One & Only

The weight of one is heavy. Something so rare makes us feel like we only have one chance to get it right. If it’s inanimate, we never want it diminished. If it’s alive, we seek the futile tranquility of immortality.

These desires pressed against the tension of time can make the uniqueness of one feel overwhelming. This can devolve into a fear of change and selfish preservation, but perhaps there is freedom within the timeline of now.

Being present is hard when we’re always reflecting on the past and thinking about the future, but what choice do we have? Altering the past is not an option. All we have is now, and yet, the present never stops passing.

Within this endless transition, gratitude provides peace. It invites us to cherish our one and onlys in life. Such appreciation acknowledges the past, allows the present to be a gift, and instills hope for what’s next. For all that is one and only, I say thank you.

Bookmarks

Anticipation, fear, and excitement. These are healthy sensations that emerge as we create bookmarks in life by experiencing new things.

It’s easy to forgot for those who often look forward, but we are blessed by many renewing moments throughout life. The start of a new day, first dates, holidays, weddings, vacations, the arrival of a child, birthdays, the first day of school, a new job, the launch of your own company, and perhaps when you fully accept that we may only have one life to live.

This reflection on fresh beginnings and how we’re invited to create bookmarks in life spawned as I embark on my expanded role with Techstars. As a tech founder and entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, Techstars is an iconic organization I’ve always admired. They support entrepreneurs with education, resources, and mentoring that is exponentially compounded by a global network. What started as exploratory ecosystem building, quickly transcended into a more involved role with the Techstars Iowa Accelerator.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to be the entrepreneur in residence focused on ecosystem development. As you hear me often say, the energy of accelerating others is unmatched. Supporting more inspired founders while connecting a community of remarkable mentors is such a gift and yet another bookmark I’ll always appreciate.

Extra Shot

Visualizing your career portfolio as a dynamic pie chart is something I write about in YDNTB. Along with this healthy exercise to reflect on your own personal bandwidth, having this graphic on your phone adds a quick reference for introductory conversations as well. Here’s a peek at my current career portfolio.

As you marinate on your own state of now, be thankful for the bookmarks in life that you’ve established by exploring something new. Think about what you started and how’s it’s evolved. Remember everything can change so if it’s time to create a new bookmark in life, avoid the natural temptation to wait.

Extra Shot

Someday is dangerous. Today is all you have. Start.

Travel

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been interesting to experience “normal” things for what feels like the first time. Along with hugging family members, having fun with friends and returning to in-person business events, the opportunity to travel again felt like something to riff on this week.

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It’s easier to stay in one place, but resist the urge to settle.

Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you rich.

Life outside your comfort zone shapes a wider worldview. Different people, cultures, and economies help us understand what’s possible. This expansion of the mind molds a potent entrepreneur. Saying yes to adventure creates new layers of entrepreneurial vision and intelligence. The enhanced vision unlocks unseen opportunities, while added intelligence makes it possible to work with more types of people. Travel allows entrepreneurs to widen their understanding and therefore make a deeper impact in any market.

Stay efficient with all your virtual meetings, but say yes to that in-person meeting once in awhile. Attend that next trade show and parlay your business travel with personal adventures to remind yourself that we work to play. Here are a few travel tricks to enjoy the ride even more.

  • Consider trusted traveler programs to bypass long lines. Costs are minimal and you’ll appreciate it every time you waltz through airport security.
  • Leverage free travel reward programs.
  • Nobody will take your assigned seat, so be last to board a flight. Boarding last keeps you out of the flying tube longer. It also grants you a free pass to choose your seat if it’s clear the flight won’t be full.
  • Speaking of empty flights, airlines sometimes buy passengers from other airlines. When traveling alone, watch for overbooked situations to sell your seat back to the airline that tried to buy it at a discount. Like most negotiations, a gate agent’s first offer is never the best. Assuming you’re willing to take a future flight, see how long you can make the airline sweat without another passenger snagging the rising offer.
  • Elevation makes us all feel successful. This is why we like flying, rooftop bars, skyscrapers, and presidential suites. If you like the best view when you’re staying in a hotel, request the top floor. Upon arrival, ask the receptionist to hook you up. Some places will even allow you to tour different rooms to select your favorite. Snobby? Maybe. Will you be glad once you settle into a spot with an epic view? Absolutely.
  • Plan ahead by connecting with people who will be where you’re going or who live where you’re headed. This gives you a chance to parlay your trip with more meaningful meetings and additional activities that add value beyond the original purpose of your visit.
  • Bring a book you plan to leave behind.
  • Travel light and stay out of your room.

39

It’s my 39th birthday!

I love using birthdays to reflect on what was learned, trying something new, or appreciating memorable moments from the past year. I also like to craft recaps (e.g. 33rd birthday / 2014 recap) for my future self to read. This year, YDNTB is quite the relic to always remember this moment in my life so instead of a personal narrative highlighting the past, let’s lean into the future by exploring the idea of retirement.

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“Retirement is when you stop sacrificing today for an imaginary tomorrow.” –Naval

I always told myself I wanted to retire in my thirties. Financial advisors are quick to remind us that the golden years of middle class leisure will require around $1 million in savings, but perhaps there’s more to this story.

Yes, the traditional path to retirement is all about earning enough money to cover the burn rate of your life. A second option to realizing financial freedom is to reduce your burn rate to zero, but not many people are cut out to be a monk.

I prefer early retirement in the form of leveraging what you love to do. Similar to what I describe as Career Nirvana, peaceful satisfaction can be achieved when you do something you love so much that it’s not about the money anymore. This doesn’t mean the work stops or that the responsibilities of life fade away. It’s quite the opposite, as more opportunities tend to present themselves when you figure out what you’re best at and map that to what society wants. This forges an abundance of innovative energy you can’t buy. As you collaborate with those who feed off this energy, you soon realize that nobody can compete with being you.

As you build towards such transcendence and realize that a neon future awaits us all, I’ll close with a toast. May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows. Cheers!

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Good, better, best;
Never let it rest,
‘Til your good is better,
And your better is best.

The Holiday Walk

We’ll keep the stories around here focused on entrepreneurship and community-driven economic development, but passionate work is fueled by personal experiences and those we share our lives with. Let’s give these reflections a little heart by sprinkling in some personal experiences and plenty of fun.

I’ll start by sharing an emotional moment I felt today. As our little family got cozy by the fire to finish a magical Christmas day, we enjoyed watching Soul. The ending reminded me that one of the greatest joys in life is the opportunity to infuse the very best of ourselves into those who follow our footsteps. I felt the gravity of such purpose and let my eyes water as I whispered a few loving words to my little startup that pays in love.

As we spend time celebrating the holiday season with family and friends, below is a seasonal cocktail to keep things interesting as well. Eggnog is a seasonal drink that’s too thick to drink by itself, but the trick is adding Diet 7up. Here’s a fun compliment to your next stroll around the neighborhood looking at holiday lights.

The Holiday Walk
  • Full Glass of Ice
  • 1/3 Captain Morgan Private Stock
  • 1/3 Eggnog
  • 1/3 Diet 7up
  • Stir, then add a dash of cinnamon