Entrepreneurship

Book Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

This book is an easy read if you like heart-stopping entrepreneurial tales of survival against almost paralyzing odds.  The first half of the book reads really fast- it's the author's breathtaking account of his leading Loudcloud and Opsware as CEO during the 90's and surviving the 2000's-era dot com bust by going public when all his competitors were filing for bankruptcy.  The second half of the book is a compendium of "what to do in these specific scenarios", and takes a bit longer to get through. 

Meaning-Based Economy

 Icebreaker, the maker of men's and women's fashion, makes renewable, recylcable, and biodegradable merino wool clothing that also connects you to the farmer who raised the sheep- the company provides long-term contracts to the farmers to give them economic stability while raising their sheep.

Icebreaker, the maker of men's and women's fashion, makes renewable, recylcable, and biodegradable merino wool clothing that also connects you to the farmer who raised the sheep- the company provides long-term contracts to the farmers to give them economic stability while raising their sheep.

I was looking through my e-mail and found an unread blog post of one of Boulder, Colorado's most interesting and prolific investors, Brad Feld, from 2013.  A quote in it struck a chord in me.  He had written about a company he invested in called Barnanas- a dehydrated banana snack covered in chocolate that managed to make its way into Whole Foods, kind of the holy grail of stores you want to get into.

Feld made this observation about the Barnana team.

Interestingly, a majority of the Barnana team is comprised of tech guys. It seems more and more people are entering the fast growing natural foods space from other high growth industries like tech. I asked Matt why he feels natural foods world is so appealing to techies.

We are transitioning from a price based economy to a meaning based economy. Not only meaning for your customers, but meaning soup to nuts throughout the entire organization. The notion of meaning is supported across multiple verticals, from the maker revolution to local and organic foods, to the various kickstarter campaigns. It’s simple – people want meaning. And bananas.”

A meaning based economy.  I love that phrase.  I mean, people still look at prices, but we also want our product to be sustainable, we want to feel like we're connecting with the people who actually made the product, we want to feel like we've been understood by the people who created the brand, and we want to feel like we're doing good in the world by purchasing the product. 

Last night a friend gave the example of Warby Parker donating a pair of glasses to someone who needs them when you buy a pair.  This morning I read about Evrnu, a cotton-recycling company that takes discarded cotton clothes and turns them into a new fabric for re-use.  Companies are tuning into this sentiment and finding ways to do good all over, even if it arouses all our cynicism- like Wal-Mart pledging to be the biggest supplier of organic food in the world. 

I personally thought the meaning economy phrase was more like "a brand gets me".  Like my favorite company, Club Monaco's branding gets the meaning I want to convey when I wear my clothes and do my hair so I'll buy their clothes because their visuals tell the right story.  That was my narcissistic interpretation of "a meaning-based economy", which I'm sure is still legitimate, but the guy who wrote the quote was probably meaning moreso the do-good-by-purchasing-our-product kind of idea.

Either way I'm fascinated.  How do you interpret "meaning-based economy"?  What have you bought recently simply because it had meaning to you?

Next step: Now that gay marriage is legal, let's go all the way with gender issues

I wrote this manifesto last night.  It started off that I was just going to write "I fucking love immigrants" somewhere on my site- I couldn't figure out where, so I was like, "I'm just going to write a manifesto, and I'll include that in there. (I don't know why but I just love immigrants sooo much.  They've added so much to Regina over the last 30 years.)  So but the rest is good too- that's my call-to-action for the Western world.

  Carl Jung recognized that we all have the male and female principle within us.  Maybe not like this.  Maybe in a more ethereal way.   Image unattributable because it's from one of those leech sites with all those ads.

Carl Jung recognized that we all have the male and female principle within us.  Maybe not like this.  Maybe in a more ethereal way.  Image unattributable because it's from one of those leech sites with all those ads.

1.  We call for equal status for science, math, logic, and capitalism on the one hand; and mysticism, the void, spirituality and myth on the other.  In Jungianism, these two elements are the animus and the anima; the male and female principles; in the Asian tradition, the yin and yang.  They both originate in similar times and cultural contexts, and they should be rejoined together after millenia of separation.  Neither is superior to the other, nor can they operate fully without the other.  Both are needed for balance in all areas of life. 

  Copernicus was a physician who studied astrology.  The two fields have a surprising amount of overlap.   Image from Wikipedia.

Copernicus was a physician who studied astrology.  The two fields have a surprising amount of overlap.  Image from Wikipedia.

2.  We champion A) self-knowledge (inner) education for the corporate and scientific (yang) communities; and B) business and tech (outer) training for communities of a yin inclination.  Both sides need the other to be fully in touch with reality, because in both camps, our egos viciously lead us away in search of false realities, cementing our antimony.  The future of the planet depends on learning about the interior world as much as the exterior world, and vice versa.

3.  We believe that when more people practice mindfulness, and learn to apply the Enneagram, and other self-observation and self-knowledge tools, the world will be a better, healthier, and safer place.  Self-knowledge engenders leadership; emotional intelligence brings about more "presence", as opposed to reactivity and craving, which the Buddha warned against.

4.  We call for political leaders with a mindfulness and self-awareness practice instead of those who are identified with a particular party.  When self-awareness practices become mainstream, bi-partisanship can be achieved, opening us up to more creative solutions to the world's problems. 

5.  We fucking love democracy.  In the end, though, the capacity for self-awareness is going to be more radical and effective than democracy is currently. 

  New immigrants to Regina, 2013 .  Image from cbc.ca. 

New immigrants to Regina, 2013.  Image from cbc.ca. 

6.  We also fucking love: immigrants, female orgasm, the internet, entrepreneurship and venture capital, High Maintenance (although sobriety's great), Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrology, New York, LGBT, history, pictures from your vacation, sarcasm, and this.

Being Funny in Business (or at least having attitude)

Businesses with snark are fun, but you have to have actual snark.  You can't just fake being edgy because people will see right through you. 

When Dollar Shave Club came out, I was like, "You can do this??  You can have fun and run a business??"  I don't know how many times I've watched their video.  It still gets me.

Curbed media is snarky and sarcastic to the point of being rude sometimes.  The people in the comments are entitled, whiny and rude to the columnists sometimes, which is why I unsubscribed a while ago (also, too many e-mails) but they're a well-informed community, and I still get a laugh out of the articles.

curbed.jpg

Here's another shaving business- a men's barber shop that had the right attitude for their clientele.  I say "right attitude" with caution because I just mean it fits with their customer's personality.  A local barber shop here in Regina was trying to do the same thing, but limit it to men only, and a local woman complained to the Human Rights commission that it was exclusionary.  I don't know how it ended up, but let me tell you there was a lot of snark directed at her.

There are so many more good ones out there.  As someone whose approach to life has been "how do you want me to be because I'm sure I can be that way", I'm starting to ask myself, what if I was just myself?  I know it's cliche to say "be yourself", and I'm in this business of "knowing yourself", but believe it or not, I'm just starting to ask who I really am when I'm not trying to please people.  We shall see what emerges from that!



Building my Scaffolding for this Summer

 After a terrifying sail on some rough Cape Cod waters.

After a terrifying sail on some rough Cape Cod waters.

It will take a lot to top the amazingness that was the Epic Summer of 2014.  Mr. M and I spent it travelling around New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachussettes, Rhode Island, Ottawa, Maine, Cape Cod, and Martha's Vineyard. We did a lot of visiting, eating, painting, shopping, and anything that enabled us to stay cool in the summer heat.

This year will be pretty different- it will be here in Regina where I'll be doing all my writing and marketing for Science and Alchemy School.  While I can't wait to put my research hat on again, I also know I can fall into a black hole of productivity because my time will be so unstructured.  The thing about having a job is that you have a boss, deadlines, and accountability.  When you're self-employed, it's all on you to keep the wheels turning by yourself.  Nobody will care that you've slept in- in fact, they'll probably say, "Oh well, you must have needed the extra sleep."  Trust me- at 3:00 AM (when I wake up), those "friendly" words definitely drift in to your consciousness and start seducing you.  "I need more sleep!  My friend said I do!"

I've been through this massive unstructured block of time before, and what really helps to stay productive is:

1) make deadlines for yourself where you have to deliver a product or a talk.  It has to be something where if you don't meet the deadline, there's a consequence.

2) make coffee dates with fellow entrepreneurs- individually and in groups.  You want to  bounce ideas off each other. 

3) have someone working for you, or at least pretend you do.  By having someone to assign things to, you have to be thinking ahead, not just in a vague visionary sense, but in practical terms so you've got things lined up for them while they're still working on their last project. 

I'm setting up my summer "appointments" with my research assistant, fellow teachers, mentors, and fellow entrepreneurs in the next week or two, so if you'd like to be one of those people, message me. 

The future looks bright if you're not creeped out by virtual reality and dismayed by the shrinking middle class

 click on the picture to see the talk.  Start at 16:20 if you want to skip the intros.

click on the picture to see the talk.  Start at 16:20 if you want to skip the intros.

Last night I watched a great talk on what's coming down the pipes in terms of big future trends- it was such an important talk, I felt like I should be taking notes, but I was so tired, I was just trying to see if my business fit into the ten trends she listed.  Here's the talk- it starts at 16:20 if you want to skip through the introductions by Joanne Wilson and Nancy Hachinger- cofounders of the Women's Entrepreneur Festival, where this woman, Erica Orange is the guest speaker.  She's vice-president of futurist firm Weiner, Edrich, Brown.  I promise this is the best use of your time if you're a business owner, or just don't want to be taken by surprise by the future which is frankly galloping toward us an an unprecedented rate.

I couldn't get over what a lucid, confident, and sharp speaker she was.  There were so many good insights in here, it's definitely worth watching twice.  It's good to get a sense of which of her ten big trends you might fit into if you're a business owner.

I think I might fit into the trend about dealing with shrinking time.  Mindfulness can help people make the best use of their time.  I've really learned how to pay attention to the minutes ticking along in my life since I started with mindful awareness.  You get "zoned out" less doing brainless stuff like spend time on Facebook, and you can become aware of your body more, saying, "ok, I'm avoiding something important, and I know that because I just got butterflies in my stomach when I scrolled past an ad for income tax, which I'm putting off.  Let's just breathe into that..."  Mindfulness is powerful stuff.  If you really want time to slow down, be present and aware every single minute.  That's why mindfulness practice is such a pain in the butt to beginning meditators!