There are no rules in business or entrepreneurship. Anyone that tells you otherwise is either lying, has no idea what they’re talking about, or is just about to pitch you their "How to succeed in business" e-course.
It's not a bad thing to learn from those who have gone before you, but it's more a matter of applying their knowledge abstractly instead of mimicking it.
Success isn't an if/then statement and if it was, everyone would start successful businesses simply by copying the first successful person's blueprint. The only direct path to getting anywhere in business is by doing lots of (good) work, and even that doesn't guarantee anything.
So many of us have this vision of starting a business, making six-figures with just a blog and then becoming a location-independent minimalist who takes photos of the 18.5 items they own. (There are lots of coffee shops and conferences somehow involved as well.)
I've ran with dozens of business ideas. But I couldn't teach you a thing about entrepreneurialism that'd be worth a damn, other than "stop thinking, stop learning, start doing". Do this before you feel you are ready. Do this before the idea is perfect. And then keep doing that until what you're doing actually works out. If it works out. It might not.
There have been wins and losses for me. Both have been great, even if I thought the losses weren't great at the time. The wins have been sweeter because they were on my own terms. The losses made sense eventually because I failed at trying things my way.
I learned each time that there's no magic in "making it", you've just got to keep throwing darts at a board and hoping one lands in the middle (and subsequently, doesn't fall out). Formulas work on spreadsheets and chalkboards, but rarely do they work in real life.
If you do things your own way, people will potentially call your ideas stupid. This either means you're onto something, or that they are in fact, stupid. But you won't know the answer until you've actually tested them. The world is also full of stupid ideas that have turned into gold mines (case in point: circular robots that vacuum).
I can guarantee you that decades ago if you told someone you wanted to start a company that sold water in bottles for far more money that it cost to simply pour a glass from the tap, most people would have called your idea stupid. Or that later, you were planning to sell stainless steel bottles to hold water because people didn't like the environmental impact of those plastic bottled waters. Stupid can make serious bank.
Times change. Paradigms shift. Markets are created or destroyed faster than we can blink. Perhaps I’ll start selling an e-course on how to stop listening to advice from successful online entrepreneurs...
There are no rules. And even if it seems like there are, they can change before you have a chance to put them into practice.
Make your own. Or make none at all.
Without the financial resources of private or government funds, the non-profit space has often been seen as a laggard when it comes to the adoption and creation of new technology. But as more startups launch as mission driven businesses and online activism continues to rise, we're going to see rapid advances in how tech affects the social impact space. The following is just a tiny glimpse into some of the categories you should be paying attention to, and hopefully becoming a patron of.
Money isn't everything
Many non-profits believe they can squeeze more efficiency out of your dollars than they can out of your time/stuff, but technology is rapidly changing the logistics around giving. ZealousGood is a prime example of how an intermediate organization can reduce a lot of the workload for donor and recipient.
While donation centers are a great place to find inexpensive goods and at the same time contribute to causes, it's difficult for them to manage the cost of sifting through items that have value versus things that are going to be thrown in the trash. Companies like ZealousGood help match up both sides of this marketplace BEFORE any of the transportation takes place, thus wasting less of everyone's time. You mark down what you have, causes mark down what they need, and voila, waste is minimized.
Although Kickstarter has essentially become THE verb for crowdfunding, the reality is that the market has exploded with hyper-specific platforms that will suit cause related endeavors more effectively.
Their communities may be smaller, but tapping into more niche marketplaces can help increase conversion and the chance of social sharing. Just to name a few: Crowdrise excels at disaster response fundraising, GiveForward helps people with medical expenses, and ioby focuses on localized, citizen-driven projects.
Outsourcing done right
Unlike the sweatshops we hear about across the world, networks like Samasource help bring labor to people in desperate need of work, at a fair price. For-profit and non-profit organizations alike often waste a lot of time and money working on tasks that they can't possibly scale effectively. This means budgets aren't being used effectively and core-competancies aren't getting enough attention. Microworkers are a powerful solution and Samasource specifically is mission driven compared to some of the other options out there.
Pairing Social Good with Daily Habits
You'll notice that at the bottom of every Fearless post there's now a CentUp button. It's similar to the Facebook "Like," except it lets you show appreciation for content with a small donation instead of just a social media share. Whenever you make a contribution via CentUp (here or elsewhere) half the money will go to your favorite charity, and half will go to the author of the post. Fearless has opted to give its half to the amazing organization: Pencils of Promise. So please show some love! (Disclosure: I am one of the founders of CentUp)
Much like Newman's Own, Warby Parker or TOMS Shoes have done offline, the internet has made it very easy to spend our money or time on things that simultaneously do good for the world. CentUp is among many other platforms that help migrate everyone's digital experience towards positive action. Be sure to also check out SocialGoodNetwork which helps you easily spend money with charitable retailers, and GoodSearch which rewards charities when you search for things you want online.
What technology have you seen in the last year that has helped spur social good?
The Green World Campaign mourns with the people of Kenya and the world the slaughter of the innocent. That this terrible, still-unfolding event occurred on the International Day of Peace--a day devoted to, as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes, "teaching our children the value of tolerance and mutual respect"--is bitter, heartbreaking irony. People everywhere are working in so many ways to overcome, through compassion and brave opposition, the forces of ignorance that tear at the fabric of the world. Planting trees in Kenya is one way we daily strive to make tangible the inevitable triumph of hope over fear. Among those senselessly killed in a Nairobi shopping mall was the Ghanian poet Kofi Awoonor, whose words--words rooted deeply in African soil, yet transcendent of cultural chauvinism--will never be silenced. Mr. Awoonor's poems mourned the despoiling of the world venerated by traditional cultures, a world where nature and humanity were intricately and creatively entwined: "On this dirty patch/a tree once stood/shedding incense on the infant corn/its boughs stretched across a heaven/brightened by the last fires of a tribe..." In another poem, he wrote, "There was a tree which died in the desert/Birds came and built their nests in it." We dedicate our programs to "ReGreen the World" to this eternal ethos of life succeeding death--planting trees that will serve as shelter and sustenance, growing tall as living symbols of harmony and regeneration, restoring land and communities. The dark era of unthinking, unfeeling, even normative malice--against each other, against nature--has reached its culminating dead-end. The terrifying body of ignorance may yet writhe, but its frantic motions are the last throes of a way of being and doing on the wrong side of history. Whether capitalist or socialist, Muslim or Christian, no matter what compass points we hail from, we today know we bear a tender responsibility for each other's thriving, and for the fragile beauty of the planet we share. In Kenya, people use the Swahili rallying cry harambee! to join together for a greater good. Let us all affirm harambee as we redouble our efforts to create the peaceful, green world that is humanity's only true destiny.
- Marc Barasch
Green World Campaign
A couple of years ago, I was reacting to some news of factory worker suicides and I started thinking about how I could better avoid buying products made by underpaid workers working in unsafe conditions. Oh, and I guess while I was at it, how could I better know if a product had a smaller carbon footprint and was free of lead paint and whatever else I needed to watch out for.
Suddenly, I flashed back to those old "Buy American" ad campaigns and thought, "oops." Looking back it seemed to me that those campaigns not only failed in their mission to protect American jobs but we failed to consider all the ramifications of shipping so much American production offshore.
We not only lost jobs. We lost control, and every day we see companies and individuals trying to regain a sense of control with apps, new certifications and corporate promises.
There's an "app" I use that provides some assurance that a product was made in a way that supports:
1. A smaller carbon footprint,
2. The rebuilding of the economy and jobs for my community,
C. Keeping toxins and pollutants out of the water and air,
D. And a workforce that's not exploited.
This "app" is sewn into every garment and printed on every box. It's not perfect and it's not always possible. And it shouldn't be because this is a global economy, after all. But it's one of the best ways I've found to shop with my values.
The millionjobsproject.us focuses on just one of the upsides of checking the provenance of what we buy. Jobs. If we get the time, it would be nice to make some videos about all of the other benefits. In the final analysis, looking for and buying American-made goods is just one way to buy with intention. If we are all willing to put in a little more time and attention we will buy the change we want to see in the world. Whatever that might be.
It's a cliche family moment: My wife opens the credit-card bill and screams when she sees the iTunes charges. Over a thousand freaking dollars.
Instantly, a family meeting is convened to hang the guilty party. Suspicion quickly falls on our son who can consume vast amounts of music. But, no. He has an airtight alibi and quickly shows that the charges are in-game charges. It must be our daughter who loves to play "FREE" games on her iPad. More digging finds the source of the charges mostly from 3 games she was playing on vacation. We're angry. She needs to understand the value of money. We ask her to remove all the games from her iPad and spend the afternoon making a list of the cost of things so she won't make the same sort of mistake. After all, the game surely let her know she was being charged and she ignored it. I'm ashamed to say we trusted Apple more than our daughter at first. But she was adamant that they didn't let her know she was being charged. Not even once.
With a sinking feeling I reloaded one of the games. It was a word scramble game and it allows players to ask for clues. Each time you ask for a clue it's 2 bucks. What's a clue worth? A couple cents? For 2 bucks I want a really significant clue and for a thousand dollars I'd like something like a clue to the nature of the universe. That's outrageous enough but what's really larceny is that they don't alert you that they're about to charge you. No pop up. No cha-ching sound. Nothing. Not even the first time.
I thought surely there was somewhere that they let you know they were about to fleece you. And I finally found it. But to be fair to my daughter and everybody else out there, I was looking and it was still difficult. Before you click the big "FREE" to download the game look below under the tab "Details" and under that tab click on the tab "Top in-game purchases" and you'll see a list of the outrageous bills you'll be getting if you are naive enough to ask for a clue.
Now I was really angry. This game had stolen from us. Not just our money but our trust in the entire Apple ecosystem. When would I get another $1000 dollar bill for opening the wrong app from an unscrupulous developer? It felt like the game-makers had somehow slipped though the cracks and had put into jeopardy all the trust that Apple had earned from me over all these years. How did they get away with it? Surely, Apple was about to crack down.
Digging some more we found out that these "in-game" charges have been a point of contention for a couple of years now, and Apple had recently changed the rules. But not in the way you might expect. In 2012, Apple sent a memo to app developers letting them know that in-app would be allowed, even in games targeted to children but Apple's cut of such charges would be increased to 30%.
(Insert long string of profanity here.)
First, I trusted Apple more than my daughter. Then I trusted Apple more than the sleazy game developers. Now I'm left searching for some way to get the trust back. Indications from Apple seem to be that for the short time this might be too rich a source of new revenue at a time when earnings are struggling to just turn it off.
In my opinion, their bean counters better start doing the math on the costs related to destroying that famous Apple brand loyalty.
Video: Edward Snowden Explains Why He Decided to Blow the Whistle on CIA Surveillance Of Innocent Citizens
A friend of mine asked me to write the forward to his book, The Leap Year Project. He's been kind enough to let me post it here.
There are two kinds of days that make up our lives. Those days of big decisions and change. And the days in between. This book is a story about both of those sort of days, and how to make the most of each.
If you desire to have an average life, you should focus just on the big decisions. Then in between those big decision days, keep your nose clean and do your 9 to 5. That's right. Focus on those big decision moments and the best you can hope for is a mediocre existence. Seems sort of backwards but there you have it.
So how about an above average life? Well, for an above average life, don't sweat the big decisions. Just go with the flow. But, and this is a big but, show up for each day in between like it's the only day you'll ever have. In the end you will end up miles ahead of the "big decision" folks. Why?Probably, it's just math. Because no matter how good you are at making big decisions you'll only have a handful or so your whole life to make. Maybe 5 to 10 big decision days where you get to really shine. Now those "in-between" days are going to be a whole lot more numerous. Statistically, figure you'll get 30,000 of those "in-between" days. Even if you're if you take off weekends, holidays and lots of personal days, you can easily crush 15,000 days. So clearly, the odds are in the favor of the people who show up big every day.
Now, what if you want something even better than an above average life? What if you want to live an extraordinary life? Well, then you'll need to focus on both kinds of days. Those big decision days and each and every "in-between" day.
What you'll see in the pages of this book is the story of a young man doing just that. Victor has made some courageous big decisions but even more impressive than that, is how he showed up each day. In fact, after his time with us, I referred to him as "The Greatest Intern, ever." But his real contribution goes way beyond the work he did with companies like ours and just might have more to do with you. Yeah, you. Because along the way, Victor has uncovered an approach to higher education that might be your first step into an extraordinary life.
For those under the age of 30, it’s hard to imagine there was ever time when there was no Craiglist - a time when selling a car required shelling out money to buy an ad in a local newspaper.
Yet it is likely that most people would not be able to name the “Craig” who changed that part of our world. And we would certainly have no clue that the reason Craigslist has become such a reliable force in our lives is because of the core philosohpy at the heart of the site.
Craig Newmark is clear about that philosophy, though - not just as a recipe for online business dealings, but as the philosophy Craig brings to everything in his life. That philosophy is simple.
Craig expects that people will help each other out, and that they will give each other a break.
In my short conversation with Craig early last year, it was striking how consistently Craig came back to that same point.
What was more striking to me, though, was that Craig walks the talk of that expectation so consistently and with seemingly little effort. Given the cynicism rampant in our society, talking with Craig feels like coming home to something basic and quiet and important. Here are just 3 things that stood out in my conversation with Craig:
The power of expectation
Craigslist is built upon the expectation that people will give each other a break and help each other out. And with rare exception, that is the case. Everyone I know has a Craigslist story about meeting someone cool, about someone going the extra mile. I personally have so many Craigslist stories - stories that started with the sale of a piano and a dog kennel and an old copy machine. Stories that, years later, I still tell over and over. Stories that make me smile every time I tell them.
Our expectations create our actions. And when we act from the expectation that people will give each other a break and help each other out, magic happens.
The power of being the example you want to see
Like many people seeking to create a better world, Craig talks a lot about the need to cross silos and connect with each other. But he doesn’t just talk about it, and he doesn’t just expect others to do the silo-jumping. He quietly makes sure that in every conversation and every email exchange - the mundane “stuff” of life - that he is actively making those connections.
When instead of waiting for others to take action, we “be the future we want to see,” things shift. And again, magic happens.
The power of creating conditions and getting out of the way
Listen to Craig’s voice for just 30 seconds, and you hear the voice of someone who stands reluctantly in the spotlight. That is often the case with people whose life is about connecting; it’s not about them.
Craig talks about creating the space for connection to happen. With Craigslist, he created that space online. But he is quick to note that it is the connection that matters, not the technology. The role of the connector is to make that connection and then get out of the way.
When we create the space for connection to happen - whether that is in a Facebook group or a weekly workshop at your bicycle shop - we are connecting people to their own abilities. And that, too, is when magic happens.
And perhaps there is one more thing - and that is about the power of it not being about you, but about everyone else. And that the more that is true, the more people will love you for it.
The more you show people the goodness and trust you believe they have, the more they will show you that goodness and trust in return. And that holds true in our businesses and our personal lives - and in the mundane act of listing an old bookshelf on Craigslist.
To download or listen to the entire conversation with Craig, click here:
Everyone I know who continues to do what they love has had to say "forget it" to the money at least once. If you do anything long enough you may have to say it more than once. The funny thing about all this is that the people around us keep telling us that it's some sort of sacrifice to put happiness before money. Yet it isn't the people doing what they love that are making the sacrifice. No. Seems to me that the ultimate sacrifice is when you settle for an uninspiring life just because everybody else if doing it.
People's willingness to sacrifice dreams at the alter of money hit me in the face like a wet carp this week.
I had a friend email me to say he might like to work at Made Movement, the marketing agency I helped get going about a year ago that is dedicated to the resurgence in American Manufacturing. He'd read that we'd had an amazingly successful first year and it piqued his interest.
He said he really wanted to get back into advertising to "work with companies hell bent on doing good things."What he was doing now "pays well" but wasn't exiting. I wrote back that I wasn't the person who made decisions around hiring but I'd be happy to make an introduction and vouch for him. And I went on to add that it was doubtful that they could match his big-time salary.
His next email declared that if his salary requirements were a problem then now was not the time for an introduction. It was sort of shocking to me since we never even spoke about any actual figures. Just the idea of less money put him right back into that uninspiring job.
It made my heart ache.
In wonderful contrast is this post from Catie Pavilack was sent to me by her dad. She's a college kid who is clearly questioning the conventional wisdom and in the last line of her post she sums it up nicely, "Deep down we know our passions, it's just whether we choose to ignore them or not."