Don’t call me an Entrepreneur
I’ve often lamented the whole concept of entrepreneurship. I look at the word but all I actually see is ‘unemployed with justification’, or ‘I talk about Facebook lots’.
What I really struggle to get my head around is this concept of teaching people to be entrepreneurs. Basically, there are courses at universities that teach people to be inspired by great ideas and to follow a dream. Utter rubbish.
If you look at the Apples, the Zappos and the Facebooks of this world, I can guarantee that none have a foundation story along the lines of ‘I used my degree to perfectly execute a great idea’. It’s all passion and hardship, failures, enemies, sex, drugs, alcohol and brilliantly directed Hollywood movies. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t a qualified user of buzzwords. He’s an inspired, stuttering genius with a great perspective of the world.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been forced to think about where exactly my interests lie. Two years ago I started a photography website called PhotoGuides. It started off small and then grew a bit. Since then we’ve shared content with over a million people, helped photographers and designers in over 200 different countries and late last year I published a beginners book on photography.
It didn’t start with a business plan. The site in fact started as a time killer on a hot day when the power was out. I wanted to learn more about photography so I thought, ‘why not make a website about it?’ Right from the beginning PhotoGuides has just been a big undirected game to me. All I’ve ever wanted to do is bring more new people to the site, inspire them, teach them something new and learn something in return. Money has never been my motive. I believe that if you do what you love people will love what you do. I had a newfound love for photography and I wanted to know everything about it.
PhotoGuides isn’t massive, but it’s got a decent following. A few weeks ago I received my first offer for the site.
It took me a bit by surprise. It was an attractive proposition too, especially for a kid of my age. Half of my brain was thinking of investment opportunities and percentage shares; the other half had run off to look at what car I could buy. I realised though that if I were to sell I would stop being a passionate kid with a promising website and I would start being an entrepreneur - an overzealous young chap hunting for a new idea.
Great ideas rarely come to those who look for them. Every great idea has an even greater story behind it, occasionally starring Jesse Eisenberg. The problem I’m foreseeing is that if I’m cut loose from PhotoGuides, I’ll spend a fair chunk of time looking for ideas, taking on projects purely because I feel the need to do so, not because I’m inspired.
I believe that in order to be successful you need to have no interest in money. It’s a catch-twenty-two in many ways but money slows down the mind, makes thinking hazy and can corrupt priorities. The only way to create something truly remarkable is to be passionate, inspired and then spend your life fending off failures and honing an idea to perfection. It’s all one big marvelous game. Who really cares about money anyway?
I started PhotoGuides because I wanted to learn about photography, not because I wanted to make money. The one thing that’s kept me interested and helped me to focus on growing the site was that I loved what I was doing. It’s never been a profit driven exercise and I know the moment I start thinking about advertising and sponsorship I’ll stop loving photography and greed will kill the site.
A few weeks have passed since the offer and it looks like PhotoGuides isn’t for sale. To me, this is about more than just giving up a website. It’s about selling out on a belief, a motif and a mantra that I want to live my life by. Passion is the most crucial factor that drives a dream. Without genuine passion you’re just a fisherman looking to catch the next big idea. Without passion, in my eyes at least, you’re another entrepreneur.
I also think someone should invent this car key with a light on it telling you if your car is locked so you don’t have to go back and check. Entrepreneurs, jump on that one.
Don’t come up with a view, find everybody who agrees with it and then say “Look at this, it must be right.” Start off by saying, “Who do I trust?”
You have to decide who you trust before you decide what to believe.
Simon Singh’s a smart guy. He said this in reference to the great global warming debate and it’s a mantra that can be followed in any part of life.
Every study and argument supporting global warming has started out with a point of view and has then been backed up with evidence. They don’t tell you about the other side of the argument and in reality disregard any opposing statements because they counteract their viewpoint.
Don’t let these arguments fool you. It’s tempting to accept the evidence, but if you want a credible point of view you have to ask yourself who you really trust.
If you come up with an answer before you properly consider the question, you’re not conducting research, you’re creating propaganda.
One day I’ll create documentaries and reviews and I’ll do my best to consider the big picture before I tell people what to believe. Otherwise I’ll only be lying to myself.
Stress or Pressure?
There’s a big difference.
Stress is emotionally intensive, draining, frustrating and can often lead to mental blocks. When you’re under stress you can be completely overcome by work and thus be unproductive.
Pressure is still intensive, draining and frustrating. Pressure however is driving and when you’re under pressure you can push yourself to work harder, faster and achieve those targets or deadlines.
So what do you feel? Do you feel stressed or pressured?
In reality, it’s purely dependent on your personality. If you’re stressed, snap yourself out of it and convince yourself that you’re simply under pressure.
When you stress you worry. When you’re pressured though, you get a lot more done.
Don’t be sorry, be excited!
I just received an email that opened like this:
“I apologise for not being able to get a muster out over the past couple of months, but we’ve been very busy making some big changes that are finally nearing completion.”
Why? Why apologise?
Apologies are nice, but they’re miserable. If you’re sorry about something spin it into something exciting. Instead of apologising say something like:
“It’s been a busy few months, but I’m excited to be back with some cool new ideas”
It’s the same thing but much brighter, far more energetic and much more respectable.
Customer service isn’t a product.
There’s been a series of ads for the Commonwealth Bank on TV lately showing a large woman tying her dog up outside the bank, going into the bank and then returning quickly because that bank offers fast service. The dog is highly dissatisfied.
How does a bank try to sell itself? The Commonwealth Bank is trying to push their great customer service. ANZ’s been doing this extensively as well with witty ads about people who live in bank world. It’s a tricky situation with banks. They need to seem trendy and modern, but promoting numbers, which are the real substance, can also harm their cool reputation. Ads like the one above do wonders for their public image, but it just seems like another cliché claim that really can’t be proved.
Great customer service though should be an added bonus. It shouldn’t be the marketing target, especially when it’s delivered without content. Customer service is incredibly important and is an integral part to any business. However, whilst it may sell your product in the future, the claim of satisfaction is too blatantly cliché to sell your product now.
The experience is something that should be discovered, not promoted.
Happiness now, goodness later.
The key to being self disciplined is realising that your conscience is an arsehole.
Whether it’s regarding food, exercise or homework, naturally we all live in ‘now’. We think ‘yeah I’ll relax now’ or ‘yeah I can treat myself just this once’ with the promise that we’ll make up for it tomorrow.
“I’ve been slack with work today, but tomorrow I’ll work twice as hard”
“I know I shouldn’t be eating this, but it’s just this once. As of tomorrow I won’t touch it again”
“I really can’t be bothered going for a long run now. I’ll go tomorrow. I’ll be fine”
The truth is, tomorrow never comes. We want what makes us happy now, with the promise of goodness in the future.
Recognising that your mind plays tricks on you is the first step towards outsmarting it.
Drafts kill ideas.
If you’re a bit weird like I am, you’ll find pressing the publish button on a big article to be a bit of a thrill. All that time, all that thinking and all that excessive rephrasing is about to go out into the open for everyone else to judge.
Sometimes though you’ll hesitate, or sometimes you’ll save an article to look back on later. Sometimes you’ll be a little bit unsatisfied with the way you’ve worded your thoughts and, like me, you’ll be overly anal about how the reader will respond to the words you’ve used.
If you press that save button though and leave your article to sit there as a draft, you’re killing your great idea.
Here’s a tip, just press publish. I won’t judge.
For many months now I’ve been thinking of starting a blog. So often I’ve had little ideas that I felt would make great little blog posts, but I’ve never actually written them down.
For some obscure reason I’ve been desiring an innately complicated blog with my own theme, my own domain, all hosted on my own account. Lately though I’ve been realising that having full control over a website holds you back. When you focus on the back end, you forget about the writing.
This then should suffice. A simple little tumblr that should let me focus on the writing.
Now that this blog’s here I have no excuse not to blog.