If you walk in with fear and anger, you’ll find fear and anger. Go into situations with what you want to find there. . . . When you worry, you’re holding pictures in your mind that you want less of. . . . What you focus upon, you become. What you focus on comes to you. So hold in your mind what you want more of.
― John-Roger Hinkins
I took a 10 days trip to Taiwan.
A personal retreat.
To hit the reset button and to start 2017 right.
It was also a good chance to take time off and do some thinking. About the company, about life, about my wife and about me.
I finished reading Shoe Dog, a memoir by the founder of NIKE and how it got started. I chanced upon the book after my colleague Iccha, who is also an avid reader, brought it to work one day.
There were many things I could relate to from the book, from Phil’s (founder) shoe sourcing adventure, mishaps, ever growing problems, love and passion for sport and family.
- Grow or die
- Your team makes or breaks the company
- We get more problems as we grow, not less
- Life, is about more than just money
- Luck matters.
If you haven’t you totally should get it.
Back to 2016, what a year. The company grew, made more money, raised more money. It also operated at higher cost, had more operating problems. We moved offices, started paying ourselves a little more decently and had a bigger team. I moved to a new place and thankfully am about to be a father as well.
All these happened in less than 10 months and while we closing last quarter, I realized I was burning out. I grew tired, everything looked bleak, profitability seems further away. I had doubts about the company. The founders made plans, we discussed about layoffs, paycut, All sorts of worst case scenario played out in my mind. We weren’t sure if we were in it till the end.
It was until the trip away that I managed to take a step back to realize what I was thinking. This article on a Medium pretty much sums up what I was thinking:
1. In life, your only opponent is yourself.
I treated everything like it was zero-sum when there was so much else to gain.
That’s the chess mindset. And it holds you back.
In Tetris, you’re only playing against time and the never-ending flow of pieces from top to bottom. The mindset is internally focused — you are challenging yourself to correctly manipulate a random stream of inputs into an orderly configuration. There’s no final boss. No blame to assign.
The real game of life is completely internal. There really are no big, bad enemies who exist to make you suffer. There is no absolute right or wrong move that a certain opponent can punish.
I realized it was internal, it was fear. Fear has been rearing his ugly head. Fear got me thinking that we will run out of money and close. Fear got me think about quitting, even though we still had a product people were paying for.
This is what we learnt. Tests started with a maximum score of 100 and points were deducted for every wrong answer. If tests started at zero and awarded points for every correct answer, we would be encouraged to continue doing better. Instead, we learn to fear mistakes and point them out in others.
Startups start at zero and earn points along the way. We expand our strengths instead of minimize our weaknesses. There is no maximum score. Steady progress, not expected outcome, is the measuring stick.
via A manager’s FAQ
We started with almost nothing and we’ve created a product that is shipping by the thousands every month. Fear is a good motivator, and it should feel like a driving force but I’ve let fear stopped me from moving forward.
Steady progress, is what I should be doing. Sure, BG may have to course-correct along the way, but we should always be moving with a purpose. I should always be moving with the purpose, and that purpose is to build and create value, whatever it may be, and it should be an enjoyable process that makes me feel alive.
“When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is—you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman. Maybe it will grow on me. THERE”
― Phil Knight,
Also counting our blessings that we are better than where we are a year ago financially but there’s still a lot more to be done.
People makes the company, not the other way around.
When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” – Sir Ray Avery
The average age people live up to is 82 years old, and even that is not guaranteed.
Amidst all the media coverage, not all is bright and rosey behind the scene. (Still appreciate the support from everyone though!)
Spent the week in the KL office and realized there is still so much work needed to get business off the ground (lack of revenue, market exposure, hiring fit, managing people out, growth, you name it).
So while I was waiting for the flight back to SG, I fired up Pocket (an app for saving articles offline for later reading) and found a god-sent article buried deep in the list of articles that I’ve saved. Extract and link below.
TLDR: Take away the spotlight, tune out the noise and get back to the grind.
“while building and iterating on Justin.tv (long before launching Socialcam), there were many times I came to the brink of packing it up and moving on from the company that bears my name. Shameful? Perhaps, but I know the same thoughts have occurred at times to my co-founders, who are still with the company to this day.
The reasons? Take your pick: we need more traction, we need hockey-stick growth, we need more revenue, we need more buzz, we argue about management issues, we have diverging interests. In the past five years I have personally experienced all the startup failure cliches that exist.
When startups commit suicide, often the root problem can be traced back to a lack of product traction — it’s rare to find people willingly quitting companies with exploding metrics. But one thing that many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that patience and iteration are critical in achieving product market fit. Overnight successes might happen fast, but they never actually happen overnight.
Persistence isn’t just key — it is everything. Getting in the ring is hard, but staying in the ring is even harder, especially when you feel beaten down, tired and alone.
I can’t promise you will succeed if you stick with your startup. What I can promise is that if you give up, you won’t possibly succeed.”
This weekend I went on my very first business seminar on business/personal development by Kane Minkus of Industry RockStar. This business coaching seminar aims to helps budding Entrepreneurs walk through some of the business hurdles around branding, sales and marketing.
The two and a half day session was jam packed with information and networking with other business owners. Kane had great stage presence and was very relatable , given he has started over 30 businesses and brought 5 of them to over million dollars in revenue. I’ve met art directors, entrepreneurs who have started SaaS businesses and Qigong masters in the seminar.
I’ll quote an extract from his book “Industry Rockstar: Become A Highly Paid, High Profile Person In Your Industry” :
MYTH: The more degrees you have, the more money you make.
There are two types of education: traditional education (university, college and so on) and results-based education. Results-based education is an education that thrives on the amount of real results that you have from that education. Examples of this would be any workshop, seminar, training, or training with coaches and consultants whose job is to have you achieve goals, outcomes, intents and results.
Traditional education is great – but it only gets you so far before you require other skills, especially when it comes to succeeding in business. The most important thing you can have to accelerate your results is to surround yourself with people who are genuinely successful in the fields you want to play in – and play at the top.
One very great secret we were let in on early on, from a top executive mentor of ours, was: “Always partner with best in class”. If you want to be successful you need to be around those that are doing it and are able to teach it. This combination is important.
Often the most highly-paid people in the world are actually sales people, not academics. I have stopped being surprised to find out how many successful people have no degrees, struggled in school or have no formal education in the area in which they are working.
However, they have the most important form of experience: logged hours on their passion, self-education, and results with real customers and clients.
There is actually no official connection between being book-smart and how much money you can make in business. In fact, some of the smartest and most successful people in the world dropped out of school or made their own way from a traditional education.
Traditional education is great, but alone, it is not enough. I am an education junkie. I still research, learn, seek out mentors and attend workshop after workshop, because I love to learn and apply what I learn.
But I also know it is in the application in the real world where it all makes the difference. (I realize that for some technical professions – like medicine, etc. – that traditional education is essential. I’m merely talking about the success rate of the business).
What “Success” is, is determined by each individual of course. However, a business is in business for a profit – so a more successful business creates more profit. It’s like saying a surgeon is a surgeon to save lives – therefore a more successful surgeon will save more lives.
I have coached or trained some of the most brilliant people on Earth (some of which you would know by name) who were financially struggling, broke, or frustrated that they weren’t making more money considering how smart they were… which is further proof that there is no connection between wealth and smarts. It might seem that way, because it would be logical that the more you educate yourself the more money you make. However, in my years of working with people all over the planet, I have met super smart, broke people, super uneducated, rich people and everyone in between.
We do draw a correlation between willingness to take emotional risks and wealth, however.
Successful people follow the new laws, mindset and techniques of business. They are willing to take the emotional risks necessary to succeed.
Do we encouragetraditional education? Of course! Being educated can’t hurt you.
However, if you think that being more educated will equal more money, then you are someone that has bought into the traditional mindset, and you will only be able to use that when getting a higher paid job.
The downside is that you will always have aceiling on how much someone is willing to pay you to work for their company. This book is not about how to be smarter at what you do; this book is about how to build the structure around your already smart-enough brain so you have a money machine that sells your smartness. Being smart with no business structure is like pouring water through your hand – it will all seep out onto the floor.
Pretty interesting hur?
It was also my first time being introduced to Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) – which is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California, United States in the 1970s.
NLP is basically a connection between the neurological processes (“neuro”), language (“linguistic”) and behavioral patterns learned through experience (“programming”) and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life.
On a side note, I’ve been thinking over the last couple of months I’ve actually met up with quite a number of entrepreneurs, sharing my journey and information on how I ran my business and it seems like I have a passion to meet and share my wisdom of people. The field of coaching/consulting/mentoring definitely has some appeal to me. It certainly sounds like this is a service business that could benefit people. *lightbulb moment*
Well, the big takeaway apart from the content of the seminar is to take action, starting today.
I have discovered a little bit more about myself. What about you? 🙂