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.

Co-Founders

The freedom to build as a lone wolf is exhilarating, but collaboration is how to go beyond your own limitations.

It takes more time to collaborate with others, but finding a co-founder can be life changing. Generosity, transparency, and candidness will bring the right people on board faster. Even if it’s one other person who wants to build in an aligned direction, co-founders pave a smoother path toward success.

Good people eager to collaborate can fall in your lap, but finding co-founders usually requires a concerted effort. If you hunt for the right co-founder in the beginning, it will take more time to make early progress. The trade-off is more creative and cultural alignment when things come together. This makes it easier to evolve ideas when a team finds its groove early on.

If you’ve been building as a lone wolf too long, you may have a harder time working with a co-founder. This is because it’s difficult for others to jump on a bus you’ve been driving the whole time. It’s still possible, but a thoughtful willingness to adapt is required. If you’re merging energy with another lone wolf, take your time. Moving a bit slower will uncover the why behind what was built before the partnership. As trust grows within the team, everyone will have more freedom to make the impact they want.

No matter how you decide to join forces with co-founders, choose wisely. It’s easy to work with someone like you, but don’t clone yourself. As a fun analogy, we also don’t put linebackers at wide receiver, right? Identify what you’re good at and know where you fall short. This allows you to pinpoint people who have complementary skill sets. It will also keep you focused on finding those who can push you further. With indelible honesty, who might be fun to build with?

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Perhaps you are looking for a co-founder? Show up to where the people you may want to work with are congregating. For instance, I met two of my co-founders at 1 Million Cups. We were working on different things, but over time, our shared interests led to a business idea we decided to pursue together.

Like anything new, as a team forms, early excitement will provide a surge of enthusiasm. This will soon fade and at some point, the story of this venture will end. It’s easier to plan ahead than it is to react to problems after they arise. Talk openly about roles and how everyone wants to be involved to avoid future tension. Discussing everyone’s immediate and future commitments reduces the stress of unknowns. With professional transparency a team can also work with more sustained stability. This leads to less drama and more consistent success.

As you solidify complementary co-founders, the goal is to have everyone equally enthusiastic. Think deeply about what a fair equity and role distribution means now and how it can also support future growth. No matter how cap tables look, co-founders expand capabilities and add valuable accountability. Working with others to achieve a shared goal is also more fun than working alone. Collaborate with remarkable co-founders and you’ll enjoy the ride together.

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Want more? Check out the Team chapter in You Don’t Need This Book!

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.

Champions of Change

Intrapreneurs are starters who champion change inside established companies.

These skilled and determined people are often salaried employees who want to enjoy their job more. They do this by reinventing how they work at a company they trust. While intrapreneurs shake things up in more controlled environments, they share a similar innovative spirit with entrepreneurs building their own company. They challenge the status quo for larger companies smart enough to listen.

Companies that recognize the value of intrapreneurship stay ahead of the market. They do so by not falling too far behind the innovation curve. Smart companies go further by emboldening intrapreneurs. They do so with trust, resources, and a culture that encourages their passionate employees to get weird.

This sounds cool, but there’s a lot of moving parts when steering a cruise ship (large companies) compared to a little speed boat (startups). Add the fact that no matter how big a company is, change is hard, everyone fears it, and advocating for change is more difficult with more branches on the decision tree. As if it’s not complex enough, new ideas will always feel risky to those in power as well. This makes climbing the ladder of progress painfully slow and poses a quagmire for intrapreneurs: constant oversight and a lack of action can lead to burnout.

Intrapreneurial burnout usually translates into employees leaving the company or choosing to play it safe. When conformity sets in, intrapreneurs lose their edge and misinterpret the market. To avoid this hazard, intrapreneurs must keep making a ruckus and companies must help preserve innovative vibes by motivating intrapreneurs with action.

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Big, small, old, and new businesses can all do more when the people they trust find fresh ways to collaborate throughout the community.

Shifting the perspective, it’s good for entrepreneurs when more inspired intrapreneurs are connected throughout an ecosystem, but collaboration with intrapreneurs requires a long-term approach.

One reason is that intrapreneurs can be hard to identify within a startup community. Many intrapreneurs are also quick to say they’re not entrepreneurial, which makes it even harder to uncover these hidden leaders. If you’re a founder able to connect with these unicorns in the balloon factory, be quick to encourage their fresh ideas. Show interest in their latest innovation and invite them to where other entrepreneurs are gathering. Everyone is entrepreneurial to some degree, so the more intrapreneurs feel innovative energy, the more they’ll participate within the community.

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Are you an intrapreneur? If you shake things up and fuel positive change in an existing organization, You Don’t Need This Book is as much for you as it is for students, side hustle enthusiasts, or entrepreneurs building new companies. Another interesting read is Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin. There’s an entire section focused on championing new ideas into existing companies.

Entrepreneurs need intrapreneurs, and intrapreneurs need entrepreneurs. Intrapreneurs stay innovative by learning from entrepreneurs who are building what’s next. In exchange, intrapreneurs offer entrepreneurs established wisdom and access to customers. Intrapreneurs may not always be the decision makers, but they can still share resources, feedback, and meaningful introductions. This elevates entrepreneurs and fuels more profitable initiatives led by intrapreneurs.

Such shared momentum translates into existing companies getting more excited by profitable progress and often converts to an increase in their company’s community involvement. Companies become more willing to reinvest in intrapreneurship and ongoing innovation is liberated by an entrepreneurial mindset. As more existing companies thicken their connectivity within the startup community and entrepreneurial ecosystem, more ways to collaborate will emerge. Over time, the rising tide of intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial activity compounds into community-driven partnerships that raises all ships through layered economic growth.

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.