New Forbes Article: What Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Get Wrong: 7 Lessons From the Rest of the Ecosystem

Jun 3, 2013


My latest and most ambitious Forbes article is up. Out of all the articles I’ve written, this one took the most work, and it is the one that I’m most proud of. 

It incorporates the diverse lessons learned of 11 very successful and entrepreneurs from the across the country including Brian Scudamore, Founder & CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK; Mark Zuckerberg; Jason Fried, Founder & CEO, 37 Signals, and other great entrepreneurs. 

Let me know what you think. 

If you like the article, the highest praise you could give is sharing it with your networks. 

What Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Get Wrong: 7 Lessons From the Rest of the Ecosystem 
I have felt a tension between Silicon Valley and other parts of the entrepreneurship ecosystem for many years. It is often framed as high-growth startups vs. mainstreet or lifestyle small businesses, but I think it runs much deeper than that.The consequences of not resolving this tension are very bad for the ecosystem. The article delves into the topic without diminishing the huge impact ofSilicon Valley or overly promoting its virtues. My dream for the article would be for it to help start a conversion.




New Forbes Article: The Hidden Work-Life Balance Crisis Among Entrepreneurs

May 23, 2013


I have loved being an entrepreneur for the last 16 years. I’m proud to be an entrepreneurship educator.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen some of the costs in myself and other entrepreneurs.

So, I’ve gotten really interested in understanding those costs so they can be avoided.

I just published my next article in Forbes on THE HIDDEN WORK-LIFE BALANCE CRISIS AMONG ENTREPRENEURS. I spent 15+ hours on the article and did four interviews with top entrepreneurs and leading researchers in the field.

I had some really big, surprising lessons learned in writing the article:

  • Work addiction has terrible impacts on our mental/physical health over a long period of time.
  • Work addiction increases chances of divorce and hurts our children.
  • The number of hours we work is not a defining characteristic of work addiction.

You can read the full article at http://onforb.es/Z2BQoT.

If you think the article could be helpful to any entrepreneurs or workaholics you know, please share it with them.




Vanity of Vanities

May 17, 2013


Since I’ve been young, I’ve had a feeling that life should be better.

So, at different points in my life, I’ve full-heartedly tried every strategy I could to make it better.

Becoming good at tennis. Trying to become popular in high school. Making money. Being spiritual in college. Being a raw foodist. Meditating. Getting married. Having children. Writing a bestselling book. Having a social impact. Being an entrepreneur.

At one point in time, each one of these was the thing that I thought would change everything. That’s what drove me to become good at them.

ALL of these things have improved my life, but they haven’t filled the hole.

None of them have.

The hole is the part of me that wants more.

My deepest unspoken fears have been, “Is this is it? Is this as good as it gets? Will the hole always be here?”

My fears have become more and more true.

Without the stories, life actually hasn’t changed that much at its most basic level.

I sleep. I eat. I move around. I talk with people. I smell, see, touch, taste, and hear things.

All my big goals have focused on giving me a better story I could tell to myself and others.

Ironically, the stories have distracted me from appreciating what is experienced as it is experienced.

By building an identity around a story, anything that threatens that story becomes bad.

Maximizing the good and eliminating the bad is a game that cannot be won. The bad will keep on showing up.

It’s a beautiful and tragic paradox.

The paradigm of good and bad is transcended by surrendering the stories.

Appreciation is the result.

“Vanity of vanities,” saith the Preacher, “vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”




New Forbes Column

May 14, 2013


I’ve recently started a new column for Forbes, and I’ve written three articles so far:

If you’d like to be notified when I write new articles, you can follow me on my Forbes profile page.

 

 




When Our Story Conflicts With Reality, Reality Wins

May 7, 2013


Two weeks ago, Sheena, the kids, and I moved from a larger home to a smaller one.

The bottom line is that after two years of a lease-to-own, we did not have enough money to purchase the home.

This process was humbling for me. It had been a big goal. I had told a lot of people that we were going to purchase it.

Near the end of the move, the mover picked up a copy of my book, The Student Success Manifesto, with my face on the cover from one of the moving boxes and asked, “Are you a motivational speaker?”

When he asked me, an unconscious part of me felt like a fraud.

How could I be a motivational speaker and be moving backwards in life?

This situation symbolizes my transformation over the past few months.

The transition is from, “I, and therefore everyone else, is successful when things go well and a failure when they don’t.” to “Life has ebbs & flows, and I appreciate each part as it happens.”

When reality conflicts with our story, the pain generally comes from our attachment to our old story.

We resist reality because we want our story to remain true. We resist reality because it threatens our core identity.

The silver lining is that the death of our identity frees us to accept life as it happens.

We strive for so many goals because of the perceived freedom they will provide. Ironically, ultimate freedom comes from being able to appreciate life as it happens without building our identity on its ebbs & flows.




A Beginner’s Guide to Finding Your Voice

Apr 18, 2013


Over the past three months, I’ve taken on a new experiment that has changed my life. I’ve been writing daily about some of my deepest truths that I wouldn’t normally share publicly.

I decided to write this post now while I’m still in the beginning of the journey rather than the end because I’ll never be closer to the feeling of beginning than I am right now. Insecurities are what most often stop people in the beginning of any new project, so I hope that my transparency will be helpful in any areas where you’re a beginner or finding your voice …


What It Means to Have a Voice

I’ve asked a number of my successful blogger friends for their advice on the single biggest thing I could do to move the needle as a blogger. Their advice and my personal experience point to the power of finding a voice.

In the words of two blogger friends;

Readers are not seeking random clever ideas and interesting links (there are much better sources for that). They want to follow someone who is advancing a cause/point of view that intrigues, upsets, or excites them.

You get traffic from being unique. If you can write what people want to read, in a way that nobody else is offering, that’s a good recipe for success.

What I now see is a three-step process:

  1. Finding Myself. Understanding what is unique and valuable about my point of view (POV) on the world.
  2. Finding My Voice. Having the courage to authentically and unapologetically share my POV.
  3. Finding My Audience. Writing in a way that resonates with others and solves a challenge they’re experiencing.

Individual reflection is powerful. However, there is something special that subconsciously happens when I share my personal journals with the world.

All of a sudden, I view my own thoughts through a new lens. That new lens shines a light on both my inner genius and my deepest insecurities. With things in plain sight, insecurities arises, but so too does the ability to let go of those insecurities forever. It is hard to see how much we’re muzzling ourselves until we feel the exhilaration that comes from letting go.

Vulnerability feels right and wrong at the same time. The best example I have of this was when I first started being invited to speak while still in college. My first reaction was the excitement and honor of having the opportunity to speak to an audience about my story. However, as the events grew closer, my excitement waned and my dread increased. Starting at about a week out, my days started being plagued with background worrying. My mind would even try to come up with excuses on why I couldn’t speak. Or I secretly hoped that the event would be cancelled. Just like you can’t experience the deep love of another human being without giving yourself completely, you can’t find your voice until you experience vulnerability. In the end, the feeling of vulnerability is one of the indicators that you’re going in the right direction.

Brené Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.

Researcher, Brené Brown, talks about the power of vulnerability during one of the most TED talks ever.


First, Understand The Process

I set a goal for myself to write with courage outside my comfort zone, because the process of personal growth gives me a lot of energy. Setting this goal allowed the emergence of insecurities to feel like progress. If I was feeling insecure, it meant I was achieving my goal!

I vacillate between the extremes of feeling like I am writing from a deep truth that will resonate with others and fear that I am completely disconnected from what others think.

I write from deep personal experiences. So, without trying to, my writing has become an extension of my self-identity. Therefore, it has made me feel vulnerable to other people’s judgements. Even though it’s not logical, no likes & comments doesn’t just feel like the rejection of a distant piece of writing. It feels like a direct blow to me personally even if I know this doesn’t make sense logically.

Different thoughts of insecurity that go through my head are:

People no longer want to hear my voice now that I am posting frequently.

My voice isn’t helpful to people, and I have over-rated it.

I want there to be a market of people who appreciate my perspective, but I fear that there isn’t.

Am I being too intellectual? Am I going too deep? Should I post funny jokes or more light-hearted things so people don’t think I’m too deep? Am I sharing too much?

Fortunately, I understand the process.

  • Being outside of my comfort zone causes illogical, but convincing insecurities to arise.
  • Seeing insecurities from a place of courage allows them to be transcended.
  • Things don’t happen overnight. Letting go of insecurities isn’t just a thought process. I can’t just say, “Insecurities – Be gone! You are no longer welcome.”
  • The best, but also hardest time to let go of them is as they arise. As they arise, our tendency is to go into old thought patterns of feeding them by treating them like they’re reality. Sitting with them, accepting that they’re there without judgment, and appreciating that they’re arising gives one the opportunity to let them go.
  • Success is a process that happens after many failed experiments.
  • I know what it would feel like to stop. Quietness and relief. Most ideas don’t die a loud death of a front page headline or a bankruptcy. They die silently with few people noticing. Going back inside our comfort zone provides relief. Momentary regret of knowing I didn’t follow through would be obscured by the creation of a face-saving excuse to myself and others on why I stopped, and why that was the best choice.
  • The beginning of anything new feels like crawling in a dark room feeling your way around. The first thing you finally touch is likely not the place you want to ultimately go. It is only a clue, a clue which is hard to interpret until you touch more things.

Steven Pressfield, Author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, writes about the inner demons (aka – resistance) that all artists must overcome.


Everyone Else Is Already Taken, So You Might As Well Just Be You

It is very natural to integrate the styles of other writers that you really admire for ideas and inspiration. This can often be really powerful.

However, it can be the exact thing that’s holding you back. You can never be as good as someone else at being them.

We’re all unique, and the critical part of finding our voice is finding where we’re unique.

It is extremely easy to overlook our own uniqueness because it’s often dressed up as a weakness. Or as Derek Sivers of cdbaby fame has said, “Or it’s so obvious to us, and we don’t realize it’s amazing to others.

There are two types of weaknesses:

  • TYPE I: Not being good at something
  • TYPE II; Being really good at something that others label as a weakness

Most people aren’t aware of their strengths because they’re disguised as Type II Weaknesses.

Some are lucky enough to be in an environment growing up that appreciates and reinforces their strength. Most people are in an environment that ignores or puts it down.

The trick to finding our strengths is following its bread crumbs:

  • Areas where we’re different than others
  • Something we do so naturally that it has become invisible
  • Something that gives us energy

We own our strengths when we own who are instead of resisting.

We realize our strengths when we project them to the world and attract a market of people who are served by them.

Lesson Learned The Hard Way: Control the Narrative

When I started writing about my insecurities, several acquaintances reached out to me to see if everything was ok. By not explaining why I was sharing my insecurities, people created their own narrative for the sudden change. In this case, some people assumed that I was going through some sort of breakdown. What I learned via a conversation with Shama Kabani, founder of The Marketing Zen Group, is that I need to create that narrative myself and constantly point back to it. In other words, I needed to explain why I was expressing myself in this new way.

ShamaTV: The Art of Rebranding with Author Dorie Clark

ShamaTV: The Art of Rebranding with Author Dorie Clark


The Hard Part: Walking the Line

As I shared more of myself, I found that it was really hard for me to find the line of ‘ok / not ok’ as I was in new territory. On one side of the line is deeply connecting with people. On the other side is people thinking there is something wrong with you.

While many people give really positive comments, I also feared that many people were completely turned off by my writing and just weren’t telling me.

So, I proactively had conversations with close friends and supporters to ask for their very honest feedback on my writing.

My take-aways on walking the line are:

  • It’s ok to go beyond the line a few times. You can recover. That is part of the process of learning where the line is.
  • Sharing should not happen for sharing’s sake. The ideal is not complete transparency. The ideal is sharing what’s most relevant to the point of the post.
  • Walk very cautiously when what you’re saying could have a negative impact on your business or people close to you who are in your writing.

Iced T on Walking the Line

Iced T on Walking the Line

Finding an Audience

Without looking for it, some major benefits have already arisen from my posting in the form of new business clients, staying on top of mind with more people, and building deeper relationships with people at scale. Many people have started feeling comfortable sharing more deeply with me more quickly, and I deeply appreciate going beyond surface level conversations with people in my network. One of the core things I build my life around is relationships, so I deeply appreciate these benefits.

As I followed the writing habit, more and more people started suggesting I create a blog. I resisted it for a long time, because I knew I wasn’t ready to start focusing on external success metrics. I was too early in finding my voice, and I did  not have enough confidence.

Two weeks ago, I started to focus on writing for an audience rather than just for myself. As I started to shift my focus to external success, new insecurities arose all of a sudden. The big one is, “Why aren’t more people liking, commenting, and sharing my posts?” I can have a great post, but the insecurity arises again when another post doesn’t do well.

Knowing what’s not working is a very hard question to answer at this stage frankly. There are so many variables, and it’s hard to interpret them. Was the reaction from what I posted a result of when I posted it? The title? The frequency of the posting? How do I judge success at such an early stage? Am I actually doing good, or are my expectations too high?

Moving to an external focus based on metrics requires a completely different mindset. It requires using metrics, being detached and constantly experimenting like a scientist. The previous stage required me to think more like an artist.

The trick at this stage is to continue to develop one’s voice as an artist while also bringing in the scientist.

Judging Success

The point we aim to reach when we start something new is, “Houston! We are a go for launch! Everything checks out and we’re ready to put the petal to the metal.”

Unfortunately, the reality of most new things are not unmistakable success. It is ambiguous clues that lead to more clues.

The beginning brings out our biggest insecurities. The rejection or ambiguity of others feels like a rejection of ourselves.

As these insecurities arise, the natural reaction is to stop the pain. Little do we know that moving forward is exactly what we need to do in order to transcend our insecurities and keep experimenting until we find the solution.

Show me a person that is never willing to stop being a beginner of a new experiment, and I’ll show you someone who is bound to have an experiment that will eventually work.

Being Ok Not Being for Everyone

Having a POV

A major challenge to overcome is being ok not being for everyone. My natural inclination is to want to please everyone. I naturally want to ask everyone what their thoughts are and then incorporate their feedback.

This time around, I’ve been consciously biting my tongue. For example, a few people have said that they enjoy my writing, but that they don’t agree with everything I’ve posted. My first inclination was to ask them what they didn’t agree with.

My unconscious assumption was that if people didn’t agree with everything I was saying, they would not read my writing or appreciate my perspective.

Now, instead of trying to be right, I look at my writing as sharing my current thinking, which could in the future be proven wrong.

Unifying Your Networks

When we see people in-person, we natural acclimate to whatever culture we’re in.

When we start sharing publicly online, anybody could read our work from high school classmates, to family friends, work friends, parents, and relatives.

Frankly, it is daunting to share one side of yourself to all the different networks in one’s life, but doing this ultimately gives us the freedom to be ourself.

Faith in a Market

At some level, one has to have faith that by being true to one self there will be a market. The leap of faith is that by deeply connecting with something within ourselves, we can connect to that same feeling, which exists in many, many others. By focusing on expressing our deepest self, we become artists. The focus shifts from finding a market to finding one’s self and having the courage to express that self.Therefore, studying artists can be helpful. However, if you’re looking for a perspective on understanding the size of a market, I recommend Noah Kagan’s guest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog, How to Create a Million-Dollar Business This Weekend (Examples: AppSumo, Mint, Chihuahuas).

Interview with Agnes Martin, winner of a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Interview with Agnes Martin, winner of a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Steps to Ease Yourself Into the Process

  • Journal to yourself. I’ve been a journaler for 10+ years. I think this is a natural, no-risk way to start beginning to develop one’s voice.
  • Share with your closest supporters and friends via email. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have a close network of friends who I feel comfortable sharing my inner most thoughts with. Sharing with them has given me a lot of confidence and built closer friendships. I still share with them when there is something I’m feeling that is not appropriate to share publicly.
  • Post on Facebook. I really like Facebook because you get immediate likes and comments from people from the people you’ve built friendships with over the course of your life. A challenge with starting with a blog is that sharing a new voice and getting zero feedback can be extremely confidence damaging. One never really know how many people read our Facebook posts. Regardless, it feels like anybody in our network could be reading it.
  • Transition to your own blog and look for guest posts. This is where I am at. I just launched my blog last week, so I don’t have any special advice on blogging. Neil Patel’s QuickSprout blog has been an extremely helpful resource for getting things setup right. He has been a very successful Internet Marketer for over a decade to several top brands. In his blog, he shares openly and in-depth about his lessons learned. One of his suggestions is guest posting 80% of the time, so I’m starting to explore guest post opportunities. As such, I’m not a columnist for Forbes. My first two columns have done well. They are How To Give Potential Customers What They Want While Still Being True To Yourself and What Startups Need to Understand About The Booming Corporate Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. Each article has been shared hundreds of times via social media.

 

A special thank you to Laura MacMinn for reading this post several times, providing ongoing feedback, and for sharing her personal experiences! Thank you Laura!




The Beginning of the NOW Paradigm; The Edge of the GOALS Paradigm

Apr 18, 2013


For the past 15 years, I’ve been living in the GOALS PARADIGM:

1. Create a life mission.
2. Set long-term goals that lead to that mission.
3. Set short-term S.M.A.R.T. goals.
4. Identify the most key daily outcomes that lead to the short-term goals.
5. Create an accountability system to ensure outcome completion.

This paradigm has been incredibly powerful in my life and has led to a lot of things that I appreciate most. As I’ve evolved, so to have the goals.

However, over the last few months, a new NOW PARADIGM has arisen alongside the GOALS PARADIGM. The pain of experiencing the limits of the goals paradigm created the possibility of awareness of a new one.

The Goals Paradigm transforms experience through action plans to be, do, and have what one currently doesn’t. The now paradigm paradoxically transforms experience by radically appreciating whatever comes up in the present moment whether or not it is originally perceived as good or bad / desirable or undesirable.

Goals can feel empty, because we bring ourself along for the journey, not a new person. If we are constantly resisting what’s happening in life now, then we will be doing so in the future, regardless of the goal.

As much as goals make us feel in control of life, 99% of the moment-to-moment experience of life is spontaneous and unpredictable and subject to ebbs and flows we have little control over.

The two paradigms do not negate each other. Creating goals doesn’t innately mean not appreciating what’s happening now. Appreciating now doesn’t mean surrendering the control we do have.

I am appreciative that this new perspective on life is ‘clicking’ after years of being right in front of me, and I am excited for the journey. I am aware that living the now paradigm is a process that can take years, decades, or even a life-time.




Paradise Doesn’t Exist, But Life Does

Apr 13, 2013


Whether it’s a tropical island, dream job, celebrity, wealth, meditation, perfect marriage, or saintly kids, paradise does not exist.

At different points in my life, I thought each one of these held the answer. Slowly, after years of searching, the glamour of each was exposed through the experience of disillusionment.

This truth is obscured publicly by the shame that arises when we admit that what we thought would bring us paradise ultimately did not. People, myself included, feel shame when they admit that they:

  • Don’t love every second with their kids
  • Get in arguments with their spouse
  • Don’t love every part of a dream job or startup
  • Aren’t in bliss every moment on a tropical island
  • Are dealing with the same personal growth challenges from years ago

What exists throughout all of life’s ups and downs is who we are on the inside and how we react to reality. Who we are always seems to come along for the ride.

The way to move the needle is to change ourselves and not reality; to focus internally rather than externally. As we recontextualize our life, how we experience the world dramatically changes while new possibilities are attracted.

The reality of the life that I know is ambiguous and unpredictable. There are moments of elation and moments of anger, sometimes occurring back-to-back. There is the miracle of creating new life and the tragedy of unexpected death. Pain leads to growth. Hitting bottom is freedom.

Life is our dancing partner, and it never stops. We can either enjoy the music and follow the lead of our partner or resist every move. It doesn’t care either way. Every moment is beautiful. Every moment, even the ones we label as ‘bad’, has within it the seed of something amazing.

We search for moments of complete peace and elation, even though these fleeting moments account for .001% of our life. Ironically, a search is not necessary. Inner joy occurs by appreciating ALL of life’s moments even if we don’t understand or like them. Life isn’t about removing the bad and painful. It is about accepting and appreciating them.

It takes faith in life to trust what we don’t understand. I think life has earned our trust though. Look at the world. Look at life. It’s here. It’s here against all the odds on this third rock from the sun in an infinite universe. It’s evolving. It’s vibrant. What we call death is literally the fertilization for new life. We are all part of something much bigger than anyone of us can experience or understand.

All we need to do is enjoy the music and dance!




What Causes Some to Take Action And Others Not To?

Apr 5, 2013


Have you ever wanted to really take action on something important to you, but consistently not been able to?

I have. It’s a painful.

My biggest breakthrough on understanding why this happens came at the end of a 4-hour Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour event in Denver, CO in 2008.

The energy of the audience was perfectly aligned with all of the speakers. I asked people to raise their hand if they wanted to start a business. Everyone’s hands immediately sprung up. People WANTED to take action.

So, I decided to throw in a new activity where everyone wrote down the three actions that they were going to do RIGHT AWAY in order to start their business.

Then, I asked for some people to share.

That’s when I became the student and the audience became the teacher.

Not one person gave a real actionable step. Everyone shared intentions like NETWORK and BRAINSTORM, but nothing that was a real action step.

Every single person who shared needed coaching on things like:

  1. How to set a tangible goal.
  2. How to work backwards from that goal to a step they could take right away.
  3. How to create accountability around that action step to make sure it gets done.
  4. How to remove any internal or external barriers that could stop the action.

I remember being shocked and saddened at the end of the event. I realized that all of these people with amazing intentions and passion were probably not going to start a business.

That is the first time I realized that taking action is more of a way of thinking than it is a pure desire.

The great thing is that this way of thinking can be taught and learned even though it isn’t in traditional education.

What concepts do you think are critical to people learning how to take action?




The Story We Are Most Afraid Of Sharing Is The Story We Need To Share The Most

Apr 4, 2013


I’ve had the fortune of building deep relationships with many of the country’s top young entrepreneurs. At the same time, I’ve consumed thousands of hours of entrepreneurship content.

What I see is a huge gap.

The gap is between the reality of people’s human experience and the distillation of that experience into polished lessons learned.

What’s removed is vulnerability.

What’s left is the entrepreneurs carrying a heavy burden they think they need to carry, but actually don’t. What’s left is an audience who thinks entrepreneurship is unachievable, because the people successful at it seem to have everything put together on the inside and outside.

More than ever, I have seen what I’ve been holding back, and I’ve been learning to share it. These past few months have been some of the most liberating in my life. For the first time, I feel like I have my own unique voice that I can own.

A lot of fears come up when we’re vulnerable.

We fear what other people will think of us. Will they stop doing business with us? Will they lose respect? Will we lose friendships?

What I’ve clearly seen is that these fears are more about our own judgements of ourselves than what other people actually will think.

“I fear that others will judge me if they know xyz about me.” is really, “I judge myself about xyz.”

The only way to understand the emotional weights we carry is to be free of them. In letting go of these weights, we not only liberate ourselves, we liberate others. We gain a new perspective on the world that allows us to forgive and accept those we judged. People gain a new perspective on us that allows us to deeply connect with them.

There is a line though. By being more open, we risk going beyond it as we find our voice. However, the risks of going too far are minuscule compared to not going far enough.

People value authenticity. What we think is our unique insecurity is a core human experience that every single person alive can relate to. While they may not be able to relate to the exact story, they will always be able to relate to the feelings underlying the story if the story is told well.

The value of being able to deeply connect with other people in our personal and professional lives is profound. It is a core part of what we’re wired for as human beings, and if we don’t allow ourselves to experience this, we’ll never know what we missed.