening.

Don’t wish away volatility. Embrace it. When you see the changes that threaten your position, then overall, you have the opportunity to become more robust by adapting and innovating. Is this a bad thing? No, it is what gives you an edge over your competition and keeps you tuned into the reality of today. There is no safe position. There are only currents that you can align with and keep in step with.

Because of the ease by which everyone in the world can participate and play, this forces everyone to stay tuned in. Your best bet is to consider feedback from cash flow an asset that you can use to stay competitive. The last thing you want to do is insulate yourself from the continual data that the marketplace is providing.

How can you make yourself more robust by keeping track of the right feedback every day?