Intrinsic

We all have bad days. When they string together, the stress gets heavy. This mental weight becomes especially unwieldy when the cause is unclear. After a couple down days, I went searching for the origin of my cloudy mood.

Along with insight on entrepreneurship, venture capital, and community building, Brad Feld talks a lot about mental fitness. The entrepreneurial lifestyle is a lonely roller coaster and I’m thankful for leaders like Brad (and many others), who have helped destigmatize the complex circuitry between leadership and mental health.

I found this entrepreneurship & mental health series from Techstars helpful, then wove in this 2015 interview to translate my temporary despair. Brad talked about how he’s gone through serious bouts with depression and through those challenging times, he’s been able to identify one of his intrinsic motivations to be perpetual learning. He went on to describe how even when he was busy and perceived to be successful, if boredom began to set in, an isolating absent of joy may soon follow.

This gave me clarity. I realized that one layer of my own intrinsic motivation is also learning. I like being in situations where I’m exposed to new things, thinking about fresh ideas, solving interesting problems, hearing stories from different people, and building into things I really care about. When there’s a lull in the action, it’s easy to think the ride is over. While this thought is misguided and untrue, it’s still disheartening. Mental fitness means something different for everyone, but here are a few exercises I plan to maintain within my practice.

  • Link learning with teaching.
  • Recognize that the storm will pass.
  • Find trusted peers to release tension.
  • Use this stimuli of stress to focus.

Adam Grant reminds us that strength does not come from ignoring pain. It stems from knowing that your past self has hurt and your future self will heal. Within the crucible of entrepreneurship, hardship is inevitable. Radical self inquiry keeps leaders aware of their mental fortitude. Such awareness then helps us maintain and uncover new stepping stones that illuminate our own path to thrive beyond momentary setbacks.

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Calm is one of my favorite apps. The guided meditations and sleep stories are a healthy aspect of my daily routine. Here are 10 ways to boost your mental fitness, a mental fitness training guide, and free mindfulness resources from these focused friends.

Recording an Audiobook

I’m often asked about my journey as a first-time author.

How I Wrote YDNTB is a link I’m quick to share with those curiously navigating the fog of writing their own book. I’ve also began speaking with groups about how Pour Over Publishing was established to support this project.

With the audiobook for You Don’t Need This Book about to hit your ears, a similar rumination on how I planned, recorded, produced, and distributed my own audiobook is in order. Enjoy!

Planning

As Seth Godin mentions in his Advice For Authors, the cadence for an important project starts long before everyone first hears about it. Planning slows down early progress, but vision, preparation, and a willingness to rethink along the way provide value as pieces of a larger puzzle come together over time.

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Audiobooks unlocked my interest reading.

Establishing a strategic cadence for YDNTB was something I’m glad I thought about early on. I wasn’t sure how they were produced, but an audiobook was always going to be part of the YDNTB experience. The sturdy softcover and convenient eBook were launched first, but the time-release effect of a staggered distribution provides a fresh promotional boost, while inviting a wider audience of audiophiles into this exploration of entrepreneurship in the connected era.

Along with a thoughtful timeline, a planned cadence has allowed me to organize each of the individual variables into the overall equation. For example, the ISBN numbers, pricing, and distribution methods are different for each item, but work together at the same time.

Recording

When it was time to hit record, I wish it was as easy as grabbing the book, a cup of coffee, and just reading my heart out. There’s a lot you can do in “post”, which is jargon that describes all the work done to bring original media into a finished state, but quality audio is easier to work with. I thought about renting time in a professional studio. I also considered quiet booths at a local coworking space, but knowing the audiobook recording process was going to take longer than I thought, I decided to craft my own quiet place.

As seen in this YDNTB audiobook preview video, I found solace in the lower layer of my home and with a simple setup, I created a comfortable environment to narrate every word of my book.

Any decent microphone can work, but I used the Zoom H4N Pro Audio Recorder mounted in front of a small isolation shield with sound absorbent foam. A pop filter was then placed in front of the microphone to reduce the peaks as I spoke. To monitor the sound, I used a nice headset from my friends at Astro Gaming. This helped me stay in the zone, but also made sure unwanted noise didn’t sneak into the recording. This attention to detail led to the basement fridge getting unplugged, the HVAC being turned off, clock batteries being removed, and momentary pauses when planes flew overhead. Knowing I wanted to stand to project my voice as I narrated the book, I sat my laptop at eye level and used a silent mouse to scroll through the eBook. The result was a rich sound that listeners will appreciate without distraction.

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Brad Feld read his contribution for the YDNTB audiobook, so you’ll hear his voice within the Entrepreneurial Ecosystems section of the Community chapter!

One big surprise, was how exhausting it was to record an audiobook. I was naive to think I could stand up and read the entire thing in just a few settings. Audiobooks must be read word-for-word for whisper syncing and proper transcription. This meant misread words had to be identified (I clapped to create a spike in the audio waves) and re-read to perfection.

Along with eliminating audio-flavored typos, the inflections from the author are one of the best parts of audiobooks, so I wanted listeners to experience a similar satisfaction with the YDNTB audiobook. This translated the narration into more like an artistic performance! With BENergy poured into every word, a single chapter was usually the longest I’d last before my mind was mushy, my voice became scratchy, and my legs started to tremble. In an effort to make the entire audiobook sound even, I knew I wanted to capture everything within a short window of time, but recording all 37,456 words still took over a month to complete. Even with the extra time this process required, I had a lot of fun narrating my own book.

Production

With hours of recorded audio in place, the real work began.

To provide the most engaging experience for listeners, every sentence received treatment. This was painstaking, but the extra effort allowed me to remove outtakes and the distracting sound of me gasping for air. I also spent time listening to how everything sounded together. This often meant listening to the same sentence many times, which allowed me to optimize the flow felt between each syllable, word, sentence, paragraph, and section.

Attentively starring at audio waves and stitching what felt like endless audio into a polished audiobook was the definition of tedious. I have no idea how many hours were spent and if I have to do it again, I’ll probably hire out this production process. That said, I’m glad I took on the challenge. Like much of the YDNTB story, this was a test of skill, will, and endurance, but resulted in a relic I can be proud of for life.

As each word merged into sentences, paragraphs became sections. Sections connected into chapters and I eventually had the entire audiobook stitched together. I brought every element of the audiobook into a final round of editing to reduce any remaining echoes, peaks, and audible flaws. The complete audiobook clocks in at 5 hours, 30 minutes, and 13 seconds.

Distribution

With a piece of art ready to hear, it was important to make sure my audiobook was easy to find. Along with direct (pre)orders from the YDNTB page, I used the Amazon ACX platform to make sure this audiobook was optimized and available to download on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

I love how the audiobook fits into the YDNTB universe and I’m proud of how it turned out. I’d invite you to listen to the audiobook while holding a signed softcover for the ultimate experience. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

#GiveFirst

The energy of accelerating others is unmatched.

When talking with others, forget potential transactions. Instead start by focusing on how you can help. People gravitate toward those who choose genuine selflessness over their own interests.

Showing you care can be as easy as a quick thought to help someone else take their next step. Perhaps there’s a helpful introduction you can make? It can even be as simple as showing you care enough to listen.

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Early in my career I was told that everything felt like a one-way street with me. From then on, I made an effort to listen first and talk less. This is difficult when all you want to do is invite people to your next event or sell whatever it may be. Be willing to show up, stand out, and follow up to seal the deal, but pave two-way streets that allow your relationships to flourish by pulling as much as you push.

However you choose to contribute, the trick is not expecting anything in return. This benevolent attitude has been encapsulated in the hashtag #GiveFirst. Here is a Techstars podcast that explores this mindset. Brad Feld also wrote this book to highlight the #GiveFirst philosophy.

Maintaining a #GiveFirst mentality will spawn meaningful discussions faster and more often. This happens because without ulterior motives, you’re able to explore anything without remorse. Over time, this allows more meaningful connections to evolve, versus contacts without context. When you play the long game of investing in the success of others, the real fun begins.

Concerned you’ll never achieve your goals if you’re always trying to help others? Don’t be. If you relentlessly #GiveFirst, you will earn the attention of people eager to return the favor. You’ll also get asked about your own work more often. That’s when you spark intrigue by saying it’s a secret, before shifting the discussion back to them. They’ll laugh, love it, and come back for more.

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.