Minerva

The cosmic pursuit to find Pluto is a neat example of how imagination, obsession, and reason align what can be seen. After scientists at the Lowell Observatory finally discovered “Planet X” in 1930, the world weighed in on what to name it. Let’s brew on naming your project.

As discovery releases new realities, a great name established an identity. A name makes a project feel real and allows you to talk about your ideas with others. It also creates an identity to build your marketing around. If you’ve been thinking about your project for a while, a good name may emerge. If you’re struggling, here are three ways to land on something scalable.

1. Be descriptive. If it’s impossible to guess what you’re offering at first glance, you’re taking an early gamble. Hyper specific names may stand out in the moment, but too much definiteness can limit your ability to evolve. Attention is hard to earn, so avoid obscurity, names that may trap you, or anything that makes your business hard to remember.

2. Verify your name is available. It’s tough to set yourself apart while still being easy to remember. As you consider naming a business, get creative, but do your homework before you fall in love. Research existing trademarks, domain names, social media accounts, industry competitors, and funky spellings.

3. Think long-term. To withstand the test of time, consider how this name can support long-term growth. If the trend you’ve based a name around fades, might it make you look outdated? Will highlighting a specific location eliminate the ability to expand? In short, don’t corner yourself unless it’s on purpose.

Once you lock in a name, start using it within customer discovery to explore how it’s received by those you seek to serve. When a name clicks, align your marketing and overall vocabulary around the newly established identity. This will make your company recognizable and over time, connects you to more true fans.

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Pluto was the second choice of scientists who discovered this beloved dwarf planet. Minerva was the team’s favorite, but it was already taken by an existing asteroid.

Listen

Listening is louder than it sounds.

Most entrepreneurs like to talk and the more obsessed we are, the more vociferous we seem to get. Idea machines must be willing to share compelling stories, but listening is a key part of any transmission. This may seem obvious, but with precious air time up for grabs and knowing so much about our own interests, listening can devolve into feeling like a required distraction.

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Hearing is passive. Listening is active.

As we guide people through the layers of understanding, active listening forms a bond much faster than forcing yourself to be heard. The fear of not having time to deliver your message will linger, but when we truly tune into what another person is saying, it shows we care. It also helps us better harmonize our thoughts within the moment and counters the common mistake of overloading others with too much numbing details all at once. Knowing each conversation is part of a broader relationship and community-building journey, good listeners are almost always given a chance to make a bigger impact.

Ready for an experiment? The next time you meet someone new, embrace your inner scientist. Set your introverted/extroverted mindset aside and focus your attention on asking as many thoughtful questions as you can. The less you talk, the better. This will feel awkward if you just fire question after question, so be concise with each response, then return to more thoughtful questions for a more natural interaction. Consider expanding this social experiment by purposely doing this throughout an entire networking event. Remember who you talked with and track how the listening-focused conversations evolve. Over time, how do these relationships built on listening, compare to others where you’ve been more outspoken? Here are a few tactics to support your practice.

  • Center your internal attention.
  • Stay engaged with eye contact.
  • Use jarring questions to dodge small talk.
  • Don’t interrupt or jump to conclusions.
  • Occasionally paraphrase what was said.
  • Avoid the urge to make it about you.
  • Ask curious questions to go deeper.
  • Exit gracefully, without a sense of rush.

This type of active listening will extend your ability to hear more, but also make your responses more in-tune with what others are thinking, versus always trying to prove your point. Selflessness may keep a conversation from landing exactly where you want in that moment, but as you move from one topic to the next, you’ll learn how others work. When done well, an unspoken bond forms. This synchronization creates space to explore more directions you’d like to take future conversations, but now with the priceless ingredient of shared enthusiasm.

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Listening within a support network ignites optimism, connection, and motivation. A healthy balance is to also listen to your challenge network, which keeps us intellectually humble and rooted in reality.

Stealth Mode

We’re all guilty of thinking our idea is better than it is.

Stealth mode is when entrepreneurs wait to start telling their story. Staying quiet about a new project often starts with good intentions. Curiosity and a bit of mystery can generate hype, especially if you’ve been successful in the past. Too often however, people hold onto silence because they fear feedback or that what they’re building may not work in the wild.

To avoid failure, the choice to continue building in stealth mode keeps everything safely in the workshop. This may be wise if the project needs work or when the competition are known pirates, but there are few ideas that require much secrecy. With 8 billion humans on earth, your idea is probably not unique and when it comes to shipping your art, it all comes down to execution. Survey the market and research existing patents to help guide decision making, but stealth mode will soon lag toward being an excuse to procrastinate. Even if you have something big, it can be deflated without the open air of honest feedback. Stealth mode may sound nice, but silence, pride, and fear can devolve into a suffocating sinkhole.

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Winners are good at losing.

If you decide to build in stealth mode, give yourself firm timelines. Determine if intellectual property needs legal protection. If you need to keep certain aspects of the project under wraps, do so while still allowing the idea to breathe. Stealth mode only works when it results in a stronger story. It’s hard to know how strong your story is unless you share it.

Yes, we can only be new once, but the leverage of a startup is an ability to quickly evolve. As your team connects with the true market through strategic, creative, and generous execution, humility paired with persistence will pay off in the form of confidence. Even if something fails, it’ll be more like a pit stop on your path toward product-market fit. Be a scientist. Experiment thoughtfully, iterate often, and invite doubt knowing that if you’re wrong, it can activate a signal that guides the project toward a more sustainable future.

Be careful with the comfort of stealth mode. Those who build in too much silence can go quiet themselves.

Early Moves

So you have a business idea you’d like to explore? Yes!

It’s easy to say “Let’s gooo!” but when you say yes to something, you’re also saying no to something else. This is opportunity cost, so be strategic with your early moves. Before you go too far, remember that an appropriate “no” early on is better than a long, wrong “yes.” Let’s explore how to decide what ideas to activate and how to help them bloom.

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Things you dedicate time to will grow.

It takes discipline, but time alone with any idea is a good way to avoid swinging at bad pitches. Dig into online research before going too far. Determine what related products or services already exist. Run some numbers. Talk to potential customers and see if you can snag a few preorders. The goal is to understand the realistic impact you may be able to make in the market by confirming it’s something strangers are willing to pay for.

If you start to feel genuine interest, talk with others who may be interested in collaborating. Think about your own skills to identify where you’ll need help. Attend related events to further qualify early concepts. Even if you’re not ready to share details, the readiness to Show Up and #GiveFirst often leads to new allies who can connect dots as you continue working through ideation, team development, research, and testing.

Before you go much further, take a pit stop with your future self. Is this a business/market you want to work on for the foreseeable future? If you like to quilt, it doesn’t mean you should start a quilting business. The hardships that come with being a business owner can actually kill your passion. Dance with all your ideas, but recognize when something should remain a hobby.

Early moves are exhilarating, but there’s value in being efficient as you decide if something is going to work. If this evolving business idea continues to touch your heart after internal and external analysis, you may have something ready to pursue! Inspiration is perishable, so when this happens, be ready to take action. As you do, stay patient. It’s not how fast you move, it’s that you find ways to keep moving. Avoid the headline trap and find lasting energy knowing that even hints of progress can nurture an idea toward reality.

As you continue moving forward, think big, but remain realistic by doing one thing really well. Stay intellectually humble and welcome doubt by working with others and be ready to iterate quickly. It often takes many versions of an idea to land on something ready for the wild.

Die Empty

Graveyards are full of good intentions, untold ideas, disconnections, and missed opportunities.

As we celebrate year-end holidays and look to 2022, it’s easy to make audacious plans for what’s next, but perhaps it’s wise to pair big ideas with small actions?

This obviously means something different for everyone. For example, there are times in our lives when we seek to do so much more. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when cool ideas, good intentions, and even positive action doesn’t lead to the anticipated outcome. For those who face this mental mountain, first give yourself grace by remembering that we either succeed or learn. This will help you find closure with past failure(s). As you push through this self-limiting mindset, lean back into your community of fellow founders. It’s even harder to show up when you’re experiencing a dip, but movement activates motivation and leaning into the prosperity of others will percolate helpful conversations. Pair this curiosity with a pinch of vulnerability and you’ll be reminded how generosity builds trust and helps you solve new problems.

In contrast, there are other times when a profound sense of accomplishment leaves us wondering what more can be done? This would seemingly be a privileged state, but our sense of purpose can waver when goals have been met. This can cause even the most ambitious spirit to feel lazy. A sense of achievement dysmorphia can also set in, which downplays our accomplishments in an effort to create space for more. Perhaps one way to counter this type of mental moment is to pair celebration with relaxation, creativity, and humility. Rejuvenation often emerges from self-care rooted in gratitude. This form of vulnerability brings peace, which often provides clarity on prolific ways to make a deeper impact on familiar fronts, or energy to explore brand new ways to fuel positive change.

The nudge you need will be dynamic based on the complexity of your ever-shifting environment, but a willingness to persist allows us all to keep building.

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The YDNTB audiobook was just released and listeners love it! It is now available as a direct download (with bonus features) in this special Holiday Bundle. It can also be found on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.

It’s impossible to measure the amount of time and effort it took to narrate, edit, and professionally publish this 5-hour audiobook (here’s how I did it), but that’s not what matters. What matters is that I have a remarkable relic to be proud of forever. Enjoy the show my friends!

Along with what you’re able to undertake, appreciate all that you cannot. When idea machines have an opportunity surplus, it’s easy to over commit. It’s much harder to stay cognizant of our personal bandwidth when our connected era is always introducing new ways to spend your time. These are crossroads where you’re invited to be honest about your own purpose, by allowing the superpowers of others to activate something you can/should not. As you share the love, deliver ideas, resources, connections, and opportunities without hidden agendas. You can’t take such things with you, so boldly give them away with a sense of abundance and find renewing joy in helping others bring more good things to life.

My hope is that after reading this year-end reflection, you observe the blunt title less around loneliness, and more as positive encouragement for doing all that we can with our precious time in this life.

A sustainable cadence leads to longevity, but a profound legacy awaits those who exhaust all their love, intelligence, connectivity, and energy to leave satisfied in the end.