Category Archives: Current in Entrepreneurship

Celebrity Entrepreneurs To Inspire Your Students

Who do your students look to for inspiration when it comes to entrepreneurship? Many people—especially young people—look to celebrities for inspiration. Here are a few celebrities you can sprinkle into your lectures and examples to help motivate your student entrepreneurs.

Of course, you’ll want to caution students that celebrities have an easier time getting businesses off the ground than the average person. They have little trouble raising money—or have their own funds to invest. And they’re instantly able to get media attention for their ventures.

Having a celebrity’s name on a product helps move merchandise, so many celebrities merely license their names and likenesses to other companies who do all the work except promotion. But many celebrities pull up their sleeves and get to work, helping their products and businesses grow, and learning a lot about entrepreneurship in the process.

Here are just a few entrepreneur celebrities to help inspire your students’ entrepreneurial ambitions:
** Oprah Winfrey

Oprah, unlike most other celebrity entrepreneurs, became an entrepreneur well before she was a household name. Oprah’s talent enabled her to transform a small Chicago daytime talk show into the leading talk show in America. Her entrepreneurial spirit led her to take charge of her own future, creating her own production company—Harpo Productions.  As a result, Oprah became—and still is—not only a very, very rich woman, but one of the most influential people in the country. Oprah’s the Grand Dame of Celebrity Entrepreneurs.

** George Clooney

Clooney loves drinking tequila, so he and two friends designed their own tequila recipe after sampling 700 recipes. In 2013, they launched Casamigos, investing $600,000 a piece. It was a darn good investment! Four years later, they sold it for a billion dollars.

** Selena Gomez

Some celebrities start their entrepreneurial journeys young. This singer, actress, former Disney star, launched her own clothing line—Dream Out Loud—when she was just 18 years old. Gomez has had partnerships with brands as varied as Coach, Sears, and Kmart.

** Magic Johnson

Johnson’s entrepreneurial reach is wide, and he’s focused on more than just making money. Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE), founded in 1987, prides itself on bringing successful businesses to urban settings. MJE has had partnerships with Starbucks and Sony. He has controlling interest in a television network, a financial services company, and a food service and facilities management company. To top it off, he’s co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

** Steve Carrell 

Not many celebrities own very small businesses, but as of 2009, actor Steve Carrell was a shopkeeper in Massachusetts. Carrell owns Marshfield Hills General Store, a general merchandise shop in a small town where he and his wife spend their summers. I suspect Carrell’s not spending his time ordering jams or stocking shelves, but it’s nice to see a celebrity who’s a genuine small business owner.

** Ann Patchett

Patchett may not have the name recognition of other celebrities, but in literary circles, she’s a bright light. Bestselling author of seven novels, including Bel Canto, The Patron Saint of Liars, and the just-published The Dutch House, Patchett owns and runs an independent bookstore: Parnassus Booksin Nashville, Tennessee. Those of us who love independent bookstores admire Patchett for taking some of her fame to become an advocate for keeping these community havens flourishing.

** Ashton Kutcher

Not many celebrities can say they’re active venture capitalists, but Kutcher can. In 2010, he launched his first venture capital firm, A-Grade Investments, and in 2015, he founded Sound Ventures. He’s been hands-on with product design and management at tech companies such as Lenova and Ooma. On top of that, he’s a human rights activist—fighting the sexual exploitation of children—and launched A Plus, a media company focusing on good news.

** Bill Rancic

Over the years I’ve become friends with Rancic, who’s a true advocate for small business as well as a successful entrepreneur himself. This former winner of the first season of The Apprentice and spouse of Giuliana Rancic is also co-founder and co-owner of a chain of highly popular and scrumptious restaurants, RPM restaurants.

** Sean “Diddy” Combs ­

Also known as P. Diddy and Puff Daddy, this music star leveraged his fame and abilities to start an award-winning fashion line (Sean John), his own record label, music cable network, and invested in vodka. Forbes dubbed him the richest person in Hip-Hop, with a net worth over $820 million in 2017.

Courtesy Rhonda Abrams, CEO Planning Shop’s The Entrepreneurship Educator 

 

 

There Is Only One Steve Blank.

On the eve of the “lean” experts conference in the Santa Cruz mountains Dec. 4th and 5th it a great time for a retrospective on lean startup.  First, the conference will attempt to gather well-known Lean Methodology practitioners so each can learn from one other.  Since its launch a decade ago, “lean” has remade entrepreneurship education and startup practice  It is the basis of I-Corps (including NSF, NIH, DOE), Hacking for Defense (DoD), Hacking for Policy (State Department), and countless university courses around the US and world.  Steve, Jerry Engel (editor’s old teacher from Cal), Phil Weilerstein from Venture Well, and Pete Newell will host the best in the country to generate ideas for the biggest challenges and opportunities, what works best, the next generation business modeling, domain specific teaching programs, experiences internationally (Singapore, UK, Middle East, West Africa, Barcelona, etc.), mission-driven teaching, and a wrap of key learnings. Steve will post a blog on steveblank.com shortly thereafter summarizing the key findings which we will try to post as well.

Left –  Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley, CA (near Steve’s home and Silicon Valley), site of the 12/4-5 Innovation Summit gathering.

Next, here’s an article from Cofounder Magazine written by  Jan Ameri after an interview with Steve about the past, present, and future of the lean startup movement:  “You have been in the technology industry for over 30 years, working in multiple companies, IPOs and more. But there may be two or three of our readers who don’t know who you are. Could you give us a brief intro in your own words?”

“Sure! For the first half of my career I was an entrepreneur – a practitioner. I did 8 startups in 21 years, including 4 IPOs. More importantly, I had 2 failures, one of them a very large one. That made me think about the nature of innovation and entrepreneurship. When I retired 19 years ago, I started thinking that we needed a methodology for innovation and entrepreneurship, but none existed. So the second half of my career has been as an educator at Stanford, Columbia and Berkeley, coming up with something called the Lean Startup movement. It provides entrepreneurs with tools and techniques to build companies and has now been adopted by companies, corporations and governments.

What kind of key findings have come up, and how has the Customer Development method evolved since you created it?

There have been a couple of interesting things. As you mentioned, Customer Development was my observation that investors in the 20th century treated startups like they were smaller versions of large companies. It turns out that’s not true. Large companies, at their core, execute their own business models, but startups search for a business model.

This distinction between search and execution had never been articulated before; once you start describing it, you realise that what we needed to do was build tools to search for facts about hypotheses we have as entrepreneurs: Who are the customers? Who are the competitors? What’s the right channel? What’s the right pricing? What’s the right product? To do that, we needed a methodology, which I built, called Customer Development.

Customer Development is built on the idea that there are no facts inside your building, so get outside! Results are built on the idea that a startup is a temporary organisation designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. This is all about searching for the business model.

What has changed since Customer Development is this notion that there is a way to formulize a business model on a single piece of paper – it was best articulated by Alexander Osterwalder. I started by using Osterwalder’s business model as a diagram of what it is you are searching for: articulate your hypotheses, put them on the wall, then get out of the building and use Customer Development.

The third thing that happened was that one of my students, Eric Ries, pointed out that in the 21st century people don’t use waterfall engineering, they use agile engineering. So agile became the third part of what became Lean Startup. If you use agile engineering and build products iteratively and incrementally, you can build what we call the “Minimum Viable Product”. Those three components – the business model canvas from Osterwalder, my Customer Development process, and Ries’ agile engineering observations – together became what is called The Lean Startup.

What else has changed is that by about 2013 large companies realised they were being disrupted at a rate they had never seen before in the history of corporations. Not only by startups, but by changes in the economy and technology. They were looking about trying to figure out what tools and techniques they could use, and the cover of the May 2013 Harvard Business Review featured an article called “Why The Lean Startup Changes Everything”. I couldn’t believe it! There’s the phrase: this will happen when hell freezes over. Well, it froze over!

Large companies, who had always ignored startups with an attitude of “that’s nice, but we don’t do that”, realised that they needed to act, at least on the periphery, as quickly as startups. Now we see the world in Continuous Disruption. Corporations that would have followed Jack Welch’s rules from GE in the 20th century don’t follow them now. Follow those rules today and you will be out of business, not because Jack Welch was stupid, but because the environment has changed so radically for a large corporation.

The third change is that governments are also realising now that they are being continually disrupted, much like companies. They are all facing this need for continuous innovation. It turns out that startups have built a process to do all that and we have a formal methodology. We have some tools and it turns out they are applicable for corporations and governments as well.

I don’t think it has hit Europe yet, but it will. The two biggest changes I’ve seen in startups in the last 3 years in the United States are, firstly, the enormous size and scale of investments coming from players that you would never have expected. SoftBank and the National Fund of Saudi Arabia are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into Series A funding. It’s unbelievable! If you put a couple of hundred million dollars into a startup, all your competitors go away – the theory is that if your competitors have only raised 10 million dollars, you could wipe them out. I don’t know if that’s true, but that is the game being played on a scale that no one would have believed before. SoftBank now has a hundred-billion-dollar venture fund. It is probably a hundred times the size of anything else that exists. I don’t think that has been seen at scale in Europe yet, but it is affecting the Valley.

The second thing that I think is going to occur all over the world, and that we are already seeing in some parts, is ICOs – initial coin offerings.

This ability to raise money without venture capital or a national stock market is a disruptor for innovation finance. The big idea was innovation clusters: centres of innovation needed not only entrepreneurs, but also needed risk capital at scale. How many places in the world could you have raised 50 million dollars for Series A? Before ICOs, the answer was about five places: Silicon Valley, New York, Beijing, London and maybe Tel Aviv, . ICOs allow you to do that from anywhere, which potentially changes the notion of where entrepreneurial clusters can exist.

One last thing has changed, and this is like an old guy complaining, so it’s kind of funny; when I was an entrepreneur in the 20th century, the only ways investors achieved liquidity that made money, was through an IPO, and an IPO required – at least in the US, and I think in Europe as well – that you had to have at least a year of increasing revenue and profits before serious bankers would take you public. There was no law, it was just what you were taught if you were a technology company. Since your investors wanted to make money and that was the only way to make money, they taught their CEOs and management teams how to make revenues and profits. It wasn’t about users or market shares, it was about revenue and profit, so you learned those skills. In the 21st century that is not the liquidity game. The liquidity game now might be the number of users, market share, or something else. Revenue and profit is not at the top of the list any more. Therefore, entrepreneurs are learning very different skills; skills that are not particularly aligned with revenue and profit, but are aligned with whatever metrics are necessary to increase valuation and fast liquidity.

Do you also see changes in M&A activity from the tech giants? Facebook and Google buying everything, for example?

Given the scrutiny the three tech giants have from regulators in the United States now, tech has gone from incredibly popular to very much under the microscope. It is not clear that they will be running at that same acquisition pace for the next year or two – I think they are going to dial that way back down, because I don’t think they want to be looked at as much as they were about to be looked at. But yes, they were the giant sucking sound you heard: where
people went to work, and how other companies achieved liquidity by being acquired by Google, Facebook and, to some extent, Apple and others.

The other new thing, and it’s a new/old thing, is that corporate M&A and corporate VC has got back in the game. Over the years they have been in, out, in again, and now they are not only in, but there are over 200 “innovation outposts”: corporations with offices in Silicon Valley.

You have been repeating the simple advice to get out of the building, so what do you think about Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality? Do people still need to get out of the building, or could this new technology do that job?

There is kind of hierarchy to getting out of the building. The key part about it is being able to see someone’s pupils dilate. You want to look at their facial reactions when you talk to them. High-quality video teleconference is sometimes just as good as an in-person visit, particularly if distance matters, but it is about watching somebody’s body language. There is a hierarchy of interview techniques: in person, you can see what else is in their office, you can look at their desk, but AR and VR are probably right behind that. Video is next, as long as it has a good enough resolution to see their eyes. Then email. Email is probably a factor of ten less good, because you have no idea what they are doing. Surveys are probably at the bottom of the list. So it is a trade-off between time and distance. If you are in a remote location and it takes hours to get to each customer, then AR/VR is probably just fine.

Once we had the methodology in place, we realised that startups were operating by saying, “let’s read the book and go and implement this”. I was teaching at Berkeley and Stanford at the time; the cornerstone class back then – the best class you could take in any University, anywhere – was how to write a business plan. I realised that no one had created a class combining all these Lean techniques, and I realised that it was up to me. So in 2011 at Stanford, in the engineering school, I started a class called Lean Launchpad, which combined all the elements of Lean. We worked on a different part of the canvas each week: you had to get out of the building, talk to 10-15 customers, then present not only what you had learned, but your MVP for that week. Students repeated that for ten weeks, speaking to over 100 customers.

Because the class was so radical, I blogged every week of the class, and when the class was over I got a call from the US Government in which they said, “We think you have invented the scientific method for Entrepreneurship.” It turned out that the group that had called me was the National Science Foundation, our Head of Research in the United States. To cut a long story short, the US Government adopted the class to commercialise all science in the US. It is now called the I-Corps, or Innovation Corps. Over 15,000 teams of our country’s best scientists and engineers took the class. It is a law now in the United States – they made it a mandated class.

Three years ago, we started another version of the class. The first one was called “Hacking for Defence”, the next was called “Hacking for Diplomacy”, and now there are also versions called “Hacking for Energy” and “Hacking for Impact”. It is basically the same class, except this time students work on real problems given to them by the government. That class is also a Federal programme now, taught in 13 different Universities. So that’s the answer to your question about the Lean Launchpad.

Is it also available online, for free? The lectures from the first online classes are still available. Anybody can take the lectures.

How do you see the future of the startup movement? Looking back, it is unbelievable. It used to be that entrepreneurship was limited to just a set of clusters, not small business entrepreneurship. Technology entrepreneurship was limited to maybe Silicon Valley and Boston when I started. Domain expertise, mentorship and other elements were very limited, because information was transferred by having coffee with experienced people. In fact, you were limited by your coffee bandwidth if you think about it. The internet changed everything. The minute I write something now, it is available to everyone who has an internet connection. A good example of something that went viral because of the internet is entrepreneurship. It is everywhere, because entrepreneurship information is everywhere, but the limiting factor for entrepreneurship in scale was that risk capital wasn’t everywhere. That’s when we go back to ICOs, which might change that too. Just because you have a cluster of entrepreneurs, it doesn’t mean you have an innovation cluster, because if there’s no capital you really can’t grow those ideas.

What are the most common pitfalls you see repeatedly that founders make? The classic one that people still make today is that they kind of understand Lean, they say, “yeah, yeah, that’s great,” then they go and build whatever they want. They don’t really get out, and don’t understand who they are building it for or why they’re building it. The fundamental problem still is building things that people don’t want or don’t care about. The other problem is not understanding that the game you are really in business for is to have a liquidity event. You may think that you are in business to deliver product x or y, but the minute you take money from someone, their business model has now become yours. If you don’t understand your investor’s business model, you are screwed from that day on. If you don’t understand the timeframe and the multiples that your investors want, you are going to be the former-CEO. You should have asked!

Are many CEOs removed some time after the VC money comes in? It used to be the norm, but that has changed dramatically in the US in the last five years. They were removed because the CEO couldn’t scale to execution, because you needed an execution person, not only to build the sales force but, more importantly, so you could take it public. Wall Street investors didn’t want to see a 23-year-old. Because product cycles happen so rapidly, the biggest problem is not execution; the biggest problem is continuous innovation – the big idea. In the past you could take one innovation cycle and it would last three to four years – long enough to get liquidity. That is no longer true. In fact, it was the big insight by Andreessen-Horowitz, a venture firm here in the US, for which they were originally positioned as being unique, but now everybody has copied: it is a lot easier to train a founder how to execute than it is to train an execution person how to innovate. Once you think about it, it is pretty obvious. We can hire a COO to stick underneath the founder to run sales, but there is no way you can hire someone to be a founder. You don’t hire founders, you fund them. If you look at what has happened since that realisation, and by the way the data supports this, we went from zero to close to 200 unicorns in that same time. Almost all those unicorns are run by their founders. Big Idea!

Do you still do some angel investing? I invest in my students. And if you do invest what do you look for in a founder before making the decision to write a cheque?

Can they go through a wall. Meaning: it’s not just the idea, but are they capable of making something wonderful happen against all odds. That is different from an innovator. An innovator is somebody with a great idea. An entrepreneur is someone that can take a great idea and push it through all the way. They’re very rare.”

Artificial Intelligence Threaten White-Collar Jobs

First, robots came for manufacturing jobs.

Now, artificial intelligence wants the jobs in management, analysis, programming and information technology.

That’s the summary of a Brookings Institution study on growing capacity of computer programs that can sift data and trends, learn from it and predict outcomes with ever-growing sagacity. Males of European and Asian ancestry, being over-represented in those fields in the U.S., are most likely to take the hit in lost jobs.

And Atlanta, with its growing hub of technical businesses, is rated the 9th most job-exposed city in the U.S., says the report released Wednesday, “What Jobs are Affected by AI.”

The growing role of technology to do jobs that have been the domain of the laboring class, such as moving goods through a warehouse, launched a thousand prognostications in recent years from study groups and universities about a coming jobpocalypse for blue-collar workers. And jobs have been and continue to be lost, though others, such as building and maintaining robots, have been created. The study points out that the loss of manual jobs has led to more income inequality and job instability for poorer Americans.

The Brookings study is among the first to focus on white-collar jobs by looking at how artificial intelligence has growing capacity to do accounting, planning, programming and make decisions that have been the strength of the professional class. The study made its calculations of job exposure by comparing the most recent 16,400 patents for artificial intelligence technology. It figured out what jobs AI will do by looking for patent phrases describing what it will accomplish and comparing those accomplishments with the U.S. Department of Labor’s list of job descriptions.

These AI technologies “are set to affect very different parts of the workforce than previous automation. Most strikingly, it now looks as if whole new classes of well-paid, white-collar workers (who have been less touched by earlier waves of automation) will be the ones most affected by AI,” the report says.

The city whose jobs face the most exposure is the high-tech honeypot of San Jose, Calif. Atlanta’s measurement as 9th most job-exposed city is tied with Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Indianapolis, Ind.

By Christopher Quinn, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov 20, 2019

Global Entrepreneurship Week, 18-24 Nov. 2019

Global Entrepreneurship Week is a celebration of innovators who dream big and launch startups that bring ideas to life. Each November, GEW reaches millions of people of all ages and backgrounds through local, national and global events and activities. From large-scale startup competitions and workshops to small, community discussions – GEW reaches new audiences and connects participants to a network that can help them take the next step, no matter where they are on their entrepreneurial journey.

In the United States alone, nearly 5,000 events, activities and competitions are planned across all 50 states by a wide variety of organizations including: colleges and universities, entrepreneurial support organizations, government agencies, economic development groups and more. Why do so many groups plan and conduct activities during Global Entrepreneurship Week?Because it is a simple way to reach beyond your immediate network and connect with potential new partners, funders and members.

INSPIRE: Made possible by the Kauffman Foundation, Global Entrepreneurship Week introduces entrepreneurship and innovation to those who otherwise might not have considered it as a career path or as a way to solve real-world problems they are passionate about. Through partner events, activities and competitions, GEW shares uplifting and informative experiences that motivate participants to take action.

CONNECT: This week provides an opportunity for individuals and organizations to connect with others and strengthen their entrepreneurship ecosystem. GEW provides an opportunity to expand your organization’s reach beyond traditional audiences and energize new partnerships or increased membership. It also can open doors to an international audience and connect your local network to a global community.

ENGAGE: The GEW celebration empowers organizations by building and reinforcing linkages for deeper engagement throughout the year between active and inspiring entrepreneurs along with investors, mentors, corporates, community leaders, media and other startup support champions.

Get Involved

  • Attend an event – see what’s happening in your community and what resources are available to help you on your entrepreneurial path. Discover GEW events near you this November.
  • Host an event – anyone can participate in GEW. Just schedule an event that celebrates, educates and connects entrepreneurs in your community during GEW in November. Register the event on our website and download the logo to help promote your event. Join the network and register your event here.
  • Become an organizing partner – Make your city a GEW city by applying to organize GEW for your community. Organizer responsibilities include hosting a launch event on the Monday of GEW, collaborating with other local community leaders, inviting local partners to host events that support entrepreneurship, and working with GEW headquarters in Washington, D.C. to promote and highlight your city as an inspiration for other global cities working to increase their support for entrepreneurs. Apply Here.
  • Make global connections – Share your tips for attracting talent, retaining big name companies, and supporting entrepreneurs at the city level with other cities around the world. Co-host a virtual event or program with a city that closely aligns with yours.

 

Synchronicity, How to Create Your Own Luck.

THE ART OF GETTING WHAT YOU NEED

Humans are split between two worlds: The first is the world of space and time, cause and effect, energy and matter; the second is the world of histories and futures, stories and meanings, memories and hopes.

The happenings of the first world can be measured and predicted as a way to understand the deep past and, sometimes, assume the far future. Cause and effect connect this world: When you do something here, your actions are bound by the logic unearthed by the laws of physics. This is the world your body lives in, and it’s a world your body has to live in harmony with.

The happenings of the second world, however, are complex and uncertain. They are a product of the collisions that occur whenever a multitude of infinitely varied experiences come together to produce new joint experiences. This is the world of our individual and collective minds. Stories and meanings connect this world. History is a story; the future is a story — memories are shaped by meaning; hopes are shaped by meaning. And it’s this second world that makes the first world rich and granular — that adds color where there is otherwise only an outline.

When these two worlds come into contact with each other, something interesting happens. In a world without humans, physical processes are either deterministic or random — things happen, and that’s that. In a world with humans, however, they are that, sure, but they are also judged to be good or bad relative to an observer — meaning what happens in the world can be valued on a spectrum, a spectrum of fortune and misfortune.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines luck as: “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” This definition suggests that you can’t ever create luck through your own efforts but you can adjust your exposure to luck by managing your actions. The more intention you apply, and the better that intention aligns with reality, the less you leave up to chance. The less you leave up to chance, the less likely it is that bad luck is going to disrupt your life, and the more likely it is that good luck simply isn’t needed. In a way, this is the same as creating your own luck, but it lacks the serendipity that makes luck what it is.

To be lucky, then, can’t primarily be about action; it has to be about interpretation, about what the meaning of something is. It’s not hard to imagine how two people can have the same thing occur to them but make sense of this thing very differently, where one considers it to be a great fortune, while the other thinks of it as a great misfortune. The event itself is secondary. The important thing is how well the event fits into the existing story of the person experiencing said event.  Managing our actions allows us to reduce the slings and arrows of chance in the first world, the world of space and time, which alters our exposure to luck — both good and bad — but it’s only the second world, the world of stories and meanings, that enables us to create what can be called luck.

There is an incident the psychotherapist Carl Jung shares in his biography about a client he once had, a client that came to him at a low point in his life. Over time, however, with the help of Jung, this client began to make progress. Not only that, but he even developed a great friendship with Jung. But the client’s wife, a possessive woman, didn’t like this. Jealous of the time her husband was spending with his therapist, she asked the man to prematurely stop the sessions against Jung’s best recommendations. And he did.

The way Jung tells it is that a few months later, he was at a conference out of town. He had just returned to his hotel room late at night, and as he was ready to get into bed, he heard a loud crack and then felt a sudden pressure on his skull. Looking around, he found nothing — no sign of life, no sign of fallen items, no sign of other disturbances. The next morning, however, he received a call informing him that his old client had passed away the night before. The cause? A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head around the same time Jung was getting back to his hotel room.

This story reflects a personal superstition Jung had throughout his life: He was a believer in the paranormal. He thought that two people or two events could be connected to each other beyond cause and effect and through meaning — that is, say, a husband and a wife who have loved each other for decades would be capable of sharing a deep, inner bond beyond actions confined by space and time, almost as if this meaning existed on a different plane of existence altogether. He called this synchronicity.

Today, scientists have diverged away from Jung’s superstitious intuition, and they attribute synchronicity more to coincidence than they do paranormal forces. That said, it’s generally accepted that it plays an important role in how we understand the world we interact with. There might not be a logical connection between a husband feeling an uneasy pressure in his heart while at the supermarket and the heart-attack suffered by his wife of 30 years at exactly the same time elsewhere, but if that’s what he feels, it completely changes how he understands his life: first, in the realm of stories and meanings, and subsequently, in the realm of space and time.

These examples of synchronicity may at first appear detached from the idea of luck, but at its core, the process of identifying synchronous experiences is the same as the process of creating luck. When two disparate events are connected in your mind as having a relation beyond physical cause and effect, you are creating meaning. When you create meaning, you reconfigure your attention to see more connections in a random world. When you see more connections in a random world, you are more likely to notice luck where you might not have before because your surface area of recognition is greater — your attention is more attuned to certain surroundings.

There is nothing lucky about Jung’s old client taking his own life or an old man’s wife suffering a heart-attack, but the fact that both people made the connections they did changes how they interact with their loved ones moving forward — it changes what they remember, what they expect, what they value, what they are grateful for, what they are moved by. As long as their feet are planted on the ground in the real world, assigning the meanings they do to the coincidences in their lives only adds more beauty, more potentiality, to the depth and the richness of their experiences.

By definition, the creation of luck lies beyond intentional action. It’s something that happens, something that happens randomly yet fits into your life perfectly. It’s this fitness between randomness and the reality of our lived experiences that synchronicity helps establish, and it’s this same fitness that generates meaning and, thus, luck.

Whether we realize it or not, we all make use of synchronicity in various non-obvious ways. Some people, naturally, do this more than others. In fact, a small minority take it so far they ignore the fact that we live in a physical world dictated by laws that don’t bend to their personal expectations. And that’s a problem. That said, being intentional about assigning synchronous meanings can yield gifts that are otherwise hidden, and those who ignore this possibility also ignore a level of beauty not found in a world of pure causes and pure effects. There is a certain magic that comes with generating your own luck, and if approached with humility and awe, this magic can spark up a special sense of aliveness and vividity.

Personally, I spend a fair amount of time meeting new people in my life. I enjoy interesting company, so this is one of the things I value and prioritize. And yet, sometimes, meeting new people can be exhausting — the novelty wears off, the next person begins to resemble the last person, and my own boredom with it all can make even the most fascinating encounter appear mundane. It’s often the same with email. Because of my writing, I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of really thoughtful people reach out to me on a daily basis. These interactions aren’t something I would trade for the world. But, sometimes, due to the sheer volume, it can start to feel like a task.

Recently, I have started to ask myself a simple question anytime I find myself falling into these habit patterns: Why is this person in my life, right now, in this particular moment? To be sure, I’m not inclined towards believing that some divine plan has brought them here or that it’s anything more than a coincidence, but the simple act of treating it like there might be a reason for it is generally enough to open my eyes wide enough to actually see the person: who they are, how their life is colliding with my own, and all of the interesting things I could potentially learn from them.

And true enough: Because I’m suddenly paying attention to the words coming out of the other person’s mouth or listening to the actual voice behind the writing in the email, I notice things that I otherwise would not. Sometimes it’s something as simple as realizing that a certain book recommendation is exactly what I need at a particular point in my life, one that I wouldn’t have found without the stranger emailing it to me, one that perhaps even changes the trajectory of my life. Other times, it’s seeing that the person who just introduced themselves to me has qualities that I admire, a few that I even lack, and that I find that moving and inspiring and that I want to spend more time with them, time that may even lead to a relationship that, one day, I will look back on, not able to imagine having been without.

Both people and events travel along paths, and every time they merge with other paths, they create new paths. Along these new paths, there are new meanings, new coincidences, new sources of luck. But new paths don’t always get walked because we don’t always have the vision to take them. Synchronicity is that vision, and helped with intention, it’s a vision that creates and generates worlds — worlds of beauty and serendipity, life and zest, but most of all, worlds of potential, the potential for something brighter, something gentler, and perhaps, something a little more human.

EDITOR: I had a successful commercial insurance boss early on who preached “activity breeds activity”.  As a young bond producer working under him, he asked proteges to get busy in activities leading in the direction of their goals;  one contact or event led to another, and pretty soon we were attracting more opportunities than we could handle. The secret was we had a goal, and, without realizing it, our activities attracted its outcome.  In my book, “Set Your Own Salary”, I explain how I arrived in Jacksonville FL, a city I had never been to before.  With the goal of starting my own insurance agency, I set out working a year to earn the right to sit for a license exam, learning the insurer landscape, putting together a strategy, and launching at the end of the required period.  Only synchronicity could have brought three separate events together and pointed me to one insurance company in particular as a chosen vehicle.  One was an impossible bond written across town by a competitor, another word-of-mouth information from the agent’s license exam, and the third getting beat in a bid in rural Georgia using an exceptionally competitive product.  Each event hit me over the head with an arrow pointing in the direction of this important insurance company.  Synchronicity was alive and well in startup entrepreneurship then and remains just as alive to use today!

November Annual C.E.O. Conference a Smash Hit.

C.E.O. (the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization) just completed a steller conference in Tampa FL with about 1,000 students from around the U. S. participating. They were not disappointed with excellent pitches for new products and services, nationally recognized speakers, and a side trip to the beautiful Lowth Center for Entrepreneurship at the nearby University of Tampa.

One such Keynoter was Kyle Taylor CEO of super fast-growing startup Penny Hoarder based in St. Petersburg FL. His rapidly growing firm is in danger of running out of desk space, even after moving into its new 23,000-square-foot headquarters last fall. So Taylor often lets desk-less employees use his office. “Learn how to breathe, or you’ll never finish each day,” says Taylor, 31, when asked about the pressures of leading a company that experienced revenue growth of 9,396% between 2013 and 2016. That rampant growth continues, with sales increasing by 80%, from $20.48 million in 2016 to $37 million last year. The source of those sales is branded content that reaches between 12 million and 17 million per readers per month, including 5 million fans of the Penny Hoarder Facebook page. Some of its big-name advertising clients include Uber, Lyft and Sam’s Club. The company also brings in revenue by creating advertising campaigns that encourage readers to sign up for a client’s email newsletter, download a client’s app or register for a client’s service.

 In addition to Tyler, the other notables included Geogg Hyanes, President of Ra Power Pro, Jules Pieri, Founder of Grommet, Thad Tarkington, CEO of Second Nature and former C.E.O. student, Tony DiBenedetto, Founder of TriBridge. Steve Sheetz, Chairman of Sheetz, and Dan Soviero, CEO of Signature Lacrosse. These latter two speakers capped the conference with stories of their journeys. Sheetz built the family Sheetz, Inc., a chain of 600 convenience stores based in Altoona, PA while Soviero built his NCCA client business from his college dorm room at the University of Tampa. Today his company serves over 1,500 clients with over 6 million balls sold around the world in just three years with annual revenues tracking towards $3 Million.

Some of the useful breakout session dealt with social media, failure as a pre-requisite, mentoring, better marketing, scaling video productions, selling for entrepreneurs, how to embrace technology, building a business by coding, understanding accounting, financial know-how, getting to a VC yes, balancing relationships and a startup, blockchain, creating and seizing opportunities, and crafting the perfect pitch. There were a total of 50 subject-matter experts on a variety of business-related topics.

One of the highlights of the conference is the CEO Global Pitch Competition, where 80 student entrepreneurs had 90 seconds to pitch their startup business ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win part of $15,000 in prize money. A sample of this year’s pitch competition include:

  • “Yard Service in a Box” — a “one-stop shop” style package designed to help teenagers start their own yard-service business.
  • “Birthday Candles for Kids” — a nonprofit that throws fully personalized birthday parties for homeless, fostered and orphaned children.
  • “Verapy” — redefines physical and occupational therapy through virtual reality games, resulting in better patient outcomes.
  • “Soundless Sleep” — a noise-cancelling pillow for anyone who struggles to fall asleep with loud background noise.
  • “Click: Assistive Technology” — a tool designed to assist blind or otherwise visually impaired individuals safely check the level of liquid in a container.

Pitches were woven throughout the conference with competition for best chapter, best student entrepreneur, best chapter advisor, best cross campus innovation, and grand pitch winner.

A real special side trip was offered the final night to visit the state-of-the-art Lowth Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Tampa. Department Chair, Dr. Rebecca White, whose leadership garnered the 2014 Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship program in the country by USASBE, hosted. Guest toured the center’s auditorium, common spaces, conference rooms, and reference library. The Center has graduated some extraordinary entrepreneurs like James Zebrowski, current C. E. O. director and the above mentioned Soviero.

2019 was a memorable experience for all who attended the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization Conference.

Four Ways to Make Innovation Flourish

Intuit CEO Brad Smith breaks down the principles that keep new ideas flowing at the 30-year old software maker (see story below in blog).

1. Get people to fall in love with problems, not solutions.  Leadership’s job is to focus people on a grand challenge.  It took 20 years for QuickBooks to get 5 million small-business customers.  Smith recently challenged the QuickBooks team to double that in 3 years.

2.  Set up an environment where people can test their ideas quickly and cheaply.  Intuit gives employees 10% of their hours as unstructured time.  The legal department created a tool kit that lets product managers talk to legal.  The IT department accelerated the time it took to set up test environments for new Web products from two months to two hours.

3. Share the lessons of failures in the most public forum possible.  In an all-hands meeting in August Scott Cook (founder and former CEO) told the story of how he rejected the idea a few managers had to make a retail checkout product combining hardware and software.  Cook said, no, we’re a software firm.  They didn’t listen, and it’s now a $100 million business.

4.  Leaders live by the same rules as everyone else.  When Smith became CEO in 2008 he pushed for anew technology to connect QuickBooks to app developers.  It cost $70 million and took three years and failed.  A rival team of two engineers built its replacement in only several months.  Every decision he has made since has gone through hypothesis testing.

 

 

The 30-Year-Old Startup.

This entire issue Sept. 24, 2012 is an Innovation Special.  Fabulous article on “The 30-Year Startup”, Intuit, who with the help of guru founder as advisor Scott Cook and under CEO Brad Cook has reinvented innovation in teams to test new ideas continually.  It’s working so well that Intuit ranked 57th out of the world’s 100 most innovative companies, moving up 27 spots from last year.  Not bad for a tech firm with $4.1 billion in venues and a market valuation of $17 billion.

It’s lunchtime at Intuit INTU +0% in Mountain View, Calif., and the company’s almost-daily ritual is under way in the cafeteria: office hours with Scott Cook. Intuit’s billionaire cofounder perches on a stool in his everyday wear of running shoes, a button-down oxford shirt, canvas jeans and a Swatch as four product managers explain their new idea, code-named Peppermint: an online marketplace like Craigslist that would allow hair salons, landscapers and dentists, or any of the 5 million small businesses that use Intuit’s QuickBooks accounting software, to connect with potential customers under the halo of being “Intuit-certified service providers.”

On a table between Cook and the Peppermint quartet is a giant piece of white oak tag divided into little boxes labeled with the big questions: What’s your idea? What’s your vision? What’s your leap-of-faith assumption? What’s your hypothesis? The upper rows of boxes have fluorescent pink and yellow Post-it Notes in the m scribbled with answers.

There are dozens of such projects and experiments going on across the company. Cook meets monthly with 14 or 15 similar teams, meaning that most of his workday lunches are occupied by one brainstorming session or another. Right now this one isn’t going so well. Cook gently interrogates with his lips pursed and hands held out over the oak tag.

 How are you going to vet the service providers?  We could use credit scores or Yelp ratings. Okay.
How would you show if there’s buyer dissatisfaction?  We could let people know by looking at how
often their customers switch.

But they’ve already switched. That’s a lagging indicator.

We know people are interested in the service. To prove the market interest, the quartet had set up a Google GOOG +0% AdWords campaign, spending a couple of hundred bucks on a text ad that ran next to searches for dentists, hair salons and landscapers. It read: “Intuit-recommended service providers to meet your everyday needs” and linked to a dummy Web page thanking the visitor for being part of a study making QuickBooks better. They figured 10% of the ad click-throughs would yield a sign-up. It turned out 20% did.

That’s good, replies Cook, but what does “Intuit-recommended” mean? How do we reliably vouch for them? You really have to test what you can deliver. It’s not the right test. I’m not sure I believe the results if it comes up positive.

The Peppermint quartet looks crestfallen, but they agree Cook is right. They pack up, promise to tighten their idea, do some testing with real businesses and go through some more trial and error. With a little bit of money and in a short amount of time, a new product idea at Intuit stepped toward viability.

This is how things get done at the software company. In the last few years Cook and CEO Brad Smith have recast a big tech firm, with $4.1 billion in revenue and $17 billion in market valuation (similar to Yahoo YHOO +0%‘s, with far less fanfare and drama), in the image of a startup: fast-moving, embracing uncertainty, continually learning. And it’s worked: Intuit is making its second appearance this year on FORBES’ annual list of the world’s 100 most innovative companies, moving up 27 spots to 57.

New ideas are put to the test constantly. In 2006 the TurboTax group experimented with just one tweak to the website during the 100-day tax season. This season they ran hundreds of tests. Intuit tells FORBES that more than $100 million of its 2012 revenue came from products that didn’t exist three years ago, a tenfold increase from 2010.

Plenty of companies are a religion, where people take their cues from the top. Intuit is a science lab, where anything can be tested and proven incorrect. “When you have only one test, you don’t have entrepreneurs; you have politicians. When you have lots of ideas you have entrepreneurs,” says Cook.

He’s found a kindred spirit in Smith, who became CEO in 2008. “Genius and a thousand helpers are not going to solve the problems of today or tomorrow,” says Smith, 48, who speaks quickly with a ready smile and a West Virginia twang. (He grew up in Kenova, W.Va., not far from where the Marshall University football team’s plane crashed in 1970, and a We Are Marshall movie poster hangs in his office.) “There are very few Steve Jobses out there. We run small teams and lots of rapid experiments. No politics. No PowerPoints.”

Intuit had to adopt this fast mode. It faces a challenging growth prospect. Close to one-third of the U.S. economy already flows through its software via payroll, invoicing and taxes. How much more can it get? The small business economy is as tepid as the economy overall. Intuit’s two biggest products, QuickBooks and TurboTax, which produce over half of its revenue, already locked up their fairly mature markets. QuickBooks has more than 90% retail market share for small business accounting software. TurboTax has 90% of consumer federal tax app sales.

The plan it is deploying in startup time is a move to the cloud and to mobile. In the past three years Intuit has made a priority of replacing the no-growth packaged-software business with faster-growing online versions of its big hits and with subscription services such as online and mobile banking software. Of Intuit’s 60 million customers, more than 45 million now use online or mobile versions of its software, up from 10 million in 2008. Seven million of those 60 million are active mobile customers.

Avoiding the physical delivery of its software has done wonders for its income statement. Return on invested capital since Smith took over the top job in 2008 has risen from 14.7% to 24%. Its shares have doubled in the past five years, while the Nasdaq is up only 20%. The shift to the cloud and the smartphone also gives Intuit a big opportunity to mine all that online spending and hiring data that can fuel new products and service ideas, and sell customers upgrades like payroll management and online banking.

In mobile Intuit has built 55 apps, teaching it the thorny task of making money from the phone. Its SnapTax app, which takes a picture of your W-2, charges you $24.99 to file it as your federal return. Intuit gets subscription fees from its mobile banking clients (“The other 14,995 banks in the U.S.,” says Smith). Snap Payroll is a free app that calculates paychecks for new employees in minutes but also acts as a lead generator for the paid versions of Intuit Online Payroll. Mint’s iPad app offers a daily update of your financial life and targets offers for credit cards and savings accounts.  Left CEO Brad Cook. .

FORBES’ innovation methodology, done in partnership with HOLT, a division of Credit Suisse, centers on investors’ confidence in a firm’s ability to come up with new revenue-generating or money-saving ideas. Intuit’s revenue is up 10% over the past 12 months. Smith wants to keep moving up. His goal: Add $1.5 billion in new revenue over the next three years, implying a growth rate one or two points faster than the last three years.

The year Smith took the top job, Intuit had just begun a program of workshops called “Design for Delight,” which teach employees how to think more creatively through experiments and to embrace what’s called “deep customer empathy.” The workshops can be an hour long or last a couple of months. In 2008 Intuit ran one workshop. In 2009 it held 27; in the last 12 months, 700. They’re led by a cadre of 160 people who have regular day jobs but spend 10% of their time as so-called innovation catalysts. A workshop can mean wacky brainstorming sessions in which managers roll on the floor pretending to be a silent ninja or wear Cabbage Patch Kids hand puppets while pretending to talk as a real customer.

A group of employees testing Intuit Financial Services’ mobile banking app spent a day in July at the Chevron CVX +0% Federal Credit Union in Concord, Calif., selling cupcakes for $2 each if paid for with cash or $1 if purchased with the app (which they were more than happy to demonstrate). The app is not even fully built; they just wanted to see if people have it or would bother to take out their phone to use it. The “willingness” test is crucial to continuing with a new product’s development. Why bother if no one cares? The trick is to figure that out fast and inexpensively.

Since the publication of The Lean Startup (Crown Business, 2011) Eric Ries has become a Silicon Valley guru for entrepreneurs who, using little or no money, strive to turn an idea into a company. He makes a compelling case for companies to recognize that markets are too uncertain and time too precious to drag out decision making about what customers want and what products to build. Just do the best you can and keep getting better. (The principle doesn’t always apply. See under: airplanes.)

But Intuit, with 8,000 employees, has also embraced Ries. The relationship began three years ago, when someone from Intuit videoed him speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Cook saw the clip and showed it to Smith. Neither at the time was happy with the data on Intuit’s product development process. An assessment completed in early 2008 showed that only 4 out of 50 products introduced in the prior decade achieved $50 million in revenue.

Cook asked Ries to talk to the troops, but Ries wasn’t interested in big companies and their problems. “But when Scott Cook calls you, you do what he says,” Ries remembers. As soon as Ries finished addressing 2,000 employees, Smith popped up and said, “Folks, remember Eric’s definition of a startup: ‘a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.’ We match up with that exactly.”

Ries was taken aback that Smith would say that, so much so that he devoted the entire first chapter of his book (including this story) to Intuit to make the point that no matter what size a company is, it can innovate if the senior management supports it.

“All the people I’ve met there, there’s no ego; they’re not afraid to change their behavior,” says Ries. “I saw one senior guy whose idea they’d been working on for nine months get disproved in a day because someone had a better way. He got up in front of everyone and said, ‘This is my bad. I should have checked my hypothesis earlier.'”

One project inspired by Ries’ ideas is what’s called the Lean StartIN. It’s an intense two-day product brainstorming session in which three- to five-person teams are expected to come up with an idea and a series of tests to prove its merit. The first one was held in January in San Diego with 11 people. The next one, in February, had 52 people present at the company’s Mountain View headquarters, with Smith as chief judge.

To be sure, not everyone buys into it. Ries has met plenty of line employees who roll their eyes and say the equivalent of “Yeah, right,” or are unhappy with the projects they’re working on. “But Intuit is proof that a little bit of the right mentality goes a long way.”

Take the case of Mint, the easy-to-use personal finance website that Intuit snapped up in November 2009 for $170 million. Mint showed up Intuit with its far simpler execution of a financial dashboard, connecting all of the user’s bank, investment and credit card accounts. Mint’s founder, Aaron Patzer, was initially worried he was going to lose control of his baby. “Every startup fears being sucked up by the Borg,” he says. “But they told me I could run it as I saw fit, and they held true to their word.”

For a couple of years he oversaw the $100 million personal finance group that included Mint, Quicken and Quicken Bill Pay, but by 2011 he was itching to get back to product design and engineering. So Brad Smith granted him the role of making Intuit’s biggest products as easy as Mint is to set up for the first time. At the time the setup of QuickBooks’ desktop version had 45 screens of text that, in Patzer’s observation tests, few users ever took the time to read. QuickBooks’ engineers told him people had asked for each of the screens. Patzer ignored them and cut the setup down to three screens, burying any extra text behind a click. He kept in mind one of Marissa Mayer’s principles: Leave in any feature that more than 20% of people use and get rid of anything that fewer than 5% of people ever use.

One idea that came out of the Lean StartIN competition was called Mint PayBack, devised as a simple way for Mint users to get their friends to pay them money owed for things like groceries, rent, restaurant bills. They came up with a simple test to see if anyone would use it by creating a dummy page called mint.com/payback and tweeting the Web address to its thousands of followers. Several dozen clicked on the address and saw a page that asked for their and their friends’ e-mail addresses and the amount requested (minus a 50-cent fee). The rate of recipients clicking on the link was a lot higher than they expected, so they wrote some software to connect it to the real Intuit payments network and over three weeks collected $597 in fees. Twenty-four percent of the people using it weren’t even Mint users. The service is likely to become a real offering soon.

The Lean StartIN program is now graduating to a full world tour, with stops in Canada, Bangalore, Waltham, Mass., and Tucson, Ariz., with the goal of creating 100 “startups” in 100 days, from which maybe ten new products will be born.

Nearly 30 years after he came up with Quicken at his kitchen table, Scott Cook is convinced that one of these new products can perhaps be as transformative for Intuit as that original cash cow. The place he has seen the most dramatic leaps in innovation from the bottom has been in India, where the company had no established habits in product development. One experiment that delivered crop price information to mobile phones through text messaging now has close to 1 million farmers using it across three states. Some users have reported close to 20% jumps in their take-home pay. “Human behavior is so hard to predict. Unless you run an experiment you just don’t know what works. That’s how learning happens.”

By Bruce Upbin

NACCE 2019 Entrepreneurship Explorations

NACCE 2019 Entrepreneurship Explorations, held in beautiful Newport Beach California, ignited creativity and engagement for all attendees with record attendance this year. The mission of NACCE that resonates with so many is ‘to provide leadership and sustainable, scalable resources to foster entrepreneurial thinking and action in one of the largest entrepreneurial ecosystems in North America’.  (Make sure to check out the video highlights below!)

NACCE President & CEO Dr. Rebecca Corbin kicked off the conference by pointing to the Centers of Practice around the themes of entrepreneurial mindset, equity and inclusion, engagement, apprenticeships and workforce development, making and global entrepreneurship. The exhibit hall provided an opportunity for friends to learn more about the COPs and meet all the sponsors. During the conference several events took place including two new pitch competitions, a film screening of Most Likely to Succeed, live music, book giveaways and plenty of sponsor gifts and interactions!

NACCE awarded Clinton E. Day the Entrepreneurship Star Award in August and two more distinguished NACCE awards were presented during this annual conference. Dr. Paul Dale, President of Paradise Valley Community College accepted the Entrepreneurial President recognition and Dr. Constance Carroll, Chancellor of San Diego Community College District accepted the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award.

Saturday opened with an Offsite Tour opportunity to explore Newport Beach led by Katie Calabrese Director of Membership and Projects. A beautiful day on the Pacific Ocean with a self-guided Duffy Boat Cruise made for a memorable networking opportunity between educators.

Sunday was your preconference chance to grab autographs for the newest NACEE book Community Colleges as Incubators of Innovation – Unleashing Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Communities and Students. Dr. Corbin kicked off the event and the book’s authors took the attendees through firsthand entrepreneurial accounts and best practices. Author Dr. Ron Thomas shared lessons including: ‘Don’t go it alone, Know you, Solve problems, and Involve customers. Design Thinking expert and author Beth Kerley pointed out entrepreneurship is ‘Not about resources, it is about Resourcefulness.’ President and CEO of the Morgan Foundation and author Deborah Hoover provided impactful stories of how a profession of ecosystem builders is growing sharing how the Morgan Foundation is leading the charge in Ohio.

For the Opening General Session, a warm welcome was provided by Dr. Corbin, NACCE Chair Dr. Susan May, Host Colleges Dr. Lori Adrian. The main keynote was provided by the brilliant Direct Selling Education Foundation invite Gordon Hester. His candid approach kept the audience engaged as he shared his success stories built on the fact that ‘Standards are more important than Goals.’ Chris Mackey General Manager of CPP Innovation Labs of Myers-Briggs noted the importance of looking for opportunities to share entrepreneurship with kids early on with a nostalgic testimony of him and his son touring Washington DC complete with a thoughtful thank you card to a Senator.

Monday opened with lots of excitement as Charles Knippen, President of the National Society of Leadership and Success transformed the audience’s perspective on how high someone can jump. Jaws dropped at the end of the presentation when he described the car wreck him and his husband survived by showing a gory picture of his bloody shirt….a shirt he had cleaned for the presentation. He stated that it reminds him of the importance of fully loving each day. Tallahassee Community College EVP Madeline Pumariega talked disruption to educators asking ‘if we are prepared for the UBER of education’ like taxi medallion owners thought would never happen. Intuit VP of Education David Zasada spoke on Design for Delight (D4D) teaching corporations and institutions on how ‘it is everyone’s job to Innovate.’ They followed up with a detailed walk through of D4D in the last breakout session of the day.

For Breakout Session 2, Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc. had a full breakout room. The audience engaged in Lean entrepreneurship tools and training solutions with an experiential exercise. Participants came away more prepared to face the frightening pace of automation and disruption that will continue to impact workforce and the economy.

For lunch, the Verizon Innovative Learning panel discussed amazing impacts on communities they had across campuses. The Keynote Ted Dintersmith author of What Schools Could Be and a producer of the film Mostly Likely to Succeed provided a very blunt view of how colleges and K-12 need to improve their approach of education. He passionately pointed out that a kid shouldn’t fail out of school for a subject like algebra when most school President’s possess an elementary math level as well. He had a film screening of his documentary that proved project-based learning as the core can be an alternative educational approach vs the current hierarchy dominated memorization path.

Coffee, Dessert and Networking please!! NACCE Director of Marketing and Communications Leah Deppert delivered Speed Networking and Meet-Ups with Rosé in the Rose Garden Monday evening before the film screening Most Likely to Succeed. We all were in awe of the California sunset dipping into the Pacific before heading in for the thought-provoking film.

While the author of this article had to make an early departure Tuesday, please make sure to check out NACCE.com to see the full agenda!  Enjoy the video highlights:

By Clinton D. Swigart, CPA, MA

Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc.

The Brutally Honest Guide to “Finding Your Passion”

Ugh. “How to find your passion” Cue the doves, rainbows, and synchronized unicorn dance ensemble.

Here’s a topic used frequently in entrepreneurship.  “Make your work your passion and you won’t have a job.”  Two points of view below.

How to Use a Double-Edged Sword

I refer to the double-edged sword concept a lot. Life comes with tradeoffs and opportunity costs. You can’t experience the positive aspects of a decision and remove the unintended consequences at the same time. One example I use often is the fact that self-improvement can help you find the inspiration you need to change, but it can also lead to mental masturbation — the process of congratulating yourself for learning withouttaking action.

Learning how to find your passion has a double-edged sword, too. One of the best lessons I’ve learned involves understanding both sides of an argument. Unless you can fully understand the opposite case to what you believe to be true, you don’t have knowledge. It’d be easy for me to take a one-sided approach to the idea of finding your passion. I’ve done it before.

In my process of learning and implementing self-improvement, I’ve gone back and forth between stances. I don’t consider this waffling. I consider it true learning. If I wrote something in the past that I come to change my mind on in the present, I won’t change or delete the article. I think of them as timestamps in the past; solidified pieces of thought. I need the reminders of what I used to believe to inspire me to keep questioning my belief systems.

Let’s take a look at the passion debate at every angle so you can make a decision that works for you.

The Pro Argument for Finding Your Passion

A Gallup survey revealed that “A staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. ”

You spend basically a third of your entire life working, which means that doing what you hate just to get by robs you of a large portion of existence. Doing what you hate for a living also has a ton of negative consequences. It drains you of your energy, which causes you to be less present with your friends and family while you’re not at work. Being in a negative environment for eight hours a day has a spillover effect.

You’ve seen people who let the jobs they hate whittle away their soul. You see them every day on the highway while you drive to work. Hell, maybe you are one of these people right now. You see the feeling of desperation in the person you walk past in the grocery store and make eye contact with, only for them to ignore you or even frown. And it’s not just that they’ve had a bad day. You can tell life itself has put them into this default state.

Finding your passion, however, produces the exact opposite effect. When you find your passion, you’re full of life. You want to wake up in the morning because you’re excited about the day. When you work, you don’t feel like you’re working. You’re in a flow state and the time passes by without effort.

You’ve heard the saying “Find something you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

Why Trying to Find Your Passion is Dangerous and Counterproductive

You can’t eat passion. Passion doesn’t pay your bills.  You can’t enter “finding your passion” into an application for medical assistance.

Who the hell are these millennials with no life experience to be telling you how to find your passion and live your bliss? They don’t know what they’re talking about.

Someone has to wash the dishes, haul the garbage, do your accounting, construct your roads, and wait your tables. The world spins because of people who don’t follow their passion. On top of that, finding your passion is all good and well until it doesn’t work. You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to find it only to get zero tangible results.

If that wasn’t enough cold water splashed on your dreams, here comes the tidal wave, finding your passion can be dangerous. I actually wrote an article about this topic.  Here’s the most highlighted passage:

“The problem with focusing on what you’re passionate about is… it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because it comes with a poor underlying assumption.The assumption is that your level of love dictates how dedicated you’ll be to the journey. You think that once you find that ultimate passion, things will fall into place, and you’ll do the work necessary to succeed.”

This is backward.

In reality, you don’t find passion until you get good at something. When you develop competence in something you enjoy, you build more confidence to help you tackle larger challenges, and you continue to grow, which fuels more passion to repeat the process.

Most people want the results without the effort. They want passion to fall in their lap. You shouldn’t chase or seek your passion because that means it’s trying to evade you. Often, you’ll end up chasing your own tail, running on the advice treadmill, and making no progress toward building a life you love.  Do your job, be thankful you have a roof over your head in the first place, and stop being so entitled.

So, What’s the Real Answer?

As always the real answer lies somewhere in the middle.  The odds of you finding a magical passion right away are basically zero. On the other hand, trying to find your passion is still worth attempting, even with low odds, because the alternative of living below your potential can have dramatic negative consequences, too.

How do you find balance? How do you overcome the hurdles and build a vehicle for your freedom? Here’s everything I know based on a half decade of learning, testing, experimenting, failing (multiple times), and finally succeeding.

Take Everything I Say With a Grain of Salt

I’m a human being just like you. I have my own faults, biases, and beliefs about the world. You can take the exact same steps as me with dramatically different results. There are no guarantees with any of this. Not to tickle your lizard brain and push you toward a negative behavior you’re prone to, but be skeptical of me.

Most people start following self-help writers until a weird thing happens — they fall in love with them.  They get so caught up in the people they’re following they take all their advice verbatim and spend more time idolizing the guru than doing the work.

I read a bunch of self-improvement books. After a while, something interesting happened. I ran into conflicting advice from different sources I respected equally. That meant I had to figure out what was true by testing both sides of a debate to see what works. As I improved my own life, I started to look at these other influencers at eye-level instead of looking up to them. I see behind the smoke and mirrors. I also realize these people are just human beings, not Gods with superhuman talent or vessels of the “secret sauce.”

Far too many of you get trapped in hero worship and mental masturbation. Reading some self-help writers book means nothing. Testing and filtering out their techniques to see who really knows what they’re talking about does. Taking bad advice isn’t neutral. It pushes you back. Be optimistic, but pay attention to who you’re listening to, how they got where they are today, and whether or not you can replicate their strategies.

Eventually, you’ll narrow the people you listen to and you’ll have weeded out the pretenders. Here’s what to do next.

Please, Please, Please Don’t Be This Person

It’s fascinating to see people pick apart advice.  I have a hobby. I go read negative reviews of Amazon books. One comment I hear often “The author didn’t go into enough depth and provide enough actionable advice.”  Ok. What did you expect exactly? Did you really think an $11 e-book was going to give you the blueprint for millions? What were you looking for exactly?

Resources:  Here are all of my most tactical, detailed, and useful guides on finding your passion

AND…What Part Does Passion Play in Your Success as an Entrepreneur https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239701

The energy of passion. Such energy will keep you going when the tasks are unpleasant, the money isn’t coming in, and your physical energy has done left the building. It can be the one thing that earns the trust of your employees and customers. It will fuel your business when the economy gets tight and the competition gets fierce. Without energy, as I said in “3 Ways to Leverage the Resource You Can Least Afford to Do Without” you’re toast.