Blog Archive

Sunday, 29 September 2013

THIS IS WATER by David Foster Wallace

In today's post I wanted to mention a speech given by David Foster Wallace called 'This is Water'.

 It was aimed at a group of students at a commencement ceremony at Kenyon College in Ohio in 2009.

It is an insightful piece of rhetoric aimed at those people who go through life thinking that they are at the centre of the world. In a few short minutes David deals with the concepts of reality, freedom and choice.

I like it because it was a little of what I was trying to say in my blog about being cut up while driving.
Well worth a listen.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

How to Get More Comments for your Blog

This post is about how to get more comments for your blog.

Well the answer is: I have absolutely no idea.

We all know the basics:

  • make it interesting,
  • be controversial if you want to promote discussion,
  • post often.

But to be honest, I have been writing this blog for 3 years now.

My How to survive alien invasion post has nearly 18,000 views on it and there is one comment.

One person went to the trouble of writing what he thought about it.

Well there you are. Can someone please tell me how to get more comments for my blog?

Do They Do It For The Money? Or, What Makes Entrepreneurs Tick?

Which job in the world will have you staying up till your eyes and your bones are begging you for sleep? Where will you find people who are willing to lose everything – everything! – for the sake of one more go at their dream? Walk into the life of an entrepreneur and you’ll see exactly that kind spark. The burning fires deep within the eyes of the mad, or the demented, or the insane, or merely those who wish to follow a dream, no matter what anyone else says.
In his book, Half Time, Bob Burford tells us that, ‘The first half of life is a quest for success, the second half is a quest for significance.’ Well, entrepreneurs must shoot through to that second half pretty quickly because in all the startup stories I read to prepare for this article, one thing pretty much stood out loud and proud.
Entrepreneurs need significance.
They have a need to change the world. Whether this is because they have spotted something missing and want to fix that, or whether they simply have a grand vision of how things should be. They want to make a difference.
If you have ever designed a website with a database, you will have heard of MySQL right? Marten Mickos, founder of MySQL AB says: ‘Entrepreneurialism is essentially a belief system: you must believe in something that is bigger than yourself’.
And the truth is, it is far more than just a belief; entrepreneurs need to have a burning desire within them to go through the kind of hardships that they have to endure - the years of failure and the heartache when things go wrong. It is how Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr, can sit with a smile on her face talking about the time when they only had enough money left to keep them going for 3 months. But more on hardship later.
Now, when someone first asked me, ‘What drives business startups?’ I thought about it for a second and arrived at the most obvious answer: Money! Of course!
Well, just look at the most famous startups you can think of: Facebook, YouTube, Virgin, Amazon, eBay. What links this diverse group of companies together? They are all High Net Worth companies. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft is the second richest man in the world, according to the Forbes Rich List. You don’t get that far in life, in business, in the world, without wanting to earn humungous amounts of cash. Right?
Wrong. The further I looked into the Motivation, the Beliefs of Startups, the more I realised how wrong my one second answer was. In fact, for many of the entrepreneurs who make it big, earning money is way down the list, if it is on the list at all. After all, if you wanted big money, why not go and train as a banker or a lawyer or go and work in the corporate world? They have money to burn and there would be no sleeping under your desk because you have no-where to live, or mortgaging your life to the hilt just to keep going.
So what is it? What is the key magic ingredient that pushes 10% of start-ups over that Tipping Point and into successful territory?
Angela Duckworth, a researcher into success motivation would say that it is GRIT. That sheer determination that pushes people on to try when all the odds are stacked against them.
Simon Sinek, author of ‘Start With Why’, would say that people are successful not because they want to succeed, but purely because they have a basic need, driven by their brain anatomy to make their idea do well, whatever the cost.
Sinek also tells us of the story of an entrepreneur who could have been one of the most famous men in history, Samuel Pierpont Langley. Langley tried very hard to invent the first heavier-than-air flying machine. In fact, his earlier efforts attracted so much interest that he managed to secure a phenomenal amount in those days: A government grant of $50,000. But we have not heard of Langley. The man in the street would just look blank if you asked them about Samuel Pierpont Langley. Langley did not have the correct belief system to push his efforts past the tipping point. Instead, we have all heard of Wilbur and Oliver Wright who believed that they could do it and inspired a team of people to join them in that belief.
So, what is the right belief system? Are you a Langley or a Wright?
The Wright Brothers would go out with their team of trusted employees no matter what the weather conditions. They wanted to fly. They believed that man could fly and they did not stop until they did it.
Thomas Alva Edison, who was the fourth most prolific inventor in history has also been called the world’s biggest failure. How can the man who gave us the motion picture camera and the electric light bulb possibly be known as a failure? Because he just kept on trying until he succeeded. Never mind if the 50th prototype did not work, just get a new sheet of paper ready and design it a different way.
Did he do it for the money? Not at all! In fact, this is what he said about money: ‘Gold is a relic of Julius Caesar, and interest is an invention of Satan’.
Come close and I’ll whisper: He did it because he genuinely wanted to make the world a better place and crucially, he genuinely thought that he could do it. There may have been days when nothing went right. There may have been days when he had to listen to naysayers and doubters, or when cashflow was not what it could have been, but he just kept going.
I believe that these two things combine to make a great entrepreneur’s personality. The steeley determination which gives them that stubborn, pig-headed quality and a super human self-belief which makes them sure that their idea is the best idea in the world and everyone needs to know just how good it is.
And money? Well, that’s one of the perks of the job isn’t it?
What are the belief systems which set these guys apart from the sheep? What makes one person raise their head above the parapet and declare to the world: I will make this a success no matter what anyone else says? In the next post we will take a look at start-ups which should not have worked: the unlikeliest partnerships, the wackiest ideas, and the craziest hair in the business and find that spark which made them say ‘Yes I can!’

Belief Systems of Startups

Let me guess, you want to be an entrepreneur. You have had an amazing idea and have come online to find out how to turn it into reality. The world would be a better place if only everyone would use your product and the minute they all realize this, they will fall over themselves to come and give you all their money.

Just hang on a second. Before you quit your job and remortgage your home. You need a reality check. Ask yourself this simple question:

How many people actually make it as entrepreneurs?

I mean, sure we hear about the successes, the ones which end up splashed all over the papers, but what about the losers?

Did you know that a third of all startups fail within two years and two thirds fail within four years? These statistics from the US Small Business Administration put it so neatly don’t they? Just a few numbers on a spreadsheet. Why don’t they list how much money these guys lose? Or the hours schlepping round trade fairs and angel investors, trying to sell their idea? Or how about those precious hours spent away from home which can even end in two people going their separate ways and families tearing apart?

Being an entrepreneur is a way of life. You can forget about the four hour week and holidays spent on a yacht in the Bahamas. Those are just pipe dreams. That is what happens at the end.

Bringing a product to market is hard work. But most people just see the end results. The flash suits and the celebrity parties and think that practically anyone can have a go at it.

The truth is that most people are just not a good fit and do not have what it takes.

Still reading?

So, what drives an entrepreneur? What belief systems cause one man to get up and try again where another one would lay down and just give up?

As Roy H Williams of the Monday Morning Memo would say: See it, believe it, say it.

I am also personally of the opinion that what drives an entrepreneur to succeed above all else is belief.

Self-belief, belief in the product and belief that the public will accept this new product, this new reality, with open arms and hand over their hard earned dollars with open wallets.

This is what drives people to succeed. This is what makes them squash that inner nagging voice of doubt which tells them that maybe they are no good after all. It is what refuses to let them listen to everyone around them, from their mother to their milkman, who tell them that they are wasting their time.

Because time is something that they will have to spend. An entrepreneur spends, an average of 80 hours a week or more, getting their idea off the ground.

Do you have 80 hours a week to spare? Not so eager to start, or still rearing to go?

The key to successful business is not to try to earn more money or have a bigger car or pay yourself a bigger bonus than the other guy. The real key is to find out what makes you jump out of bed in the morning. What makes you tick? What drives your passion?

And once you have the answer to this question, then you are well on the way to beating those two-thirds of people who fall by the wayside.

Entrepreneurs need to have a burning desire within them to go through the kind of hardships that they have to endure - the years of failure and the heartache when things go wrong. It is how Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr, can sit with a smile on her face talking about the time when they only had enough money left to keep going for 3 months.

Others have spoken about just having one day’s cash flow left but they still kept going, hoping against hope that something would turn up. And you know what? The harder you work the luckier you become.

As Daniel Goleman tells us, it is the strength of character, the steeley determination of personality which drives them more than any other kind of trait. And it is emotional intelligence which forces them to even try in the first place.

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. All the pieces of the jigsaw have to come together to make one whole successful picture. And if even one piece is missing then it can mean that a project is doomed to failure.

Just having an idea, no matter how great it is, may not necessarily be enough. Some unbelievably misguided people really do think that they have an earth-shattering discovery and they only have to mention it, they only have to whisper their idea and people will either:

a) steal it.
b) adore it.
c) finance it.

Poor fools. The first check they expect is not the reality check that they get.

If you have managed to read down this far then welcome! This series of articles is written for the kind of entrepreneurs who are destined to succeed. Those who have their feet firmly planted on the ground. The people who can see the mountain in front of them and the spoon in their hands, and they do not hesitate for even one second. They simply start digging. Heck, if that’s what its going to take to get them to the other side, then that is what they are going to do. And nothing is going to stop them or get in their way.

In the next article, we will take a look at some of the most successful business startups and examine why and how they have succeeded. What are the beliefs which drive their founders to do well? Is it money? Is it philanthropy? Why do these businesses rise to the surface when others around them have sunk without a trace? And how do they keep going when times get rough?

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