Category: Longball

Success, Snowballs, & The Left Side

I have this fantasy of myself giving a Ted talk on success.  I open my talk by saying, “The secret to success is to be really successful early on.”  Then I walk off the stage.

It makes me laugh, but it’s true.  Advantages and disadvantages tend to accumulate.  The rich do get richer.

On the surface, it’s a worthless insight.  Who wouldn’t choose early success if they could?

However, there is utility in having a deep understanding of this idea because it provides a more powerful paradigm for long term decisions.

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The Thousand Day Rule is Risky

Update 10/3/2020: You can hear Dan and a guest discuss the risks presented here on this podcast.

My all time favorite podcast is the Tropical MBA.  I’ve been listening to it for most of my entrepreneurial journey.  It’s an entertaining and insightful look into the modern small business.

The podcast hosts Dan & Ian have developed lots of useful frameworks to think about decisions in business.  They’ve coined concepts like “Rip, Pivot, & Jam” about innovating within proven value chains and “if it makes you money you shouldn’t be doing it,” a rule of thumb for where an entrepreneur should spend their time (and money.)

I’m a huge fanboy.

But I take issue with one of their key theses, “The Thousand Day Rule.”

The Thousand Day Rule is a pattern that they noticed where entrepreneurs needed about a thousand days, or 3 years, to build a business that surpassed their job income.

At best, the Thousand Day Rule is incomplete.  At worst, it’s destructive to new entrepreneurs.

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Most Things Don’t Work

Photo:  Winged Victory

I was doing product research on a Shopify plugin we’re developing and I came across this post in the Shopify forums from someone trying to sell clothing:

I invested 2000 and nothing

I’ve had my store redesigned twice. I’ve took courses, marketing courses, ripped off by *mentors* and 600 on SEO. I don’t know what to do I’m so anxious.

On the one hand, I’m sympathetic- it sucks to invest, to work, and to see nothing in return.  On the other hand though, that’s sort of how it works.

Yes, there are people who stumble into customers.  The dice in the roulette wheel lands on their number and they have a huge head start on everyone else.

And we see those stories.  Entrepreneurs brag about their success or others promote these stories to sell their own products and services- see this method works, here’s an example.

But that’s not the way it works for most folks.

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Making Progress When You’re Stuck

Have you ever read a Sherlock Holmes mystery?  It starts with a case presented to Sherlock and Dr. Watson with quirky circumstances and odd details.  As you read things become even less clear with increasingly bizarre events and nonsensical information.  At the end though, the great detective explains all with brilliant deductive reasoning that puts each element into its place in a logical series of events.

New endeavors have a lot in common with Sherlock’s cases.

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Beginnings as Leverage Points

Study the hard while it’s easy.
Do big things while they’re small.
The hardest jobs in the world start out easy,
the great affairs of the world start small.
So the wise soul,
by never dealing with great things,
gets great things done.

– Tao Te Ching, Ursala Le Guin Translation

I took a personality profile called Strengths Finder six years ago and I’ve found the results of it to be accurate and useful. One of the recommendations that stuck in my mind was for “Strategic”, one of my signature themes.

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The First Step in Getting off the Project Treadmill

Freedom is the most cited reason that employees take the leap and become freelancers. I know that was true for me. One of my happier memories is of my last day as an employee when I stepped out of the building, got in the car, and drove away for the final time. This sense of liberation quickly gave way to the uncertainty of how I was going to make freelancing work. How was I going to get clients? After a few years, I stopped worrying about getting clients and begin to worry about keeping up. This is a typical transition for freelancers as you establish yourself.

Success leads to more and more work until it is queued up at a faster rate than you can do it. You begin to turn away most leads because you are too busy to take on their work any time soon. Often, you have several clients with ongoing projects that depend upon you to move their business forward. You end up constantly chasing deadlines, grinding out project after project.  You’re moving, but you’re not really going anywhere. You’re on a treadmill.

It’s ironic: the reason you get into freelancing is for the freedom and success as a freelancer leads you away from freedom. Continue reading

How to Get Out of the Business

Many consultants build teams but find that they can’t quite separate from their business. We all know that we’re supposed to work “on the business” instead of “in the business” a la Michael Gerber’s E-Myth, but for some reason you can’t quite get all the way out.

You can’t trust someone to manage client accounts. Or, you can’t trust another developer to develop the application in line with your vision and standards.

Maybe, you have tried to hire somebody and you wasted months and thousands of dollars before determining that it just wouldn’t work.  So now you’re stuck.

You have to take care of it because only you can get it right.

The challenge of getting out of the business is the largest obstacle you face. Every hour you spend in your business, you’re essentially idling because no one else can move it forward.  It’s a huge tax on your momentum, like dragging an anchor behind you as you trudge towards your goals. Continue reading