With the right temperature and a little wet snow, anyone can make a snowball, but my friend Jimmy makes them all day, everyday, in sunny San Diego.
I had another excellent call with Jimmy and a potential client today. After the call, a light bulb went on and I realized what makes Jimmy such a great entrepreneur.
He only thinks in snowball.
Every component of every deal has the capability to snowball. Everything has high probability growth potential. I can’t ever remember Jimmy discussing a deal by saying, “that’s what we’ll sell. That’s that and we’ll move on to the next deal.”
It’s always designed to snowball.
But here’s the key. The snowball isn’t just for Jimmy, it’s for the clients too. He is a master at layering snowballs. Many deals involve three or four parties and Jimmy is particularly skilled at identifying each party’s needs; what they want and what they can give up without much pain. He sees multi-faceted win-wins like a Grand Master chess player sees so many moves ahead. And then he authentically articulates these win-wins so the clients see them too, which makes the sale that much easier.
How do I know Jimmy will be successful?
Eventually, a bunch of layered snowballs create an avalanche.
Launching today (they just opened the doors a couple hours ago….if you hurry, there should still be doughnuts and coffee), Untemplater is a unique site that helps you shatter the template lifestyle.
Unlike similar sites and books (like Tim Ferris’ The Four Hour Work Week) Untemplater isn’t a retrospective of someone who escaped and is now looking back and telling you how they did it.
They are, in their own words:
…real people who are in the trenches, working hard to live the life that we want to live. It’s not easy, nor is it glamorous. Untemplater was founded by six twentysomethings who’ve done it: Jun Loayza, Adam Baker, Cody McKibben, Monica O’Brien, Carlos Miceli, and Andrew Norcross. You’ll see our pain, struggles, successes, and failures as we create an existence that we are proud of and enjoy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
We are MBAs; we are husbands, wives, and fathers; we are scrappy entrepreneurs, authors, and freelancers. We live all over the globe. We’re a small group of unconventional folks who hope to build a thriving community for anyone who ever sought more out of life—and we hope to help you learn how to sidestep the traditional life to find the career, relationships, and lifestyle that makes you come alive!
I’ve never been very good at golf. I’ve always played different sports and I could usually pick them up fairly easily and be adequate without a great deal of practice.
I would play a couple times a year. My friends would call when their 4th player canceled or they were desperate. They knew I was a hack and was likely to spend as much time in the woods as on the fairways.
I recently decided I wanted to get better at golf. My uncle John talked very highly of a golf instructor on Long Island named Victor Romano. John insisted that if I was serious about improving, that I drive out to Long Island and take lessons with Victor.
Victor is a wizard. In the matter of only a few lessons, he has helped my swing immensely and has fixed some major flaws. I still have a long way to go but I’m starting to see improvements.
Victor has a metaphor for golf improvement he calls “moving the bell curve”.
The metaphor is one of a 100 golf shots. Every swing a golfer takes, they reach into this metaphorical bucket and take out a ball. Ball #1 is the best shot they could possibly hit that day, given their skill level. Ball #100 is the worst. Plot those 100 shots and you get a representative bell curve of that golfer’s current skill level.
When you’re starting out, the bell curve is very wide. The #1 shot is probably OK and the #100 shot might be a complete whiff.
As you gets slightly better, the #1 – 5 shots are quite a bit better but the worst #90 – #100 shots are still embarrassing shanks.
As you continue to improve, the #1 – #5 shots get even better, the medium shots get a little better and the worst shots aren’t quite as bad but #99 and #100 are probably still ones you would rather forget.
This is true for me and it’s true for you and it’s true for Tiger Woods. When Tiger Woods shoots a 76 (a terrible day for him), he hit some of the worst shots possible on his bell curve.
After working with Victor, my best shot (my #1) is almost as good as Tiger’s worst shot (his #100). That means the best shot I can hit out of 100 is comparable to the worst shot Tiger Woods hits.
The point of Victor’s metaphor is this.
Golfers always make excuses for the way they played a certain hole or a certain round. If they shot a great score on the front nine but played poorly on the back nine, they blame it on exhaustion or the fact that it was getting dark. If they hit a huge slice into the pond, they blame it on the fact that they pulled their head or that new wedge that they just haven’t figured out yet.
Their skill level is at a certain point. On a bad day, they hit more balls from the higher end of their bell curve.
The purpose of practice, in golf and many other endeavors, is to move the bell curve.
Chris Brogan and Seth Godin write new blog posts every day. Some posts are better than others but their last 100 are significantly better than their first 100. Through practice, over time, they have dramatically moved their blog quality bell curve. Following their lead, that’s what I’m trying to do as well.
Pick a skill in your business or personal life, what is your #1 ball? What is your #100?
I’m a huge fan of the team over at 37 Signals. They bleed simple brilliance. David Heinemeier Hansson gave one of my favorite talks ever at Startup School 08 and in May, Jason Fried delivered another gem at Big Omaha 2009.
Everyone should make time to watch Jason’s video, but if you can’t carve out 20 minutes my summary is below.
Failure is not cool
The phrase “fail early, fail often” is overused. Failure is actually not necessary. Failure is not a character-building thing and it’s not a prerequisite to success. Focus on the things that are going right and parlay that.
Planning is overrated.
Business plans are just guesses. You can’t predict what’s going to happen. What matters is what you’re doing right now. You know more about something after you’re done with it.
Interruption is the enemy of collaboration.
A big open loft space does not necessarily mean more collaboration and higher productivity. With so many interruptions, workdays become work moments.
Try this in your company or department. Every Thursday, nobody can talk to each other. Email and IM and other tools are fine but no talking. See if it’s the most productive day that week. Or that month.
You create valuable byproducts.
When you make something, you make something else. We are all making byproducts.
When building houses, the sawdust created from all the lumber was initially thought of as waste. Then, people found multiple useful applications for it and it ended up being a valuable byproduct, sold for money.
When 37 Signals built Basecamp, the byproduct was Ruby on Rails and they didn’t even know it at the time.
Sometimes the valuable byproduct is knowledge.
Share like a chef.
Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay. They share what they do on TV. They tell you exactly what ingredients they use and show you step-by-step how to do what they do. If you want to do it at home, you can buy their cookbook for a fraction of the cost of a single meal.
This doesn’t make them less money, it makes them more. More people know about them. More people buy the cookbooks. More people eat at the restaurants.
Traditional business thinking would shut down this blatant sharing of intellectual capital.
The best thing you can do is share your knowledge.
What is your cookbook? Publish it. It helps you…
Build an audience.
Every company has customers. Great companies have fans. At the least, you need an audience.
90,000 people read the 37 Signals blog everyday. It takes time to build but it doesn’t cost them a penny to reach this large captive audience.
Focus on the things that don’t change.
What are the core, important things in your business that don’t change?
Amazon invests in distribution. Shipping. Customer service. Price. These things will be important to their business in 10 years.
37 Signals makes web-based software. They focus on making it fast, easy and usable. It may not be sexy but that is what will be important to their business in 10 years.
Ideas are immortal. Inspiration is perishable.
We all have ideas. Ideas are immortal.
Inspirations however, are like fresh fruit or milk. They are very perishable. If you’re lucky enough to be inspired, do it. Do it now. The most energy you’ll ever have about an idea is at the beginning. You can’t sustain it.
Thanks to Jason and the whole crew over at 37 Signals. Keep leading, guys.
Think the deadlines you’ve been given are unrealistic?
Imagine working for NASA 41 years ago and John F. Kennedy telling you to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to earth.
Most of the 40th anniversary coverage has focused on the success and wonder of the historic event, and rightfully so, but in a new and thrilling book, Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, author Craig Nelson outlines the full story, the good and the bad, of the space and missile race.
Some nuggets you may not have known: (directly from Rocket Men)
– The thirty-story-high Apollo 11-Saturn V spaceship had over 6 million parts, which meant that under NASA’s rigorous instance of 99.9% reliability, as many as 6,000 could fail.
– The nearly 1 million spectators who began gathering at Cape Kennedy for launch on July 16th, 1969, were kept at least 3.5 miles away from the pad because, in an explosion, hundred-pound chunks of shrapnel would be hurled in a 3-mile radius with 4/5 the power of an atomic bomb.
– When President Kennedy proposed a moon landing within a decade as the most effective way to take the lead in the space race after the shocking Soviet achievements of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin’s first manned orbit, even NASA’s most zealous engineers were aghast.
– The astronauts’ final breakfast on earth was steak and eggs. Why? Low in fiber and low in waste.
– The lunar samples brought back to earth by the Apollo missions revealed the moon’s origins.
– NASA designers had neglected to place a handle on the Eagle’s outside door, which meant that Armstrong and Aldrin had to make sure to leave it open while they walked on the Moon.
– When Neil Armstrong was asked by a reporter what one extra item he would take with him, his dry humor shone through. “More fuel.”
These and more amazing details are revealed in Rocket Men as Craig Nelson takes the reader inside the journey that changed the world. I highly recommend this book to not only space geeks and history buffs but anyone who wants a deeper look into the story behind the first Moon landing.
[Disclosures: I know the author Craig Nelson well and consider him a good friend. The link above is an Amazon affiliate link.]
Don’t listen to all the people who tell you what you need.
You don’t need a million dollars in funding.
You don’t need a fancy building.
You don’t need a high-foot traffic spot on just the right corner.
You don’t need expensive ads.
You don’t need a celebrity spokesperson.
You don’t need neon signs.
Last night, on the recommendation of @JamesFowlkes, we went for some authentic Philly cheesesteaks at Dallesandro’s, the legendary dive located on a nondescript corner in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia.
The pictures below tell Allessandro’s story. They have all they need:
Polite but quick
Seven barstools and some haphazard card tables and folding chairs (it was nice so we took our sandwiches to the grassy field across the street)
A delicious (oversized) cheesesteak.
The Zagat sign is from 2000-2001 but as we waiting for our order, we talked to the people in line next to us. The woman hadn’t been to Dallessandros for 40 years and was thrilled to be back.
They usually have a line out the door and make money hand over greasy fist. If they wanted to expand, they certainly could have but they decided to stay small, which is fine.
Bigfoot, the Easter Bunny and a funny e-card walk into a bar…
I hate greeting cards. There, I said it. They just simply don’t have the right tone. Funny comes out corny. Serious is almost always off the mark. Have you ever been moved or changed by any card off the rack at the drugstore or Target? Laughed so hard you cried?
I didn’t think so.
E-cards aren’t much better. Since the first e-cards with flashing candles and jumping cartoon elephants, 99% haven’t evolved much.
Enter someecards.com. Admittedly, these cards aren’t for everyone, but that’s precisely what makes them great. If the bitingly sarcastic humor looks familiar, it is. someecards.com was co-founded by a team that includes Brook Lundy, a former writer for The Onion. The company’s tagline is a self-deprecating poke at Hallmark: “when you care enough to hit send”.
In a historically tough business, they became profitable back in 2007. In April of 2008, they raised $350K from Betaworks and angel investor Chris Sacca. To increase revenue, someecards.com is now rolling out video e-cards and incorporating branded advertising on cards with popular shows like Weeds and Bridezilla.
By being willing to be on the edge, someecards has created a product that people talk about. Ideas that spread, win and someecards designed a remarkable product that by it’s very nature, is something that spreads.
Viral is built in. Because the cards are remarkable, every customer becomes an involuntary salesperson simply by using the product.
I was recently at my annual guys’ weekend with my brothers and a bunch of our college friends. To combat the inevitable 72 hour deviation from anything resembling a healthy diet, my friend Scott and I ran a 3.5 mile loop two of the three mornings.
Scott was looking trim and in shape (and was running circles around me), so I asked if he had been running or working out a lot lately. His response was worth repeating here.
He said that instead of the traditional New Year’s resolution of “losing weight” or “exercising more”, he made a specific goal of running five sanctioned road races in 2009, with a minimum length being a 5K and the goal of one of them being (at least) a half-marathon.
Pretty specific, huh?
If he trained more often, the races would be easier. If he procrastinated and didn’t train, the races would be hell.
So far, Scott has only run one of his five races but because he knows there are four more coming, he keeps making time to train and keep in shape.
As Zig Ziglar would say, are you a “meaningful specific” or a “wandering generality”?
The right article in the right magazine in the right industry at the right time.
The unexpected presentation that wows everyone at the conference and has them buzzing for weeks.
The right licensing deal with the right partner.
The perfect product launch (getting on Oprah might be easier).
The right investment at the right time from just the right investor.
The YouTube video that makes you a household name. Overnight.
You don’t get many magic moments in the life of your business, although some people put themselves in position for way more than others. That old saying, “the harder I work, the luckier I get” is more true than not. Magic moments don’t follow Steve Jobs around. He creates them.
Sometimes, magic moments aren’t so obvious. Will you recognize your magic moment when it happens? Will you be prepared?
Most importantly, what are you doing today to increase the likelihood of it happening?