Why Not Both? Good Cause AND Good Profit?

Something I notice often in my work with entrepreneurs is the fascination with doing good while making money.

Another version of this is “doing what you love.”

It feels good to think you can make a lot of money and do a lot of good, all while having a fantastic time! It’s a good dream! And what are entrepreneurs if not dreamers?

And there are plenty of examples out there of people doing that. However, in my experience it’s the exception, not the rule. And even when accomplished, it follows a few tested patterns.

So what can you do about it? Short answer? Accept it. Do your charity work with charities. Make your money with businesses. And get your kicks with leisure.

People often talk about “changing the world” when you start a company. In a sense you are, sure. But you aren’t changing the way the world works. Trust me. The world will continue working its way. You might bring something new in, but you aren’t changing human nature or society.

So where does this leave your idea of doing what you love and also making money?

Why do they have to be the same thing?

Why can’t you take days off and go hiking? Do you really have to start a hiking company?

You will have to learn this lesson for yourself, so good luck. But, if you want to save yourself a lot of pain, separate the concepts of leisure, business, and charity, and enjoy them separately.

Walking the “Sellout Line”

You hit “post” on a blog post that you think is terrible and trite and go to sleep. The next day, it has thousands of visitors and is being passed around.

“The people” are now clamoring for more work from you like this. 

Is this a problem? Is something wrong with you? Is something wrong with “them”? You hated the thing and almost didn’t publish it, but it turns out to resonate.

Who knows? I certainly don’t. But I do know that this is the basis of “being a sellout.”

The basis is this, you are not the consumer of your work. Therefore, if you do not resonate with your work, but the consumer does, then you have a choice. Choose the consumer? Sellout. Choose yourself? Pure creative.

There are pros and cons to each. And it’s not black and white. There are grey areas for sure.

In creative work, you will always face the tug of these two forces. Your creative vision and the vision of the consumer. The farther you go towards the consumer, the more you will feel like a sellout. But are you really? Or is this just a case of limited perspective?

I honestly don’t know. My intention is to relieve some pressure from anyone who feels like a sellout or who struggles with this fine line the way I have. It’s a very fine line, as I alluded to in the title.

If your creativity is to be consumed by others, then you will ultimately have to consider the needs of your audience over your own.

If you don’t, no big deal, you just won’t have an audience. So you’ll be talking to yourself. Maybe that works for you, I don’t know.

 

Lower Your Expectations of Your Creative Work

Expectations are the bully pointing out your flaws as you walk into the gym. They’re the nag telling you to quit because “You’re probably not going to measure up anyway.”

Expectations help give you a foundation for what you are trying to accomplish in linear, non-creative work, like building a house or cooking a meal. However, for creative work, expectations can be a liability.

When I sat down to write this, I asked myself what I most needed a refresher on right now. I had a few ideas, and they seemed pretty grand, and I noticed fear inside myself keeping me from doing it. Then I remembered the power of lowering my expectations. It’s very freeing. Like taking off your swimsuit underwater when nobody is looking (not that I would know).

The counterpoint, of course, would be that without knowing where you are going, you will surely get there… nowhere. But I find that not to be the case with creative tasks like writing. It’s almost like they take shape as you write. As though there was a final outcome predestined and all you have to do is show up to punch the keys.

It’s quite a fun experience to write something and see yourself creating without really knowing where it’s coming from.

Give yourself permission to be an amateur, a novice, a beginner. It’s only in this state that we learn. The expert learns nothing and fades into irrelevance.

The first site I built, I had no expectations. The only expectation was that I would build a site. It ended up being a humor site dedicated to videos. But that’s not what I set out to build. It was great. Afterward, I had trouble replicating that success, because I had expectations. I had created something viral, how would I do it again? It really jammed me up. Now when I start something, I have to remember that not everything I do has to be for a particular outcome. I try to get more in tune with the work itself and wanting to do it for its sake.

It’s easier to be authentic when you don’t have expectations. When you let go of your expectations, then you can explore things you might not have otherwise.

Hope, on the other hand, is a softer guide. I can have hope for a work, without having an expectation. For instance, my hope for this article is that it’s helpful. If not to anyone else, but to me. When I forget and get wrapped around the axle with expectations, I hope I remember to return here and get back to lowering my expectations.

Lower Your Expectations Unisex T-Shirt Black

How to be responsible for yourself

Surprise… the 3 ways are actually one action. 

After a few weeks of working on beating procrastination, I realized that there is a pre-requisite mindset.

That mindset?

Taking responsibility for yourself.

And how exact, do you do that?

Well…

 You may think you are making choices, but most of the time, you are in “Zombie Mode,” just behaving unconsciously and habitually.

In order to truly be responsible, the first and only action is to start to consciously choose your responses to what happens in your life.

Be responsive.

  1. Don’t make excuses.
  2. Don’t procrastinate.
  3. Have a routine.

As I said, I started working on my procrastination a few weeks ago. That was very difficult.

I’ve kept at it. And something strange has happened.

My sights shifted up to personal responsibility for my life.

Instead of focusing on tasks, I’ve started to notice my underlying attitudes.

I’m ashamed to admit that I found a core lack of taking responsibility for myself

qoutes:

The price of greatness is responsibility. – Churchill

I’m embarrassed because, after a few google searches, I realized that books on responsibility are almost entirely kids books. Yikes!

So here I am. Face to face with me. Nobody else is responsible for me. I must take it on myself.

Nobody else is forcing me to procrastinate. Nor are my genes or my upbringing.

Fortunately, we are never too far gone. And getting behind the wheel isn’t as hard as it seems. The trick is not to try and take it all at once.

Which is why I’m going to stop this post here.

Conclusion?

The true nature of procrastination is a failure to be responsible for one’s life.

So, I’m going to work on taking responsibility for my life and my responses. Good luck if you choose to be the same.

Method: Getting Your First Customer

 

The most important thing in business is to get your first customer. 

Here we will discuss a simple way to do this.

If independence, not riches, is your first goal (the riches can come later), then this method is for you.

If you’re looking to be the next startup whiz kid, you may need to keep looking. 

In this article, I describe a simple (not easy) method for getting customer #1.

This business’s purpose is to feed you. That’s my assumption. So I based all my advice on that. My figuring is that if it feeds you, you can then move on to bigger and better things.

SO HERE WE GO: 

  1. Make your idea specific
  2. Clarify for yourself what the idea should do for YOU.
  3. Create a simple offer – AKA, what are you selling?

For the people who ask “WHY?”, here’s why:

  1. Vague things don’t sell. If people can’t understand it, they can’t buy it, nor can they refer you (this is huge! You need referrals to survive).
  2. Should this idea make you rich? Fulfill your desire to be independent? Let you run a website? If you don’t know what it’s doing for you, you will not be able to make good decisions about how to modify it.
  3. If you don’t create a clear offer to sell a service or product and deliver it, then you can never really get a customer. Customers BUY. I see too many people working with “customers” who haven’t paid them anything and never will. It’s easy to get people’s business, it’s HARD to get their MONEY.

It’s easy to get people’s business, it’s HARD to get their MONEY. 

THEN ASK PEOPLE TO BUY IT: 

  1. Go to your target market and offer them the offer
  2. Listen to their feedback and adapt your idea, always keeping in mind what it must to for you to be successful.
  3. Adjust the offer and keep moving.

People can’t buy something you haven’t offered them.

SPOILER ALERT:  Someone will say YES.

Once you get the first customer, YOUR FOCUS MUST BE ON SERVICE. You will learn so much from this first customer. Keep in mind you may lose them. Don’t let it crush you. It’s not about their money, it’s about your learning.

Not until you get a few of them can you really understand the similarities between them and what your business really should be.

I’ll say it a different way:

Ingredients for success:

  1. A specific idea (If you can’t answer “WHO” it’s for, then it’s not specific enough)
  2. A plan B
  3. An offer (Price, Benefit, Commitment)
  4. Action and refinement.

This method does three things: 

  1. Keeps you from analysis paralysis.
  2. Tests whether your market will buy your product/service before you spend tons of time building something.
  3. Keeps you adaptable, so that you can keep going if your Plan A is wrong (it probably will be at least slightly wrong).

Things you don’t need at first: 

  1. A website (unless it’s a super simple 1 page kick out from something like WIX or square space… it better not take you more than an hour to make)
  2. Business cards.
  3. A product (You need a CAPABILITY… but not necessarily a finished product, there’s a difference that can be elaborated on later)
  4. Patents
  5. Copyrights
  6. Incorporation

That’s it. This can be built on more, but this is my rough thoughts for a Friday afternoon. 

Get out there and get after it!

 

 

Good Advice Sounds Harsh to the Ear

“You just need to do your homework.”

Didn’t you hate that advice when you were a kid?

But, it was true. All you needed to do to get better grades, was do your homework.

That simple act, will give you the right habits to succeed.

As an adult, when you are struggling with something and someone gives you advice that feels annoying, ask yourself this question:

“What if they are right?”

As if, what if they are right, then what would I do?

Basically, instead of spending a ton of time trying to figure out if they are right or not, how would you apply their advice?

So here is mine about pursuing a business idea:

“Work on it a little each day, and let it change.”

If that sounds weird, annoying, or too easy, why don’t you try giving it a shot and see what happens?

What have you got to lose?

How to Start Procrastinating

 

Are you a high performer who is tired of always getting everything done on time?

Are you annoyed with your ability to start a task immediately?

Is there something nagging at you to slow down a bit?

Try procrastination!

Tried and tested by evolution to conserve energy.

All you need to do is follow three easy steps:

  1. Start thinking a lot about what you are about to do. You should especially think about the parts you don’t like.
  2. Lose sight of the goal or mission. Whatever this task will ultimately do for you should be pushed to the back of your mind.
  3. Start on it LATER. That’s right, don’t start on it now or do anything about it now. Just put it off until later.

And that’s IT!

You’ll immediately have:

  1. More things to do than you ever have before.
  2. More time to think about it!
  3. More energy stored in your body (some of it fat!)

If this sounds good to you… start on it tomorrow!

Start businesses like Forrest Gump

An IQ of 75, and he became wealthy and lived happily.

If you don’t know the story, read the IMDb page here. But really, do yourself a favor and go watch the movie from 1994.

Forrest was a “stupid” man, but he always did the following things right:

  1. He took action
  2. He did his best
  3. He didn’t quit
  4. Never focused on the results, only the action.

Let’s not complicate it. To start businesses like Forrest, you just take action. You don’t have much more than a rough idea of what you are doing.

Here are some of Forrest’s great ideas.

  • I’m going to be a shrimping boat captain. (This is the most complicated one, but really this idea was Bubba’s)
    • Started a shrimping empire.
  • I’m going to go running.
    • Started a movement
  • I’m gonna play ping pong
    • Became a professional and got endorsement deals

I understand that it’s a movie, and ultimately not real. But what makes it so entertaining and lovable is that the principles it shows in action are very very real. And they are timeless.

Let’s look at a couple of real-world examples of the principle.

Nintendo

The video game maker started much earlier than its 1966 video game debut and was creating playing cards, vacuum cleaners, instant rice, a taxi company and even a short-stay hotel chain. It wasn’t until much later that Nintendo started producing video games and consoles, which gained wide popularity over the following 30 years. They were already hustling well before they became famous.

Forrest Gump Idea: I’m gonna sell playing cards – Now: Video games

Instagram

Instagram started as Burbn, a check-in app that included gaming elements from Mafia Wars, and a photo element as well. They weren’t gaining traction as Burbn because it had too much clutter and potential actions. So they took a risk and stripped out everything but… photos. They rebuilt it to focus exclusively on photography. It was clean and simple, and… you know the rest.

Forrest Gump Idea: We’re gonna build an app – Now: We are the most popular photo app on iPhone

To drive the point home, take the opposite of the Forrest approach to starting a business and see what this sounds like.

  1. Hesitate to take action until things are clear
  2. Do only the minimum
  3. Quit when things don’t go your way
  4. Focus hard on the results instead of the work

Does this sound like success? Of course not.

The wonderful thing is, you don’t have to succeed. Honestly, that’s not the goal. You just need to develop the habits of:

  1. Taking action.
  2. Doing your best.
  3. Perseverance.
  4. Focusing on the work instead of the results.

Think you can do it? I know you can.

 

Making Your Business Ideas More Likely to Succeed

How? – Be specific about the problem it solves

SPECIFICadjective – clearly defined or identified.

So, you clearly define the business problem. But it’s OK to start with clearly defining your solution if that is how you are thinking about it.

This makes it easy to explain it and easy to understand it.

A good rule of thumb at this point:

If it’s not stupidly easy to know who your target customer could be, then you need to make your idea MORE specific.

Take out any AND or OR or WITH statements from your idea.

So:

“An app for people with kids and dogs who feel stressed out and need a break”

Becomes:

“An app for parents looking for kid-free hangout opportunities”

Being specific makes it easier for people to understand what you do and give you referrals.

 

Example: This post title. 

Making the subject of this post specific was hard for me. I rewrote it more times than I could count. Well, that’s not true. It was about 10.

The first time was short, it was just “Be Specific”.

But that didn’t seem very specific at all.

So then I tried, “Make Your Ideas Specific”.

But then I said to myself “Ideas about what?”

It forced me to become very clear on what this article is about. I figured what most people would be looking for is advice about business ideas.

After I wrote all about specifics, I realized the point was being specific about the problem, but the problem the user was trying to solve was making their business ideas more likely to succeed. So that was the final rewrite.

Now, if you didn’t make your idea a “Problem statement”, do that now.

So our early idea goes from (Idea/Solution): 

“An app for parents looking for kid-free hangout opportunities”

To: (Reframed as a problem)

“Parents of small children are starved for time with people who share their interests.”

See what we did there? 

That’s all we got for today. Remember, make your ideas specific enough for you to be able to find people to test it with. In our case above, we are looking for parents with small children. If you can’t think of people, your idea sucks.