How different would our lives be if we could manipulate our perception of the reality, the shade of the lenses, and change how we feel and think about practically anything? Based on personal experience, I’d argue that at least partially – you can.
Answers form our world and our beliefs, but they are always proceeded by questions. We focus on getting the answers we want, but forget to probe if we have the right questions. Intelligent questioning is one of most effective ways to influence both others and ourselves, yet it’s a skill not taught for most of us in any formal way. Through my own pursuit for asking better questions, I uncovered some ideas that can work as ladders on the pursuit for world class questioning. Read More
When you ask someone what’s their ultimate goal in life, most people would probably say happiness. In the pursuit of this elusive feeling we’re ready to work endless hours in a corporate world slowly climbing the ladder, or grinding the startup life waiting for the big brake. Happiness awaits us after the next promotion or after the IPO, we tell ourselves. But what happens once you manage to “reach” happiness? If you’re happy with how things are now, why would you continue to strive for more? Assuming you believe that as a human race we’re galaxies away from perfection, losing the drive to change and improve would be massively detrimental and would stagnate both an individual and a society. So the real question becomes, how can we be happy but not lose our hunger for reaching higher?
For a long time I thought that a writing a diary or a journal is for those, who can’t cope with their emotional storms and had to channel their thoughts on paper. I even read somewhere that women who kept a diary were more likely to end their relationships since they could go back into the negative moments with their partners though the text, moments that otherwise would have been forgotten. But the more I read about famous philosophers, artists and entrepreneurs, the more I noticed a pattern of keeping a journal to measure and reflect. I started to see how writing can morph into a mirror and a benchmark, if used correctly. It can empower us to understand ourselves better and help with focusing our energy on things that matter.
During the past four years I’ve been trying to keep a journal where I write about different aspects of life. Unfortunately the practice has been extremely irregular and during these four years I’ve managed to scribble down around hundred entries. One of the things I decided to track after the first year was what have I learned during today. The idea was that if I’d learn something small every day, I’d be 365 bits wiser at the end of the year. In addition to forcing you to seek education every single day, by reflecting on the day’s teaching, you’re much more likely to remember it in the long run.
It’s no longer a given that the talented students from across disciplines – especially business – end up working in corporate world or government institutions. The generation stepping into the work force today often demand a profoundly different level of impact, responsibility and flexibility not possible to attain in many traditional enterprises. This evolution has sparked a massive interest in working for a startup, where nothing is certain but everything is possible.
Yet something not often discussed, is that the skills required to succeed in a startup are different to the ones you embrace in the corporate ladder. Certainly, the core principals such as providing value and helping others will work regardless of the environment, but I believe there are five distinguishable traits that you need to fly in a startup environment. If you do not possess these, you might find that the entrepreneurial environment isn’t for you – at least in it’s early stages.
More and more people find themselves thinking about creating up a side business while studying or working. Inspired by stories of billion dollar Instragram exits, the 4 Hour Work Week, or peers they set out and tip their toe into the pool of entrepreneurship. Most of the worlds greatest startup success stories have started this way – coding late evenings after a full day at work. This allows you to validate the crazy ideas before jumping ship full swing. I believe this kind of part-time entrepreneurship, where is aim is test for scalability and market fit, is healthy and often a necessary step to avoid disasters.
However, there exists another kind of part-time entrepreneurship, where your startup becomes a hobby instead of a business. You don’t necessarily always plan to create a hobby-startup. Yet it’s easy to fall prey in a situation where other priorities seem to take over, time is limited and the you’re not extremely passionate about your own idea. Alternatively, you’re looking for a quick buck with minimum work, trying to create a ‘muse’, passive income cashflow that doesn’t require too much commitment.
How can we recognise the hobby-entrepreneurs? First of all, they don’t plan to ever work full-time for their own startup. Even in a best case scenario where market fit is found, they’ll hire a manager from outside to handle the growth. Secondly, they’ll avoid accountability. In order to preserve their “freedom” they’ll resist taking mentors or investors, who might push them to prioritize the startup over other things. In addition, these founders will often end up funding their new-found hobby with their salaries for a long period of time, instead of the typical “scale fast, fail fast” mentality. Finally, hobby entrepreneurs are often not driven by an intrinsic desire to solve a problem of their own. While there’s nothing inherently wrong about solving the problems of other’s, you’ll find it hard to ever fully understand your customers without being one of them.
There are several dangers in hobby-entrepreneurship that will prevent you from achieving success if you’re not aware of them. Let’s lay them out in the open:
Yesterday I swam 2000 meters in a row for the first time in my life. It took me around 54 minutes, which is not very spectacular by any standards. What makes it more significant, however, is that mere two years ago I had a hard time getting from one end of the pool to the other. I attributed my deficiencies in the water to challenges in breathing because of asthma, which turned out to be complete BS.
In my early 20s I decided that I want to master the element of water. I saw myself doing mornings swims in the ocean, and participating in the Ironman competitions, which inspired taking action. Probably one of the events that sparked the ultimate change was watching a TED talk by Tim Ferris, where he described his own journey to mastering the skill of swimming. I could easily relate to his story and made the commitment to give it a try. My progress certainly wasn’t linear nor always easy, but I can say with clarity now – it was totally worth it. For example I’ve since gotten the PADI scuba diving licence, which would have been totally impossible few years back.
In this article I will lay out the biggest mistakes I made and how you can avoid them. The goal is to provide inspiration and practical tips to anyone who’s struggling the same way I was. This is not meant to be a comprehensive or scientific list, but rather a bunch of lessons from someone who’s been there and learned the hard way.