(Friday Filosophy 5/26/23)
Happy Freakin’ Friday!
Welcome to another issue of Friday Filosophy, my weekly postcard to you with a question, topic, or challenge to contemplate. This week let’s try a crazy thought experiment: living your life like you’re launching a start-up.
We’re experiencing the most disruption and accelerated growth in human history. Advances in computing, biogenetic engineering, blockchains, AI, and other areas are accelerating the pace of change almost exponentially. To succeed in this new reality a start-up company can no longer simply be nimble or respond faster. The entrepreneurs who found those companies have to become better at critical thinking to peek around the corner and anticipate challenges (and thus, opportunities).
Fun fact: My book Risky Is the New Safe was inspired by my experience of holding a cloned puppy and having him lick my face. It was such a mind-blowing moment, that it led me down a rabbit hole of where science and tech and the entrepreneurs who were driving the advances in these areas – were going to take us. Next, that journey led me to write Mad Genius. The book was a manifesto for entrepreneurs, and I used it to explore the thought processes of business visionaries like Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. The goal was to deconstruct their thinking, looking for commonalities and clues into how they achieve results at such a higher level than most. Read the book for my complete conclusions, but one spoiler I’ll give you now...
These entrepreneurs are crazy. Or at least by the definition of the masses. I chose the title Mad Genius because of the microscopically thin line between genius and insanity. To start a new company requires being one of the loneliest, most misunderstood people on earth.
Having a dream. Raising capital. Employee issues. Doubt from family and friends. Getting to market. The market yawning. Employee issues. Skepticism from your peers. Making payroll. Product development. Employee issues. Growing pains. Jealousy from family and friends. Attacks from the media. Branding concerns. Cash flow problems. Employee issues. Inventory nightmares. Government regulation. Did I mention employee issues?
Often the biggest jump needed is the ability to see the intangible. When something has never existed before, it’s not uncommon for it to be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misconstrued. If you come upon a mother of dragons speaking Dothraki and you’ve never encountered such a thing before, your inability to correctly process what is in front of your eyes can deceive you. This misguided perception can cause you to miss opportunities or even sabotage your own success. A commonality of the entrepreneurs mentioned above is their ability to think in wildly different ways than most people. They approach the process not only with traditional logical and linear thinking, but also with lateral, critical, or even contrarian thinking.
Billionaires think differently than millionaires, millionaires think differently than thousandaires, and thousandaires think differently than broke people. Most of the decisions ultra-successful entrepreneurs make aren’t done until they first question the premise. Every industry has its sacred cows and accepted practices. These are often based on foundational premises that are no longer valid. (If they ever were.) Most entrepreneurs are still making their decisions based on these outdated sacred cows and assumptions. Oprah, Jobs, Cuban, and the others stay away from this trap of herd mentality groupthink. They’re outliers in the sense that they set standards and expectations far beyond what most people can even imagine.
It’s not a coincidence that Airbnb was created by people outside the hotel business, Amazon came from people not in the bookstore biz, and Uber was created by people who weren’t from the taxi industry. Instead of thinking, “What is the next generation of a bookstore,” Bezos thought, “Why do we even need a bookstore?”
If you’ve followed my work for any length of time, then you know I believe that prosperity is manifested in three ways:
The entrepreneurs we looked at all do one, two, or all three of these things. Going yet further, they also do this by questioning premises and approaching the situation without preconceived assumptions. They let the magnitude of the problem determine the magnitude of their thinking.
Having explored all this, let’s wind back around to where we began the discussion…
I posit that manifesting a prosperous life follows many of the same principles as launching a start-up company. You have to question premises. That means asking questions like these: Does a college degree offer real value in the new work environment? Just because X generations of your family have served in the military, does that mean it’s right for you? Do your religious beliefs empower you or enslave you? Is the ideal of a marriage, two kids, a shaggy dog, and a picket fence right for you? Do you really need a certain level of money, education, or connections to become wealthy?
What are the problems you want to solve? Are you overweight or otherwise unhealthy? Do you spend more than you earn? Are you repeating self-sabotage behavior? Have you attracted toxic and dysfunctional people into your orbit?
Finally, you have to envision the superior reality that you want as the outcome. In the case of your life, it won’t be funding rounds, P&L statements, or launching an IPO. Almost 40 years ago, I read a quote on how to define success, that still resonates to my core today. Allow me to share it with you:
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here.
This is to have succeeded.
It’s been attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson for decades, but he never actually wrote it. It was written by Bessie A. Stanley when she submitted it in a contest being conducted by the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette newspaper in 1906. Her definition is poignant and touching, but each of us must find our own definition.
So here’s your challenge...
What if you approached your life the same way Richard Branson started Virgin Records or Elon Musk founded SpaceX? The broadcast industry saw Oprah as a weather girl. She saw herself as a multi-billion-dollar media empire. What if you saw yourself with a similar perspective? If your current operation (the life you’re living) isn’t profitable (you’re not healthy, happy, and prosperous), close it down and launch a start-up: You, Inc.
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