Archive for the ‘entrepreneur in training’ Category
You wake up one morning to the sound of birds chirping outside of your window at 4:45am, roll over for a few more hours, then decide to get out of bed because you can’t sleep anymore and it’s barely 8am on a Sunday morning.
This, my friends, is a sign that you’re an adult.
My husband and I progress through life at lightning speed. Rarely is there an evening or a weekend when we aren’t playing, hustling, or catching up on housework so that our neighbors don’t hate us. There’s a word I like to use to describe our life, and it’s a word that’s somewhere between the sound of a 20-something treading water and ambitious, driven, have-it-all-figured-out adults. And lately I’ve been more of the first one than the latter.
But what does ambition look like?
Over the past few weeks, there have been three blog posts and articles that I’ve read that are musings around the word “ambition” and what it looks like for different people.
The first by Deena Varshavskaya, the founder and CEO of Wanelo. In her post, Startup CEOs, Stop Acting Like Victims, she is shouting at all of the other startup CEOs who to stop looking for pity about the journey that they have chosen. Let’s face it, if you’ve chosen to have an idea and bring it to life, you’ve chosen a very risky, hard life because you can’t see yourself doing anything but chasing that dream. Get on the ambition train or get off of it.
The second two articles were lists of rules about things to do and not to do, courtesy of what each author has learned in the past. The first list, 27 Dos and Don’ts for Being a Badass Woman, is by Justine Musk, a writer who blogs for creatives. And the second list, 20 Things I Should Have Known at 20, is by Julien Smith, a bestselling author who writes about the digital space. Both lists are rules that have a lot to do with looking back, reflecting, and moving forward. (more…)
In college, my screenwriting professor said that down in LA, every other person has a screen play in their back pocket. In these days of the hipster generation, I’d say that every other person has a startup, a side-project, or even a business that they’re working on in their spare time. And in tech communities like Seattle, I’d say that’s every person.
Ideas are everywhere. And the Internet makes it so easy to turn a ‘hobby’ into a business.
Are you a habitual side project starter?
You are full of ideas. You look at the world and problems that need fixing. And you know exactly how to do it.
You think up new projects and jump on them. When you start, it’s like you’ve caught a fever — you brainstorm, purchase the domain name, snag the Twitter handle, and tell everyone you know about what you’re working on. You can’t be stopped.
But then it happens again. You get a new idea and it’s better than the one before. You place your current project on hold or abandon it entirely.
The cycle repeats itself.
Question, are you jumping from project to project, because:
- You haven’t found that ‘one’ project that you really, really, really want to focus on?
- You believe that you can work on every single project at the same time (or switch as you follow your folly)?
- You don’t have the confidence that any of your ideas are ‘good enough’ to succeed?
Stop juggling side projects. Commit.
Projects, like goals, are most successful when you focus on one or two at a time. That way you can make an honest, full-blown effort at seeing one of those ideas through before choosing to go all the way or jump ship.
You need to specialize and focus on one project at a time. It’s why top companies focus their entire business on one thing, either having the best price, the best quality product, or the best service than anyone else in their industry. It’s why Zappos is known for great customer service, Southwest Airlines for price, and Apple for product (though the fan boys do help).
If you juggle too many projects at one time, you’re bound to drop one or keep them in the air at half mast. And multitasking may be bad for your brain.
If you’re constantly starting new projects, stop. Pick one and start working on it. Follow your curiosity and see where it goes. It might be everything you hoped it would be or it might be an utter failure. If it’s the latter, then scrap it and move on to the next one.
You may be surprised by what happens when you focus.
Photo credit: ryantron.
Every once in a while you get a tweet from someone in response to something you wrote – and then they write about it.
Remember Sunday’s post, How to be a Hipster, in response to the New York Times article, ‘Generation Sells’? Today, Monica Guzman published an article on GeekWire and yours truly was quoted. (Yippee!)
The article is awesome as it carries the conversation about the ‘entrepreneurial generation’ one step further as Monica interviewed a number of startup founders and small business owners about how they have used social media to build an “one giant cocktail party” that’s helped them build a community of people who will help them launch their business by evangelizing their product.
That’s one party I’m excited to attend. Every single day.
You should read Monica’s article: You’re selling yourself, and that’s OK: Welcome to the entrepreneurial generation.
Last week’s most provocative and amusing thoughts were made possible by the letter “H,” specifically of the “hipster” variety.
The Hipsterfication of America
That’s right, hipsters are among us and as the NPR article, The Hipsterfication of America, declared, “Hipsterishness is a state of mind.” From the NPR article:
The Urban Dictionary defines hipsters as “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s who value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”
According to this article, you might be a hipster if:
- You are authentic in your passions.
- You know “how to make the cheap chic, the disheveled dishy, the peripheral preferable.”
- You come in all stripes and all political persuasions.
- You are any age (“Not everyone who is hip is young, and not everyone who is young is hip,” though hipsterism is most prevalent in people born between the late ’70s and the mid-’90s, more or less)
- You live anywhere, from the urban metropolises to small towns in middle America.
This first article is, among other things, hilarious and informative. When I read it last Friday on the bus I was two breaths away from a serious case of the LMAO IRL in front of every other commuter. It took a deep look at the anatomy of a hipster and described that being a hipster is not about fashion and riding fixies but about how you see the world and your role in it. As a friend of mine pointed out on Twitter – we all have a degree of hipster in us.
You should read it.
The Hipster Entrepreneur Generation
Generation Sell or The Entrepreneur Generation, which appeared in The New York Times last weekend, went one step beyond just looking at the sociological tendencies of hipsters but figuring out what motivates them as a generation with regards to work. William Deresiewicz sums it up in these two paragraphs (bold is my own):
Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business. Every artistic or moral aspiration — music, food, good works, what have you — is expressed in those terms.
Call it Geneartion Sell.
Bands are still bands, but now they’re little businesses, as well: self-produced, self-published, self-managed. When I hear from young people who want to get off the careerist treadmill and do something meaningful, they talk, most often, about opening a restaurant. Nonprofits are still hip, but students don’t dream about joining one, they dream about starting one. In any case, what’s really hip is social entrepreneurship — companies that try to make money responsibly, then give it all away. . . . Our culture hero is not the artist or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur.
I personally love this opinion piece. I am psyched to be part of a generation of entrepreneurs who are either starting their own businesses or are living as an entrepreneur-from-within, full of drive and passion to be an indispensable part of building an organization.
But all of us were not pleased with this new label.
Some of us grabbed onto the title of the NYT piece and got, for lack of a better word, defensive over our generation being labeled as one who is only interested in “selling.” For example, Justin Kan wrote this article on TechCrunch called Generation Make, which some of the most passionate entrepreneur-millennials that I know rallied behind.
The funny thing is both Generation Sell and Generation Make make the same argument, but use different words.
Why Hipsters Hate Being Labeled by People Other than Themselves
First off, it was incredibly bold of Deresiewicz to declare that the generation of hipsters and business starters are only motivated by one thing – selling. As someone who as dreams of starting her own business, making the first sale is not what’s on my mind right now, creating my business is. And even though if you want to start a business or a startup (perhaps that’s really what got these tech kids all bent out of shape – being lumped into a pile of “small business” starters, not “start-uppers”) – the question you need to answer before you launch is how you’re going to make your first $100,000.
We know that. We know that we can’t start a business based on free love, gold stars, and accolades from our friends about how cool we are just to be doing what we’re doing. Yes, we know we have to sell if we expect there to be a second quarter and a celebration of making it the first year. But that’s not what motivates us. What motivates us is our passion and our drive to make it happen.
What motivates us is exactly what Kan described:
We are a generation of makers. A generation of creators. Maybe we don’t have the global idealism of the hippies. Our idealism is more individual: that every person should be able to live their own life, working on what they choose, creating what they choose. If you want to build a company to change the world, go for it. If you want to be an independent knife maker, what is stopping you?
We follow our passions. If we do it as a business, then we can create the ability to support ourselves doing what we love, and with some measure of security and autonomy that no institution is going to grant us. The Millennial path to self-actualization is the individual path, each man to create it for himself.
It’s more than just selling or making or creating. It’s about thinking beyond each step and thinking about our idea, our life, and our business in a sustainable way instead of through a single transaction. It’s a feeling that every single person who is part of this generation feels but doesn’t need to explain because it is who we are.
It’s a hipster state of mind.
Update: This blog post was quoted in Monica Guzman’s article on GeekWire: You’re selling yourself, and that’s OK: Welcome to the entrepreneurial generation.
Photo Credit: another.point.in.time
Back in August, I read Michael Karnjanaprakorn’s blog post, How to Launch Your Startup Idea for Less than $5K. I don’t know much about his startup and his company, but I love the approach he took to launching, mainly the following points:
Start with small ideas
“Entrepreneurs should start with small ideas and learn how to execute those ideas.” – Mike Karnjanaprakorn
Yes, we know you want to take over the world. But in order to do that, you need to start by taking over your local metropolitan precinct. So do that and prove to us that you can. Start small, kick ass, and then move to conquering the bigger fish in the sea.
Test small first, then grow bigger.
Just do It
“The secret behind launching your startup idea is to always move the ball forward on your ideas through execution. “– Mike Karnjanaprakorn
Strategizing how you’re going to take over the world is one thing, but let’s be honest here, strategy is a bunch of hot air. You are nothing unless you ship, unless you launch, unless you do. So “do something,” and show exactly what you’re up to.
Ask for feedback, specifically, will it work or will it fail?
“Once I convinced myself this was an idea I’d like to pursue, I asked a dozen really smart people I knew what they thought about the idea with a small twist. Rather than asking them if they liked it, I asked them why the idea wouldn’t work, why it would fail, and why I shouldn’t work on it.” – Mike Karnjanaprakorn
When we have a great idea that’s burning in the back of our heads, it’s easy to ask our friends, mentors, and allies, “What do you think?” but it’s incredibly hard to ask, “Do you think it will work or how do you think it will fail,” that, my dear friends, is a whole other beast of a question and I love it.
In summary, when it comes to testing if you have a viable business and idea, start small, be strategic, and get specific feedback that will help you along the way.
What feedback would you give to an entrepreneur in training?
Photo Credit: justmakeit
You are currently browsing the archives for the entrepreneur in training category.