Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Positive dots

September 9, 2011

One of our business advisors sent this out recently and I’d thought I’d share the story with you:

This is Good

A great tale I came across this week tells the story of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up.  The friend had developed a habit of looking at every situation in his life, whether positive or negative, and remarking simply, “This is good!”

One day the king and his friend were on a hunting expedition.  On such trips his friend would load and prepare the guns for the king.  He had had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, because, after taking the gun from his friend and pulling the trigger, the gun misfired and his thumb was blown off.

Considering the situation, his friend remarked, as usual, “This is good!”

To which the king replied, “No, this is not good!” and promptly ordered friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in a region he should have known to stay clear of. The local tribe of Cannibals captured him and took them to their village.  They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake.

As they prepared to set the wood on fire to cook up their catch, they noticed that he was missing a thumb.  Being superstitious, they wouldn’t eat anyone who was less than whole.  So they untied the king and sent him on his way.

When he returned home, he remembered how he’d lost his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend.  He went directly to the jail to speak with him.

“You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.”  And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened.  “And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long.  It was bad for me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied, “This is good!”

“What do you mean, ‘This is good’?  How could it have been good that I sent you, my friend to jail for a year?”

“If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you, wouldn’t I?”

The moral…

Things may not always seem pleasant while we’re experiencing them, but then it depends the way you see them…or reflect on the later.

 Like Steve Jobs said in his wonderful 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

– Think positive thoughts and positive things will happen 🙂

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Success isn’t about the money…

June 16, 2011

In my continued theme of having a rewarding life without money-making you happy, here are three fantastic videos of entrepreneurs to illustrate the point.

The first is a TED video from entrepreneur Richard St. John, who focused too much on the money and lost everything. The 2nd is from Morton Lund.

Morton invested in many, many tech startups, made a pile of cash and then lost it all on a newspaper. Morton is a very charismatic, colourful and entertaining character.

The final video is a video diary from Mitch who’s just lost everything and is starting over again.

Richard St. John: “Success is a continuous journey”:

Morton Lund on ‘focus’:

Mitch lost everything and is starting again:

 

Here’s a great quote to finish on: “Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.”Mike Ditka (American Football Player, b.1939)

Desperately seeking happiness!

May 16, 2011

“The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase; if you pursue happiness you’ll never find it.”
– C. P. Snow (1905 – 1980)

I’m fascinated by the idea of happiness. I have been since I read that the south Pacific island of Vanuatu as the happiest nation on the planet and the UK is ranked 108th by the Happy Planet Index. The UK Government is now even trying to get us happier!

My question is: what is happiness and how do you make it..? There are many recommended books out there on analysing and finding happiness, including:

  1. The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living by 14th Dalai Lama
  2. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
  3. And Stumbling on Happiness

However, I’ve not read any of them because I don’t think the answer is in a book. It is in us and our relationships..

Of course pondering on happiness is nothing new. Philosophers have been thinking about it for centuries! Aristotle, 384 BC – 322 BC,  said “Happiness depends upon ourselves” and  Thucydides, 471 BC – 400 BC, “The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage”.

Money Love

It seems more and more money does not make you happy. I remember my mother wisely saying “Money does not make you happy, but it does help”. And I think she was right to an extent. A survey of 1,000 Americans found that “happiness rose in line with salary, but only until people earned $75,000 a year, the equivalent of around £50,000”.

So perhaps Benjamin Franklin is correct, when he said in the 17th century, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way…” 


True Love

As a company founder I love to think this as the answer: “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort”. – Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945), which comes from the courage and freedom to make your own company. However I think and feel it’s a little more than that. Afterall, Franklin’s wife Eleanor Roosevelt did say, “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”

I believe Aristotle when he said almost two and a half thousand years ago, “Happiness depends upon ourselves” and Bronnie Ware quotes today in her wonderful REGRETS OF THE DYING  post, “I think I wish that I had let myself be happier:

5. This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness”.

I think the answer to being happy lies in Bronnie’s first four points:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. – Fulfill your dreams while you can!
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. – Simplifying your lifestyle and work to spend time with children and partner.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. – Become who you are truly capable of.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. – Give time to and enjoy your golden friendships.
  5. I think I wish that I had let myself be happier. – You can, so start now!

“It all comes down to love and relationships in the end”. – Bronnie Ware

P.S. Thank you to @tewy ( via @trepca @paulg) for sharing Bronnie’s post many months ago through Twitter 🙂 And to Bronnie for her post!

“Startups are damn hard”, but rewarding..

May 9, 2011

I read Jazzy Chad’s emotional and brutal ‘Startups are hard post‘ and wanted to add my own comments. I don’t know Chad but in my opinion he’s being very hard on himself. His lack of reaching his goals and achievements seems to be tearing him apart and making him frustrated and bitter. Yes I agree startups are damn hard, but they are also rewarding, fun and fulfilling. Let us not forget this.

I’ve drawn out and condensed some of Chad’s text and added my comments. I thank Chad for his passion, honesty and putting this in the open.

Startups are hard. No, startups are damn hard.

“Startups that die rarely talk about it publicly because it is frustrating, embarrassing, and most of the time the people involved want to forget the whole mess and move on rather than sit around talking about the fact that they failed.

Most people don’t want to admit that startups are hard, either, because to admit something is hard is to admit that you don’t know everything there is to know about a certain topic and to display weakness.”

I whole heartily agree (admit) that startups are damn hard. I’ve always said this 5 ‘Shocking’ things founding a startup, Startup vs Home Life, Entrepreneurs: Beating the employee out of you.. You have to admit something to truly embrace it. We failed when we started.

My co-founder and I spent seven months and a pile of cash building something that went nowhere. It took us time to get over it but we did. There were lessons to be learnt from this experience, they just take time before you see all the dots join.

You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You

“In the Valley, you are a Nobody until you are a Somebody. Trying to launch a new product as a Nobody is hard. Trying to get press as a Nobody is very hard because nobody knows who you are and so they don’t care about your product.

Raising money as a Nobody isn’t just hard, it is nearly impossible. There are a few major factors that investors look at when making an investment decision. Two big factors are Traction and Revenue.”

We’re not in the valley, so I can’t comment on this location, but I know nobody is listening to us where we are! In my mind the only people that real love comes from is your customers. We prefer to focus on them.

“Jealousy… is a mental cancer.” -B.C. Forbes

“Am I jealous of other companies’ success? I would be lying if I said no. I am slightly jealous when I wake up and read another story about some company raising a million dollars for some idea that makes absolutely no sense to me, or seeing an acquisition of a company for a product I did not feel was particularly well executed.”

I do also suffer from this sometimes. My ego gets in the way. But then I remember the reality: it’s not easy and that mostly everyone will have been through many, many challenges to become a success!

Sacrifice

“Startups demand sacrifice… Has it all been worth it? If you are expecting me to say “Yes, of course!” you would be wrong. The truth is, it hasn’t been worth it at all… yet.

Financially speaking, we are much worse off now than when I took the plunge. Of course the goal is for it to be worth it someday, but it is unclear how long it will ultimately take. In other aspects of my life, it may have been worth it so far, but it is hard to quantify those things.”

Yes, startups demand sacrifice! Has it been worth it for me, hell yeah. I’ve said this before: “You have to let it all go…fear…doubt & disbelief…Free your mind! and Life, death & startups. Why’s it been worth it – because startups aren’t just about the money.

They’re about life. More specifically life experiences with people around you.. Don’t get me wrong money is vital. It’s the lubricant for our companies. But money is not the heart and soul of an organisation, a company. It’s in the people: co-founders, colleagues, friends (including your customers).

Startup Depression

“…The ultimate reality, though, is that we failed utterly at fundraising. We ended up wasting a lot of time. We had dozens and dozens of intros which led to about 40 or so meetings. After spending 3 months and hearing “No” 39 times we decided to just give up raising money. We looked around and felt like everyone around us was raising insane rounds with no problem. The net effect was that it killed our morale dead.”

After hearing, “UR DOING IT WRONG!” so many times, it’s hard to think that you’re doing anything right. At that point it’s very hard to soldier on. We had made a terrible mistake; we had given control to the investors, and they weren’t even giving us money!…

The lesson here is, if you are having trouble putting together a round in the first few weeks of actual investor meetings, just say, “screw it,” and get back to working ASAP.”

Every time I go into a conversation with an investor or investment adviser, all I hear is demand after demand.. This has happened right from the beginning of our startup. They want a solid product, more revenues, more customers, longer term contract, etc.. On and on it goes.

On the other hand you have customers. They are different. Yes, there are demands but they are willing to pay if you’re of value. Don’t get me wrong investors are vital but customers come first and I think Chad is getting that wrong way round.

Going Forward

“Which leads us to: so what now? Paul and I are not ready to quit. I personally don’t really know how to quit. When I make a commitment, there is very little that will stop me from following through, even in the face of adversity. I believe you have to adapt to play the cards you are dealt. We are willing to see this through to the bitter end if necessary. If this means changing course and trying something new, then sobeit, but while there is money in the bank we will continue on. We have some ideas and are investigating them further.”

For me knowing when to quit is the hardest question for any startup founder! Unfortunately startup founders often become obsessed by achievement at any cost. They become like sports people who over-train and leave little time for recovery. This leads to burn out or diminishing returns. A vicious circle of in frustration and bitterness is then formed. Sometimes you have to take a break to see the bigger picture or quit to succeed!! 

Here’s to the crazy ones :)

March 15, 2011

I like this a lot.

Its from the 1998 Apple ‘Think different’ marketing campaign.

See wikipedia for more on ‘Think Different’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_Different

Startingup JFDI!!

December 21, 2010

This month I gave a talk to Nottingham Uni / Nottingham Trent Uni undergrads at Thirsty Thursday. The idea of the event is to ‘Inspire students to run their own businesses.’ I talked about our Aware Monitoring journey from finding the idea to commercialising the service. My underlying message was clear and loud – JFDI (Just Freakin’ Do It!!). But why be so abrupt..?

My JFDI pitch!

If you have an idea or a passion to do something – JFDI. Stop talking! Stop thinking!! Start doing – now!! NOW!! One of the easiest things to do in the world, is to procrastinate. A decision, even if proves to be a bad one, is still a direction. It can be learned from.

My thinking is, if these students really want to do something – they should do it now.  They shouldn’t wait until they have even more excuses in life not to do it. One of my close family members urged me to start my own business when I was 19 years old but I said no. At the time it was the right decision. I did what was right for me and I was not being led by others.

In Bronnie Ware’s wonderful and touching post ‘Regrets of the Dying‘ she talks about people not fulling their dreams:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way.”

If you really desire to have a startup or change something significant in your life, do it now. I take my hat to people like 23-year-old Joel Gascoigne, who gave a talk at our Nott Tuesday meetup group last week, for doing just this. He is now on his second startup project Buffer, a Twitter scheduling app. Joel is living his dream with passion, learning and persistence. He’s just getting on with it – JFDI!!

Startup vs Home Life

September 9, 2010

I Love my home life (family, friends and adventure). I also love my startup. Like my children it embodies the future! With all this love to spread around, there’s not enough time for everything. I’m not alone in this startup vs home life situation. One of my good startup friends is in the extremely intense phase of finishing his app, Annot8, before launch. He’s working all hours!! His kids now think his office is ‘Daddy’s house’. From all I’ve read startup, home life, and physical/mental well-being needs to be carefully balanced to help make a successful startup.

The trouble starts, as it inevitably does, when a startups becomes an obsession. Driven from a desire to succeed and too much to do, a startup can take over your entire mind. Until you think and talk of little else.  You become so connected to your startup your emotions are driven by the highs and lows of the company. Obsession is not all bad. It pushes and creates. However there is a personal price to pay:

  1. Family life suffers –  My blogger friend Giff recently talked about entrepreneurship and parenthood saying ‘young kids take a huge amount of time, require flexibility, and put a lot of constraints on a founders schedule’. His excellent point is that the only answer is ‘compromise’. Like most things in life its a balancing act. You have make time for both life’s. In Steve Blanks great post, ‘Lies Entrepreneurs Tell Themselves’ he very honestly talks about the need to be realistic why you’re starting-up. It’s often for selfish reasons and not thinking of others!
  2. Your body suffers – In Mark Suster’s ‘The Yo-Yo life of tech entrepreneurs’ post Mark talks about how your body suffers with weight gain. You more often eat unhealthy food and may consume more alcohol. You have less time for exercise. This isn’t good. We all know exercise is great for stress relief. I’ve certainly found it challenging to keep training whilst growing our startup. Be strict and make time for your body.
  3. And you Mind suffers too – It seems to achieve great things one needs to leave the norm behind. ‘There is a fine line between entrepreneurship & insanity’ – Anita Roddick. To be great you have to concentrate on one thing. You can see this in any great sports person. However total concentration without any relief builds-up both physical and mental exhaustion. You ‘burn out’! The uncertainly of startups can also cause you to constantly worry. Here’s a interesting post on what a founders wife sees in her husbands start-up. Take a break from your startup and recharge your mental batteries.

When you become obsessed by your startup everything else suffers: your body, your personal relationships and ultimately your startup! The startup journey is a marathon. As founders we cannot do it on our own. We need a support mechanism. We must have help from family, friends and help ourselves. By isolating ourselves in our startup obsession we cut off the very support that can help us to succeed. Mike from crowdSPRING has some great tips on managing this difficult balancing act of life and startups.

I’ll leave you with one final thought from a great obsessive man: If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut”. – Albert Einstein

The big dipper

March 23, 2010

I wouldn’t normally blog about a book but  Seth Godlin’sThe Dip’ explores   one of the most difficult and profound questions in life  – knowing when to quit and when to keep going. If you don’t know of Seth, you should – he’s a marketing legend! Challenges are constantly around us  but when the going  gets tough with  a hobbie,  job or startup should we give up or keep going?  Don’t be afraid to give up when a situation is  no longer  a challenge or after much effort it’s not growing. Good things will happen!

I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago to a group of PhD students about the how a business idea literates and that sometimes you have to give up on a product/idea. After the presentation one of the PhD’s approach me and said that their Pharma startup has been working on a product for 10 years. They’ve  just run out of money and the product is only just going into clinical trials. Unfortunately they don’t know if the product will pass. Nightmare situation ! Give up or keeping..

On the same week one of my family asked: “when are you going to give up”, referring our startup. This is a very good question. One which I have tried to answer in previous posts – Knowing when to quit flogging a dead Startup. This is probably the most difficult question of all for a founder. And That’s probably why they asked. NOTE: They’re already  a successful company founder 🙂

Seth is so right – it’s really hard to know when to quit or when to keep going. Success maybe just around the corner but that corner could just another shoulder obscuring the next climb. During my employee career I sometimes found it easy to stop pushing new boundaries and settle into a comfort zone. I believe it so important to keep pushing forward  and knowing when to quit if  your not moving forward.  However it’s not always easy to let go of something you have put so much effort and dreams into, like a startup or a new job.

You will know when something has run its course but are often too afraid of change to doing anything about it. Unfortunately change will eventually be forced upon  you if you settle for too long. The problem is the ego gets in the way of quitting – doubt kicks in. What will people think if I give up, ‘he’s a looser’ or ‘she’s a quitter!’, etc. The Dip is about  seeing the challenge for what it is – a  test, a learning experience and something that should be ultimately rewarding. It is there to be overcome one way or another – just get over it!

3 great entrepreneurial talks to watch

February 11, 2010

They are not new but they are all a must watch if you’ve not seen them before: Steve Jobs has an amazing life story to tell which he delivers incredibly well; Guy Kawasaki brings a side-splitting comedy performance, but also insightful message, with his “The Art of the Start” talk; and Richard Branson is very cool on TED.

Life, death & startups..

January 7, 2010

How many times have you heard the saying life is Too short. Thing is, there is much truth in this. Jeffery Walker’s recent untimely death from cancer and seeing the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button got me really thinking about life and death. It’s also got me thinking where startups fit into life’s equation. Life’s challenge is we only have a short time to work out what we really want from it. In many ways having a startup or fulfilling your dreams brings  self understanding, personal growth and even enlightenment.


The final words in life (Blade Runner, 1982)

Entrepreneurial stories and the movies are a great reflections of life. The alter ego fictional Fight Club character Tyler Durden said “This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.” Reflective life films and the death of someone you know creates self-reflective questions.  Are you happy living the life you live or would you rather being doing something else. Would you rather have a different job? Or desire a startup company?

“First, you have to know, not fear, know that someday you are going to die. Until you know that, you have no sense of urgency. You think you have all the time in the world to do amazing things, but you may not live to see that particular someday.” Another Tyler Durden quote

In Steve Jobs wonderful speech after surviving cancer “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”. Steve went onto repeat Breaker Morant quote, which he’s lived by since the age of 17,  “Live every day as if it were your last and then some day you’ll be right.”

I’ve found in life that when you’re doing  something new and challenging in an intense short space of time period, time  seem to slow down. Learning and keeping your experiences new and fresh is so important in life.  It brings a life full of rich and varied experiences. Paul Graham says that working in startups “seem like time slows down”. It’s because there is such an incredible amount to learn in a young company. Paul goes onto say in his great 2006 essay post The Hardest Lessons for Startups to Learn:

“..there’s nothing particularly grand about making money. That’s not what makes startups worth the trouble. What’s important about startups is the speed. By compressing the dull but necessary task of making a living into the smallest possible time, you show respect for life, and there is something grand about that.

The character Benjamin Button said “When it comes to the end you have to let it all go.” Why wait until the end when it’s too late.. We can all choose what we do with our lives, no matter what our age is. “Every passing moment is a chance to turn it all around.” Look forward and don’t dwell in the past or you will just stay there lost. We can choose to hold onto negative emotions such as fear, doubt and anger or let them go and fulfill your dreams doing something you really enjoy.

I regard making money as a boring errand to be got out of the way as soon as possible. There is nothing grand or heroic about starting a startup per se.

The challenge in life is that  we only have a short time to work out what we really want from it. Some would call the discovery of a life’s purpose or understanding as enlightenment. Wikipedia defines ‘Enlightenment broadly as wisdom or understanding enabling clarity of perception‘, ‘full comprehension of a situation’ and ‘a state of freedom from suffering, desire and ignorance’. In many ways having challenging experiences and doing something you love brings deeper self understanding and personal enlightenment.