Lone Wolves

A common misconception is that you must have a team to be successful. There is a limit to your own capacity, but it is possible to build rewarding endeavors all by yourself. Solving complex problems may require co-founders and a larger team, but your passionate dedication is all you need to get started.

Lasting energy is required to forge this path, but without the need to answer to anyone, you can stay nimble and be more efficient by eliminating internal delays. To avoid burnout, you must stay mindful of your personal bandwidth. Self-awareness will help you avoid market disconnects, The Headline Trap, and relationship problems as well.

To coordinate new initiatives into your career portfolio, consider how the project connects to your current work. Clear overlaps can be good, but can also cause unwanted tension. A project less related to your existing work actually makes everything easier to shuffle. Even when projects affect different industries, it’s still you making things happen. The option to build into what motivates you in different ways will energize your work on all fronts. Action on one project will provide fresh momentum for others. Learn when to say yes and no, then wisely activate your time on each front.

As a lone wolf, it’s easy to go hard toward your own dream, but know when you need help. The freedom of working alone is within reach, but execution still requires collaboration. The world is full of friends, community allies, and contractors eager to help. Outside assistance may slow you down, but it won’t dilute equity, and it may be the key to a new reality.

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Need someone to bounce ideas off of? Let’s have coffee.

If you venture out alone, prepare for intoxicating highs and crushing loneliness. The consuming nature of building by yourself will incite grit, but don’t let it blind you. It’s easy to build too far into the wrong direction without a team. This is why community and customer discovery are even more important for lone wolves.

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.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Social architects around the globe have worked to establish frameworks that can be applied to support long-term, generous, and community-driven collaboration. They have done this alongside government, educational institutions, entrepreneurial support organizations, and economic development groups. Along with societal constructs to guide economic development rooted in entrepreneurship, innovative community builders have stabilized our ability to communicate by adopting a common language that makes universal collaboration possible.

To communicate how a community collaborates to support entrepreneurship, the term “entrepreneurial ecosystem” was coined to describe the people, organizations, resources, conditions, and, most important, the complex interactions between everything in a business environment. The scale of an entrepreneurial ecosystem can be local, statewide, regional, national, or worldwide, but the primary focus must remain: the success of entrepreneurs.

Like an ecological system found in nature, each part of an entrepreneurial ecosystem plays into the continuum of economic development. As a conglomeration of interdependent parts, changing one aspect can affect other features. With so many moving parts, complexity science helps us understand and communicate how entrepreneurial ecosystems work.

In their 2020 best-selling book The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, Brad Feld and Ian Hathaway use complex adaptive systems to explore how a systematic, holistic, inclusive, positive-sum, and long-term mindset unlocks entrepreneurial ecosystems to thrive as one. There are many other thought leaders (e.g. Johannes Pennings, Daniel Isenberg, Victor Hwang, Greg Horowitt, Lolita Taub, Dell Gines, Steve Case, Naval Ravikant, Wendy Guillies, Philip Gaskin, Andy Stoll, Cecilia Wessinger, Arlan Hamilton, Yancey Strickler, Marc Nager, Scott Resnick, Laís de Oliveira, Seth Godin, etc.) and exceptional organizations (e.g. Kauffman Foundation, Techstars, Revolution, Center for American Entrepreneurship, Forward Cities, Right To Start, Global Entrepreneurship Network, etc.) that continue to guide this collaborative approach to economic development. In short, when you win, we win. The sooner a community comes together to support what works while leaving outdated ideas behind, the sooner it can flourish.

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Have you seen Brad Feld’s remarkable contribution inside You Don’t Need This Book? Brad inspires us all to think big and it was an honor having him riff on such an important topic within my new book!

As you’ll read more about in YDNTB, a genuine commitment to inclusivity is where the magic happens within an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Complex systems rely and thrive on diversity. Identity diversity (e.g., gender, race, and sexual orientation) paired with cognitive diversity (e.g., experience, background, and perspective) invites everyone to participate. Along with radical inclusivity, equitable policies provide an environment where entrepreneurial traction is easier to find. As expanding connectivity diversifies, the ecosystem matures and long-term growth becomes more sustainable. When members of the community are successful, they are free to give back and this cycle continues to fuel positive change.

With enough people who care, healthy ecosystems can exist anywhere. No matter the environment, thriving ecosystems trust that a rising tide will raise all ships, allowing entrepreneurs and the people who support them to prosper. Such an inclusive and collaborative approach sets a tone for the broader business environment, strengthening economic development and our society overall.

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Wanna geek out on this together? Perhaps your ecosystem is thirsty for a fresh perspective? Let’s pour some virtual coffee and explore innovative ways to collaborate!

Career Nirvana

Career nirvana is achieved when your community, work, and personal life are in harmony. This state of mind comes from happiness, health, and wealth emanating from the freedom to do whatever you’re best at with people you care about.

There is little holding you back from achieving such splendor. Start by doing remarkable work you enjoy. This creativity earns attention and delivers intellectual, human, financial, network, cultural, physical, and institutional capital. As we learn from The Startup Community Way, the Seven Capitals keep you building by using what you have, to attract what you want.

Let passion fuel persistence, then fuse your career portfolio into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As you connect into community, be generous by accelerating others and use the trust that creates to do it more often. When this becomes routine, your generosity will leave a legacy. For innovators looking to change the world, such a legacy grants enduring satisfaction and furthers the sense of euphoria.

As a fulfilling career is composed, it’s easier to find work-life balance. Remember, we work to live. We don’t live to work. Nobody looks back wishing they had spent more time in the office. Use the freedom you create to embrace those you love while doing more things that make you happy.

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“The peace and satisfaction of building what you truly care about is one of life’s greatest gifts.”  –You Don’t Need This Book

This may sound idealistic, but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. This approach to work requires creativity, immeasurable time, immense ambition, and advanced efficiency. As discussed in the Side Hustles chapter of YDNTB, an acute awareness of your personal bandwidth is essential to optimizing when and how resources are utilized. It can also be tempting to spend too much time on things that are fun but may not have real potential. Be humble enough to recognize what you have and what it will take to evolve your idea(s) into reality. Managing multiple “hobbies that pay” takes serious effort, but the reward is extraordinary work you love talking about and an inner peace that provides transformative happiness.

If you achieve career nirvana, be thankful, but recognize that things will always change. What you have today may not be the same tomorrow. Keep building to enjoy the moment, then make it last with generosity that recycles a sense of abundance for others along the way.

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Cheers to everyone who made last week’s book launch a huge success! Signed softcovers were shipped nationwide and more orders continue to pour in. As you dig into YDNTB, I’d love to see photos, hear what resonates and explore fresh ways to accelerate your work.