Get the Hell Out! (Don't Quit)

I'm an idiot. This was a terrible mistake. It’s over. Three lies that slip past the ears of every entrepreneur as they approach failure … and success.

If these words haven’t played in your head before, you’re not taking big enough risks. For the rest of us, all I can say is you’re not nuts. Well, maybe you are nuts but not because of the negative self-talk looping in your head.

Anyone who has striven to do something great has heard this voice. The difference is entrepreneurs that eventually succeed tend to have advocates that refuse to put up with the negative bullshit we tell ourselves.

Don’t take my word for it. Read Jonathan Haidt’s fascinating book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. You’ll soon learn it’s perfectly normal to have these feelings of loss, sadness and isolation in life as you ride along on your elephant. (Read the book.)

For me, I had to learn to stop taking myself and my ideas so seriously. The world will go on without me. And if our dreams aren’t something that can be realized in months or years or even within our lifetime, we still get to choose to find happiness both within ourselves and with others.

So before you nuke your project and jump into Dante’s outermost ring of pain, take a deep breath, drink a large glass of water, and force yourself to take an eight-hour nap. When you wake up, the world will still be here. It may not be as good as the one you imagined but it’ll still be here. And guess what? It needs you. That’s right. The world needs you.

Have a little faith, friend. Yesterday wasn’t your day. Today may not be either. But trust me: in the not-too-distant future, you will get another chance to do something great if you don’t quit.

I’m just hoping the person you were born to be shows up and not the weirdo talking all of that end-of-the-world nonsense that’s wracking your brain.

You’ve got what it takes. You’ve put in your 10,000 hours. You’ve mastered your craft. Get back on your horse and get the heck out of Hades.


Angel Funding 101: How committed are you?

Stick with me. This is good stuff.

As a greying entrepreneur, I get hit up for advice and funding. (Mostly funding.) The truth is, I hit up my share of veteran entrepreneurs when I was striking out. When rookies hit me up now, I try to make myself available but with one caveat.

If you want my advice on your career or a venture you’re working on, you have to tolerate a parable first and then answer a few questions. The parable is from the gospel of Saint Matthew and it goes like this:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Alright. Let’s break it down.

The treasure was obviously hidden. What was this guy doing digging around on someone else’s property? The fact he chose to hide it “again” means the treasure wasn’t in plain sight.

The guy scores a few points considering he decided against stealing it.

Maybe he was honest. Maybe he knew he couldn’t keep or sell it without getting busted.

He definitely had an idea of what the treasure was worth.

And why did he hide it again? My guess: if he found it, it’s likely someone else would, too.

To me, the most valuable phrase in this parable is, “in his joy”.

Joy is a powerful word. It seems this dude had a genuine sense of satisfaction and personal fulfillment in whatever it was he found. And to top it off, he knew what his possessions were worth.

Assuming this guy may have been married, he would have had to talk the missus into selling her stuff, too.

Listen, it’s one thing to be excited about an opportunity. It’s another to persuade others to buy into your vision and mutually commit. This leaves us with two big questions:

What did the treasure consist of?

When I ask entrepreneurs this question, I get a version of one of the following answers:

“Financial independence!”

“Market share!”

“Being admired as an industry leader by my peers!”

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

I’m skipping ahead here but here’s how I address these kinds of responses.

It’s you that is hidden in the box. YOU.

This always triggers a response like, “How can I be in the box? I found the box!”

I remind them we cannot be discovered until we first discover ourselves. If you ask anyone who has achieved success, you learn there are no big breaks. These folks believed in themselves when few others did and they refused to quit until they found their joy.

Now, if they are asking for funding, I ask them one more question: 

Are you asking me to sell my stuff to buy your field?

While they’re letting that question sink in, I kindly convey the following:

1. Discover yourself FIRST.

2. Prepared to make serious sacrifices to achieve what it is you seek.

3. Get used to putting in tons of ass-breaking work.

Only then, can we begin to understand the cost of being fully committed.

Grandma's Porn Problem

Food Porn, Travel Porn, Adventure Porn, Porn Porn: These are the drugs of choice that slowly crush our souls and steal our joy.

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, now on newsstands everywhere, they cover the state of modern pornography.

"In 2014, Pornhub alone had seventy-eight billion page views, and XVideos is the fifty-sixth most popular Web site in the world. Some porn sites get more traffic than news sites like CNN, and less only than platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and PayPal."

Whether your fingerprints are on one or more of those 78 billion page views, the truth is, we all have a serious porn problem. Even grandma.

Pornography, as defined in most dictionaries, means printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.

"Rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings." That got me thinking.

Think about how much time we waste looking at explicit displays of ... everything. Games and movies. Cooking shows. Travel magazines. Adventure catalogues. Foodie blogs and news feeds.

All of these ancillary forms of "porn" are eating up large amounts of our time and resources.

Recently, one of my heroes was ranting that Red Bull was nothing more than a seller of Snuff. A friend of mine pointed out that if that is true, and I believe it is, than this icon of mine (I'm looking at you, Yvon Chouinard), is guilty of being a purveyor of Adventure Porn. Ouch. (Let's just say my friend completely ruined my habit of reading Patagonia catalogues cover-to-cover.)

Whatever it is in the virtual world that's sucking the reality out of our lives and relationships, let's knock it off. 

Let's go outside and do something. Spend time with another living being.

Let's go somewhere we've never been. Let's talk to the people we meet along the way.

Make something. Start a new business. Start a new school

Trade information for experiences.

The point is this: stop fantasizing and start doing.

Who farted? When business honeymoons end.

Remember when the love of your life let it rip for the first time?

Dad was painting his house when he heard JFK had been shot.

I was waiting for the bus on a dark December morning when I learned John Lennon was gone forever.

How strange that our brains index certain memories this way.

Do you remember where you were when that special someone — that gorgeous, intelligent person that seemed too good to be true — let one rip right in front of you for the very first time?

I grew up in a conservative, religious home. In a house full of kids, including adopted kids, neighborhood kids and foreign exchange kids. We were reared (pun intended) to be respectful. Especially when it came to containing bodily noises.

I had to attend Etiquette Class as a kid. Under no circumstance were you to fart in public … or as my mom called it, “passing wind”.

I made it through High School without ever hearing a member of the opposition sex cut the cheese. Stack of Bibles. And when I departed for college, I was under the impression this just wasn’t something girls did.

And then it happened.

If you have ever truly and completely loved someone, and then, for whatever reason, they pinch one off within earshot for the first time, it can be fairly traumatic.

Whether it sounded like a mouse squeak or a violent clap of thunder, it can be quite an unsettling experience for all involved.

Where am I going with this nonsense? Well, people do this metaphorically in business every day.

We work so hard to create new customers and develop meaningful working relationships. We go to extreme measures to impress others in order to convey our profound level of commitment, dedication and professionalism. And then, when everything appears to have reached unprecedented levels of goodness, the apple of your eye does the unthinkable. Or worse, you do. And nothing will ever be the same. But that’s OK. Because it isn’t natural for us to sustain this kind of unrealistic expectations in the first place.

The truth is, everybody farts. Literally and figuratively. Get over it.

The next time you catch yourself either trying to produce completely unrealistic results in order to impress a client or colleague, or worse, the next time you embarrass yourself by nearly sharting yourself in a collaborative situation, do yourself a favor. Follow these three simple steps:

  1. Offer a simple apology. Then go for a really long walk.
  2. After the walk, using 100 words or less, write down what you learned from the situation and what you can do to avoid doing it again.
  3. If you can’t get face-to-face, call the person and talk through the situation. Whatever you do, find a way to inject some humor.

Here’s what I’ve experienced after most post-fart standoffs:

It doesn’t take long for everyone to see the situation as a shared experience. A gift, really … a kind of unique breakthrough that can lead to new levels of honesty, mutual respect and collaboration.