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Storytime #3: How a Handshake Deal with Twitter Led to Millions of Video Views

Storytime #3: How a Handshake Deal with Twitter Led to Millions of Video Views

Storytime is a series of videos that are usually brief and focused on a single idea relating to my work and/or personal life. This episode is about how our video “Twitter in Plain English” ended up on the front page of Twitter.com for over a year. The full version of this story in my book Big Enough.

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I Can Recommend: Octopus Edition ?

I Can Recommend: Octopus Edition ?

Octopuses are having a moment right now and I admit to being fascinated by them. If you’re wondering, the plural of octopus is not octopi because the word comes from Greek and not Latin. Anyway, here are my recommended octopus stories in four forms:

  • My Octopus Teacher (Netflix) – This film won a well-deserved Oscar. It’s the story of a filmmaker who befriends an octopus for over a year. But it’s so much more. The filmmaker, Craig Foster, free-dives in frigid water off the coast of South Africa and captures the drama of octopus life in beautiful form. Watch the Trailer.
  • Octomom (Radiolab Podcast) – A team of researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium discover, via a robotic submersible, a deep-water octopus who is protecting 160 eggs a mile beneath the surface. They visit her each month for four years and document her unbelievable process of hatching the eggs over time.
  • The Soul of an Octopus (Book by Sy Montgomery) – Sy is a nature writer who became fascinated with octopuses. This book is her story of learning about and getting to know a handful of giant pacific octopuses behind the scenes at aquariums and in the wild. It’s a little woo-woo in spots and I wish it had more science, but was a fun read if you don’t mind the idea of animals in captivity.
  • Salish Sea Wild: Shaking Hands with the World’s Biggest Octopus (5 minute YouTube video) – This feature was made by our friends on Orcas Island at the SeaDoc Society, which is a science-driven nonprofit focused on ocean health. Watch more Salish Sea Wild.

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The Entrepreneurial Imperative

The Entrepreneurial Imperative

Though it might not be obvious, we live in a world of imperatives. These are not laws, regulations, or other legally-binding rules, but expectations made by culture. We are bound by what others believe is the right path in a given situation. They are norms that, when followed, have a record of producing success.

Perhaps the most basic imperatives involve family. When people fall in love, there is a cultural expectation of marriage. If possible, the couple should raise children and send them to school. It’s a structure that has worked for generations and for good reason. It has a record of success. Because it works, those who choose to live outside it can be suspect. How dare they challenge the imperative?

A less considered imperative involves business pursuits. Here, it is assumed that businesses exist to grow and make their owners as rich as possible. Like family, this is based on a system that has worked. Growing businesses have been an engine of wealth for generations and in the case of publicly traded companies, the organization has a duty to make decisions that benefit the shareholders. But is it required for every business? Must every business person follow this path?

The entrepreneurial imperative seems to be this: Business success is based on becoming as wealthy as possible.

The danger of any imperative is it becoming so baked-in that it escapes analysis or skepticism. It becomes assumed and therefore thoughtless. I’ve heard multiple parents say, “I never knew I had a choice.” when it came to procreating. That’s what imperatives do. They reinforce an idea to a point where it’s unquestioned.

And so it is in business. From my perspective, too many entrepreneurs assume there is only one “right” way to build a business and it’s aiming to grow quickly and become the next unicorn. It seems that anyone who doesn’t take that path isn’t a serious or respectable entrepreneur.

I believe this perspective is changing as people begin to understand the personal costs that come with this kind of entrepreneurship. Yes, building a billion-dollar business is an incredible accomplishment that deserves respect. But it’s also incredibly rare and the path to it is frequently littered with those who tried, but were left with massive debt, broken relationships, and unhappiness. The romantic notion that appeals to so many conveniently leaves out the realities.

For some, it’s worth the cost. These entrepreneurs are willing to trade it all for a shot at the big time. But is it the only way?

We need entrepreneurs who aim for the stars. But, I also want entrepreneurs to see that, despite the weight of the imperative, they have a choice. They can choose a different path with different goals and different outcomes. There are still trade-offs and it’s not easy, but there is a respectable version of entrepreneurship that’s decidedly smaller and more manageable.

Money is often seen as the only true metric of success. The person who dies with the biggest bank account is the winner, right? For some, that’s the goal, but more people are starting to discover that their success isn’t so one-dimensional.

I believe, for example, that having control of my time is an important part of success. In order to achieve that control, I may have to make sacrifices, like taking on fewer projects and/or making less money. In this way, time is a part of my calculus of success. The same is true with the success that comes with independence or location. I want to be independent and work from anywhere and to do that, I have to consider the trade-offs. What I trade in terms of income may come back to me in the form of a healthier lifestyle. Success isn’t a single note. It’s a song.

Many of us are living through changes of all kinds. Now is a time to think more critically about the entrepreneurial imperative and what assumptions you’re making about success. Money matters, but is it everything? If you can break out of the imperative, you might find that building a business that’s Big Enough is the song that’s been playing in the back of your mind for too long.

What Does it Mean to be “Rich”?

What Does it Mean to be “Rich”?

It’s easy to think that wealth is measured in dollars and cents. And that’s true. When we think of being “rich”, we think of money and what that money could buy, or how it could change our lives. Again, a valid perspective. But when we think about the wealth that comes from owning a business, I think there’s an opportunity to think about being “rich” more broadly.

I made the short video below to ask a simple question: what if being “rich” could mean more than a growing bank account? One of the central messages of BIG ENOUGH is that money matters but is only one part of a bigger picture that includes health and happiness.

The Trick is Not Minding That It Hurts

The Trick is Not Minding That It Hurts

A few years back, we watched the film Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and one scene has stuck with me ever since. In fact, I included a description of it in Chapter 8 of Big Enough:

Lawrence is talking with a couple of fellow soldiers, one of whom has an unlit cigarette. Lawrence pulls out a match and lights the cigarette. With the two soldiers watching, he then puts his fingers on the match and slowly snuffs out the flame without a flinch. One of the soldiers, named Potter, is mystified and tries the same trick, exclaiming as his fingers touch the flame, “Ooooh! It damn well hurts!” Lawrence’s reply is “Certainly it hurts.” Potter looks askance at Lawrence and enquires, “Well, what’s the trick then?” Lawrence says, “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”

The trick is not minding that it hurts. That simple idea has had a big influence on me and my perspective. More from that chapter:

Now, admittedly, the struggle and pain I’m referencing in the context of Sachi and me is symbolic. We are fortunate not to experience real pain or suffering. I recognize that. But I also think too many privileged people lose sight of how it feels to be challenged, to struggle, and to feel a bit of pain.

This is especially true when income rises. Suddenly, money becomes a means for banishing any kind of pain or strife. You can hire a cleaner, mover, or house painter. Checking the car tires gets your hands dirty. This version of the good life means that you don’t have to worry about the details. They are someone else’s problem and you’ve earned the right to push those problems out of your life. Besides, you’re busy.

If you spend your whole life working to avoid the things that might hurt, or that represent a challenge, you risk becoming an entitled and oblivious prick or someone so fragile that reality feels like injustice.

In my first years with Sachi, I was much more mindful of this version of pain. I pushed back against projects like painting our house ourselves or having a stringent budget. From my perspective at the time, we had earned the right to avoid going to all the trouble. But over time, I learned from her that there is real power in putting your head down and pushing through, even if it hurts, or takes time, or is inconvenient. That willingness to do the work is what has changed, and I now see it as a necessary and important part of being a productive and well-adjusted person, and one that comes with a kind of satisfaction that’s not achievable through just spending money. The trick is not minding that it hurts.

Here’s the scene from the movie:

Learn more about Big Enough – Building a Business that Scales with Your Lifestyle.

Big Enough Socks and Stickers

Big Enough Socks and Stickers

I’m so thankful for the people who pre-ordered BIG ENOUGH. The book made a splash on launch day and was the #1 New Release in the category of home based-businesses.

screenshot of big enuogh on amazon

I ran a pre-order campaign for the book to generate early interest and sales. And it worked. We sold over 450 copies before the book’s official launch. I count it as a success and learned a lot.

To encourage pre-orders, I offered a few tiers of incentives that included stickers and socks. Last week, I wrote a personal note to each person who pre-ordered and included their gift. It was a big project and one I enjoyed because writing a personal note of gratitude, by hand, feels right. It made me want to write more personal notes and hopefully improve my handwriting along the way.

I recently got to see the Big Enough socks in action and it was glorious:

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Video: Big Enough for What Matters to You

Video: Big Enough for What Matters to You

Building a business inevitably comes with a personal cost. For many, that cost is debt, long hours, and reduced quality of life. Years of toil are traded for a shot at striking gold and the allure is undeniable. The risk can seem worth the rewards and I applaud those who choose to take it.

But I also believe that now is the time for a new perspective that challenges traditional notions of business success and respectability. Who is to say that a small, sustainable business is less successful than a big, growing one? Is an entrepreneur who values quality of life less respectable?

I created the 47-second video below to explain this new version of success and the value of building a business that grows what matters to you.

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