Innovate. Fail. Learn. Repeat. {learn to live your art and use your creativity to live comfortably}
  • I fail at almost everything that I do. I post blogs that no one reads. I sell products that no one buys. I even try to give away free content that no one wants. But that’s not the bad news. I’m not planning to stop any time soon. I don’t have a lot in common […]

  • I develop iPhone apps.  About a year ago, I was invited to a webinar that I thought was purely informative.  I was stoked to absorb the information that the host would pack into the scheduled 2 hours.  In reality the informational portion lasted 30 minutes and covered very little of the design process – then […]

  • I’m an almost-artist. We have everything we need inside, but we hold it in as if our life depends on it, when in reality our life depends on letting it out. The world needs your art. No one else is capable of creating the unique art that you were created to make. I’m an almost-artist and you may be too.

  • We all say that we’re going to Starbucks for the coffee, but that’s not why we go at all. It’s something completely different and we should take note. Here’s a lesson I learned from an unexpected source: a Starbucks stock boy.

Twitters Followers

I fail at almost everything that I do. I post blogs that no one reads. I sell products that no one buys. I even try to give away free content that no one wants. But that’s not the bad news.

I’m not planning to stop any time soon.

I don’t have a lot in common with the Donald Trump’s of the world. One distinct difference is the amount of time I’ve been in business — and there is that whole millionaire thing. The point is, I’m relatively new to this business game. Newness often fades before we take full advantage of it. There are so many possibilities to be found when we choose to look for them.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Naiveté

We spend our lives learning new things and wishing for more than we have. My 6-year-old wants to be 9 so he can play games rated “9+” on his iPod. My 11-year-old wants to be 13 for the same reason. As a parent I tell them, “Don’t wish away the time that you have.” Yet I do the same thing.

When you are young in business you have so much opportunity. You may not see it that way, but it’s true. You may think, “If only I had as many Twitter followers as Gary Vaynerchuk or Sandy Krakowski, then I’d be happy.” But don’t miss the opportunity that you have right now.

With No Responsibility Comes Great Power

When you are 18 and deciding what to do with your life you have very little to lose because — well — you have very little at all. At age 18 you could attempt to do anything and get back to the starting point in very little time even if things went wrong. Starting early also allows more time to make up for the mistakes that you will inevitably make. When you have nothing to lose, you have no risk. Being young in business provides the same opportunity.

As I’m writing this, I don’t have a million Twitter followers. Great! That allows me to test things on Twitter and see if they work on a small scale (i.e., very little risk). If I had a million Twitter followers, I may be less eager to try something completely unique. When I have a lot of followers, I have a lot to lose. The reverse is also true.

Try It Now Before You Get Too “Old”

Your business will grow up. It will become stronger. It will succeed. Before it does though, take as many chances as you can!

If you’re a blogger, you can test new headlines and webpage formats and even content with little risk. The newness advantage allows you to try an abundance of ideas without the fear of losing a large audience. There’s always time to build an audience after you find your niche.

Even more importantly than the number of Facebook and Twitter followers is your business model, your basic business structure and your base product. When your business is all grown up, you’ll have a specific product line or service that can make it difficult to branch off and make that new, ground breaking widget — even if that widget is super cool and exciting.

On the other hand, if you’re a small business and your current products aren’t selling as well as you’d like, you can try something completely new and unrelated with very little risk. What’s the worst that could happen? The 3 people reading your website stop coming back? Let them go.

Try New Things Until You Find the One Thing

No one can predict the success of a product before it’s released. It’s trial and error. Although a great tool, even successful Kickstarter campaigns don’t guarantee product success. Just because people think your idea is a good one doesn’t mean that the market as a whole will agree.

Now is the time to run the trials. Run them often. Run them meticulously.

You need to find the business that fits your taste. When your business takes off, even if you grow to hate it you will be hesitant to try something new. When you’re fresh and eager, you can pivot on a dime with very little risk and very little anguish. Pivot now before you get too many followers.

Now is the time to take that risk.

Create a completely new product. Test Twitter posting techniques. Try various Facebook posting formats. Test blog content and headlines. You can even try different names for your business. Again, what’s the worst case scenario? You lose a small number of fans — not ideal, of course — but your devoted fans may follow you anyway.

Chances are you won’t lose everyone, but you will lose some. The ones that you will lose will be worth it the day that you find your true direction and discover the business that sets you on fire to get out of bed every morning.

“The day you realize that you no longer get excited about the work you’re doing is the day you need to define your exit strategy.”

Which group are you in? Are you excited to get out of bed every morning or are you hitting the snooze button and delaying the inevitable for as long as humanly possible? I hope it’s the former. If not, get started now and stop worrying about how to get more twitter followers.

“I will dispense this advice now. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh nevermind; you will not.” — Baz Luhrman, Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)

This blog was originally posted on Medium.

Process doesn't guarantee progress

I develop iPhone apps.  About a year ago, I was invited to a webinar that I thought was purely informative.  I was stoked to absorb the information that the host would pack into the scheduled 2 hours.  In reality the informational portion lasted 30 minutes and covered very little of the design process – then the sales pitch began. That pitch went on for more than 90 minutes.

I’m still not sure why I waited for the end.  Perhaps it was to learn this lesson a year later.

As I listened to this guy tell me how his product was unique to the marketplace and how it would solve all of my app development problems, I was skeptical. He kept persuading with more examples and bigger numbers until he finally convinced me. In the end, I was sure that I couldn’t make a successful app without his product.

Kudos, my friend. Well done.

Then came the asking price. The price was enormous and he justified it by the fact that his system was going to help me generate millions of dollars in revenue.  I didn’t have the money to purchase the product, but I had an idea. What if I offered him a portion of the millions that I would make from using his system? Pure genius.

I typed nervously in the webinar chat window. I formulated the 3 sentence proposal and rewrote it multiple times during the next 5 minutes. Finally, it was complete.

“Send.”

The response from the chat screener was immediate:

“Person X is not interested in that type of proposition at this time.”

How could he not be interested? I can make him free money for doing nothing?  Lots of it! No one in their right mind would turn down that opportunity. What a hack.  He doesn’t even believe in his own system.

Nearly a year later, I stumbled upon this post from Ramit Sethi. I hadn’t really thought about the words I write in that chat window since the day they were sent. Ramit’s post reminded me of those words, but also shed new light on the horrible misjudgment that I made.

“Positive results come from the correct implementation of a good process, not from the process itself.”

That man would have been nuts to accept my offer.  He had no reason to believe that I was capable of implementing the process correctly.  None.

Ramit’s post also made me think more about the processes that I’ve created around my own business. I firmly believe in process and I believe that process is essential to progress.

As an example of the benefits of process, I can decide on a goal to lose 20 pounds in 3 months, but the process is what I’ll use to achieve that goal. I don’t have to focus on the weight loss if the process is designed well and implemented correctly (I would monitor the progress, of course). To meet that goal, my process could be to visit the gym four times a week, drink a protein shake for breakfast every day, drink 100 ounces of water every day and cut out all processed sugar.  It is nearly impossible for me to implement that process and NOT meet my goal.  The same is true for your business.

If you are trying to reach more people, you need to help more people. It’s nearly impossible for you to help one person a week by offering your expertise or providing new ideas for free and NOT reach more people. That process that works: Help people with no expectation of something in return and you will reach more people.

I encourage you to write down your goals and then design a process to reach them.  Implementing a well-designed process can provide results that seemed impossible.

Remember, it’s not the process alone, but the implementation of it that matters.  That’s the hard part.  Thanks for the reminder, Ramit!

Luca and his hat

My 6-year-old puts on a corny tiger hat, some tiger-striped gloves, a clip-on tail and a black sweat suit. He looks like a little boy dressed up as a tiger, but he’s not. Just ask him. He’s not dressed up as a tiger; he IS a tiger. And no one in is this world will convince him otherwise.

Do you know why he’s a tiger? Because he’s a little boy. A little boy that doesn’t believe in impossible.

“Little boys don’t believe in limitations.”

No one has told him yet that there is a “status quo” that he should fit into with everyone else. And, little boys are not afraid to fail.

Maybe you don’t want to become a tiger (but you have to admit that it would be pretty cool), but what have you defined as impossible?

Finding a new job? Mending a relationship? Starting your own business? Buying your own home? Having a family? Having more faith?

We all have our definition of impossible. And quite frankly, most of us are wrong. Reconsider your self-imposed limitations. Stop holding yourself back and become that little boy (or little girl) again. If you think hard enough, you may be able to remember back to that person. The one that didn’t believe in impossible.

[originally posted on Medium]

Telephone

The elevator was so crowded that the last one in had to be sure his shirt didn’t get closed in the doors. The next few minutes was spent traveling 900 feet underground to one of the few places on earth that literally has NO light. That’s where I would spend my days.

An underground coal mine is not a place for the faint of heart. From the shaky elevator ride to the bottom, to the piles of former-ceiling that now reside on the floor, to the aforementioned darkness, everything about the coal mine is disturbing. And yet, I had somehow found a job that was even worse.

A job so vile that only the worst of the worst would even consider it. I was as close to Satan’s spawn as I could come.

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Strumming it

The phone rang but I was singing in the shower so my mom answered.

“Is Josh there?”

The gruff voice on the other end was cause for concern, and as any good mom would, she inquired.

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“Sergeant Smith from the local Marine recruitment office.”

That’s the moment that my military career ended – before it began. I was a gloomy kid back then. The darker part of me wanted to go to the military for bad reasons. Inside I know that it’s true, but it’s easier for me to say “I think”.  The fact that my dad had done several tours in Vietnam made being a soldier seem like an opportunity for me to make him proud.

I almost made it. I was almost a soldier.

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No

I feel like I say “yes” too often.  It’s not really a bad problem to have, as problems go.  I get to help a lot of people and I love that.  They probably don’t mind either.  I feel like it’s one of my strengths.

But there is also a downside.  When you start saying “yes” to everyone else, you start saying “no” to yourself.  It’s not a selfish thing to make sure you’re taken care of.  It’s kind of like an engine wanting oil.  It’s not out of a selfish desire, but because you know that you can only perform when you’re well lubricated.  (Keep it clean, gentlemen… keep it clean).

Let’s run with that engine analogy.  You can go quite some time without changing your oil and everything seems to be okay.  But behind the scenes, everything is getting worn down.  Things feel okay, but they aren’t.  It’s only a matter of time before things fall apart.

So it is with you.

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