Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

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 🙂


Startups: Keep it secret, keep it safe..

September 21, 2010

I hear this from entrepeneurs all the time: “I’m keeping my startup idea secret”.   In my opinion and that of others, don’t! Talk about your idea to almost anyone who will listen.  Everyone! Investors, entrepreneurs, friends, ex-coworkers, etc. In fact, anyone! Why? Because the more people you talk too, the more you will learn.

In Eric Karjaluoto classic post Why your web startup will fail’, Eric says: ‘No one is looking at you. No one is listening to you. Even if you create a portable fountain-of-youth, your startup’s biggest challenge will be to get anyone to pay attention. Really–it’s that hard.’ You therefore have to talk to lots of people and there’s a ton of benefits when you listen to their responses:

  1. Evolution – Others will give the idea refinement and improvement suggestions.
  2. Make better – By taking to people you will discover flaws and hopefully correct them.
  3. Learn – You’ll understand a lot more about the sector and industry you’re aiming at.
  4. Competitors – You will learn about competitive products that exist or are being built.
  5. Find needs – You will gauge people’s excitement level for the product and for various features.
  6. Practice – You’ll refine your all important sales and investor pitch.
  7. Bad idea – You might even discover your idea is a bad idea and save yourself a world of pain.

Despite the clear benefits there’s always the counter argument: “but someone will steal my idea”. In reality there are, at most, a handful of people in the world who might actually drop everything and copy your idea. Unfortunately, most people will think your idea suck’s.  However his does not mean your idea is stupid. Entrepreneurship is about seeing needs that other don’t always understand immediately. So, who’s going to copy you..?

  1. The big company employee – They or their company will steal your idea. Not likely! Their employers normally have a product in the market and its hard to change direction, particularly for big companies. They are personally in a big company because its safe. Are they really going to leave their fat paycheck for the unknown.. I doubt it!
  2. Other entrepreneurs – Most founders, who are going to build something, are already working on their project and are highly unlikely to drop everything to copy you.  Even if they are in the idea generation phase, high integrity entrepreneurs are unlikely to copy your idea.
  3. VC’s –  They will either like your idea or not. If they like it and like you enough, you’ll get funded.  VC’s prefer to fund an existing teams than taking an idea and building a team.  The team owns it! The one risk is if they have entrepreneurs workingon a similar project.  But most VCs will disclose this first and let you decide.

The handful of people in the world who might copy your idea are entrepreneurs just starting up with a very similar idea.  Don’t worry competition is good and their will always be smart founders out there with similar ideas. Remember ideas are cheap and execution is everything. Also remember, an idea changes as it grows.

Finally, the conversation moves onto the NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) – I’ll tell you if you sign an NDA”. Unfortunately this blows everything:

  1. Shows inexperience – Few experienced entrepreneurs or VCs will sign them.  Asking them to is widely considered a sign of inexperience.
  2. Consequences – There value is not clear unless you are a big company. Are you really going to spend years suing someone who signed an NDA and broke it?
  3. Time – As a startup you don’t have much time. Don’t waste it writing unnecessary documents.

Ideas grow and branch off in unexpected ways when they’re given the light of day. Don’t keep them secret to protect them. Talk to everyone who will listen and you’ll probably learn a thing or two 😉

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.

There is a fine line between entrepreneurship & insanity*

June 2, 2009

“It is true that there is a fine line between entrepreneurship and insanity. Crazy people see and feel things that others don’t. But you have to believe that everything is possible. If you believe it, those around you will believe it too.” Anita Roddick *


The Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland (Sir John Tenniel,
1865. Wood-engraving by Dalziel)

Many of my  friends think I’m as Mad as a Hatter! I gave up a well paid stable job to pursue hare brained ideas. And I continue to spend ever increasing amounts of money without return. They say, “I just don’t understand.” or “it makes no sense.” Not many people working in comfortable jobs seem to understand. They see only danger and risk. However I don’t see it as risk but as opportunity.

The academics say entrepreneurs don’t see their actions as taking risks. The entrepreneur sees their decisions as calculated judgements. “isn’t it a risk staying in your job year after year” I heard. My more sympathetic friends tell me how brave I am having a startup, especially with a young family. In fact, people have been telling me how ‘Brave’ I am for years. Like when I moved to London OR when I left a well paid job in London to go traveling for a year.  “I wish I could do that”. Well you can!! Live your dreams and don’t let fear rule you.

Are entrepreneurs mad or unstable? Is there something  more sinister lurking in the mind of startup entrepreneurs? I think not. Insanity, craziness or madness is described in Wikipedia as “the behavior whereby a person flouts societal norms and defective function of mental reasoning”. As Anita Roddick put it so well- entrepreneurship is about beliveing and seeing things that others don’t.” Its having a dream of how things can be. This is the Successful Product dream Simon, my co-founder and I are chasing with our website monitoring startup:


Understand the Risks, from Tim Berry’s
Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning

We dream of building something great! A consultancy service is less risky and brings immediate revenues but has a smaller upside. Whereas the product startup needs more time and has much greater risks but also massive potential rewards.

We can all dream of a brighter and grander future. Martin Luth King had a “dream” which is now coming to fruition. Entrepreneurs see a clear pathway into an uncertain future and are prepared to pursue that dream with vigor and determination. Doubters will only believe in entrepreneurs dream when they see it forming into reality. It just takes time before an idea starts to become real.

A final thought:There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”(Oscar Levant, 1906 – 1972). To truly create we must leave convention, the norm and even reality behind. For a while at least 😉

“You have to let it all go…fear…doubt & disbelief…Free your mind!”*

March 27, 2009

We live in uncertain times with our economies going into uncharted territory. You can feel the heightened sense of fear. Many are afraid of loosing the things they have. All of us can choose to embrace change or fight it. Change is inevitable. It is the only constant. We’ve always had the power to make change happen ourselves and fulfill our dreams. The one thing that holds us back is our own fear.


The natural dualities of Fear & Unafraid

The red light of Fear

Fear stops us doing things. We fear loss, we fear failure and we even fear success. Fear is not a bad response. It stops us getting physically hurt. But it also stops us taking risks. And without taking some risks we remain stationary. I believe over coming fear is one of the most important things in life. That is, if you want to learn and grow before you die.

Fear slowed me down

In my last employment I spend six years looking out the window. Waiting for the pay check every month. Accepting their rules in return for the money. Don’t get me wrong it was a great job but in the end it was holding me back. Stopping my creative ideas. Fear stopped me changing. I overcame that fear and now I’m on a roller coast of a ride with my startup. Change is constant. Uncertainty is guaranteed. Unfortunately there is a price to pay for this thrill ride. My hard earned life savings are rapidly dwindling. Has it been worth it? Hell, yeah.

The stuff you own, owns you

Here is a great movie quote:“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f*cking khakis.” Fight Club the movie is grotesquely violent but the point is not lost. Another has quoted on this: When we talk about fear, risk, mistakes, and losing it all, what are we really afraid of? Are we defined by the stuff we own, or would we prefer to be defined by what we accomplish and create for the world?’

Positive fear

In Pamela Slim’s short video on ‘The Upside of Fear‘ she believes fear is good for learning and growing. So when that storm cloud of fear gathers over you, don’t panic, embrace fear. This is the story of Jeffery Walker who is fighting Cancer for the 4th time. Cancer is bad… very, very bad. But Jeffery sees the good. The Cancer is changing him physically and mentally. It’s also changing many around him. When I interviewed Jeffery last year I saw a man who enjoyed every little experience and everything he saw.

Fear is self-fulfilling. The shrinks call this a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy‘. Whether we are in a recession or not, fear is a natural constant. In my experience don’t fight fear, get over it. Close your eyes. See your vision of the future and jump. Don’t hesitate or fear will have you in its grip. Good things will come, sooner or later.

Afterall, we only have one life, so live it 😉

*Matix 1999