It’s Surprisingly Easy to Stand Out

peter-gibbonsIn one of my favorite comedies, Office Space, the protagonist Peter Gibbons laments to a pair of consultants that the only real motivation at his job is to “work just hard enough not to get fired.” He walks them through a typical workday, which includes coming in late, staring at his desk for a few hours, and generally doing very little actual work. This rare bit of honesty impresses the consultants, and instead of firing Peter, they send him on the fast track to upper management.

One day, Peter was an anonymous office drone. The next day, he got promoted. Why? Because he was one of the few people at his company who stood out. All it took was a little honesty.

Most people are content to do the bare minimum at their jobs. Most people want to make just enough money to get by. And most people will never achieve much of anything, because they simply don’t care to.

In a world where the majority are OK with being anonymous, sitting still, and never growing, it’s actually very easy to stand out.

So why be like most people, when doing just a little bit extra makes you stand out so much?

You Need to Know What You Don’t Know

A somewhat famous saying states “You don’t know what you don’t know.” In other words, there are factors out there working against you, which you aren’t even aware of. Plus, you aren’t even aware that you are unaware of them.

I say you’d better learn exactly what these as-yet-unknown things are, so you can either steer around them.

Otherwise, you’ll be just one of many unremarkable people offering useless advice, opinions, products, or services.

12 Ways to Fail in Business

Sometimes, knowing what not to do is your biggest asset. I’ve failed in business before, and I’m sure I’ll fail again, but I’ll be damned if I make the same mistake twice.

Here are my fool-proof ways to guarantee you’ll fail in your business ventures. Avoid them at all costs!

1. Cast too wide a net.
You must find a relatively small niche and dominate it. You cannot be all things to all people, so don’t even try.

2. Build a monument to yourself.
It’s not about what you want, it’s what your customers want. Never forget it.

3. Refuse to change/pivot.
My most successful business went through a few different iterations before we settled on the right path (which was the simplest idea of all, by the way). Always be flexible to what the market is telling you.

4. Rest on your laurels.
Once you get a taste of success, it’s easy to take your foot off the gas. Don’t. Push harder. The time is now. Someone else out there is hungrier than you, and wants to take what’s yours.

5. Go it alone.
Almost every great business person has at least one great partner. Two heads really are better than one. You can’t do it all, so don’t even try. Partner up.

6. Partner with the wrong people.
Speaking of partnerships, it’s essential to find the right fit. You’re going to spend a lot of time with your partners, so make sure you a) like them, and b) they’re smart, dependable, and resourceful.

7. Neglect sales and marketing.
Many entrepreneurs get so caught up in their great idea that they forget about how they’re going to sell the damn thing. Figure out your market niche and how you’ll sell to it, and plan on dedicating a large portion of your time (at least half of it in the early stages) to generating sales, both through marketing and direct sales.

8. Don’t test anything.
Remember in Glengarry Glen Ross when Alec Baldwin’s character said “Always be closing?” Well, I say “Always be testing.” Try new things, think of new products, new promotions, new pricing structures, new markets, add-on services. Never be afraid to try anything, because everything is worth testing.

9. Forget customer service.
Most people would rather not take the time to answer the phone and respond to emails all day. Believe me, I know — I did almost 100% of the customer service for my last business for four years, and I hated it. Still, the effort paid for itself many times over, as our customers appreciated the effort immensely.

10. Seek perfection.
Many products or services face big delays, or never even see the light of day at all, simply because the founders had some perfect idealized unreachable goal in mind.

So think big, but start small. Get your barebones product or service to market, and see if there’s interest. If people want it, then work on improving it. The iPhone wasn’t perfect when Apple launched it, and it still isn’t. It never will be. Yet they sell 200 million of them a year. As my friend would say, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

11. Give up.
Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster of highs and lows. I can’t even tell you how many setbacks I’ve had over the years. Many were my own doing, others I couldn’t control. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die sometimes. I made zero money for years. But I never gave up.

You must keep going. Are you in doubt? Good. Just don’t give up. Start over from scratch if need be, but never give up.

12. Sit on your idea forever.
The worst mistake you can make is never actually starting. Most people never achieve much of anything because they spend more time daydreaming than doing. Be a doer. Get started.

I Used to Fear Routine, but Now I Embrace It. Here’s Why.

The older I get, the more complicated life gets. I have two young children, a wife who just went back to work, and several projects I’m either working on or considering working on.

And of course, I need a little recreation time once in a while, too.

Simply put, I have a lot going on. The only way to combat so many moving parts is by embracing a routine.

I used to fear and despise routine. I was afraid of doing the same things every day because I thought “that’s what old people do.” Who wants to be an old person? I wanted to go to sleep or get up each day whenever I damn well pleased.

But that just doesn’t work in the real world. Since I quit my job a couple months ago, I quickly realized I needed a strict routine to be a productive person.

Here’s my current daily routine:

  • My alarm goes off at 6am (every day, even on the weekends)
  • I snooze it until about 6:30 (OK, maybe 7 sometimes)
  • I get up, get refreshed, and make coffee (I love coffee)
  • I drink the coffee lovingly (I told you, I love coffee)
  • I read for an hour or two (books on my Kindle — usually non-fiction, but I’ve been getting more into fiction lately)
  • I eat something quick (usually yogurt/granola)
  • I do my work (lately I have been coding a lot more than writing — sorry to everyone asking what the hell happened to my blog!)
  • I eat lunch around 1pm (sometimes later if I’m busy with meetings, but I try to stick to 1pm)
  • I get back to work again (more coding and/or writing)
  • I stop working at 6pm at the latest (family is important)
  • I fall asleep by 11pm at the latest (I’m exhausted by this time)

This routine allows me to take all the guesswork out of my day, so I can focus on getting shit done. Some days, particularly on weekends, include a lot less work and a lot more recreation/family time, and that’s OK. What matters is sticking to everything else.

What do you do to keep yourself on track each day? What could you add or subtract to your routine to improve it? How do you think I could improve my routine? I’d love to hear from you.

Five Unconventional Ways to Get the Most out of College

I’ll admit it. I didn’t put much time into my studies in college.

Yet I absolutely loved the experience, and unlike most kids who don’t try very hard in school, I still got a lot out of it. Here are my top five unconventional ways to get the most out of college.

1. Get a part-time job in a field you enjoy — it may become your actual job one day.

My first real tech job was at an on-campus non-profit web startup. I applied before I ever even stepped foot on campus, nailed the interview, and enjoyed every bit of the time I worked there. I learned a whole lot about web development, which eventually helped launched my career a few years later.

2. Be outgoing and make friends with people you normally wouldn’t be friends with.

The social aspects of college are incredible. You’ll never get another chance to spend so much time simply meeting and hanging out with so many different types of people. Don’t waste it.

3. Take day trips to cool places outside of your campus.

It’s all too easy to get trapped in your daily routine of class, partying, video games, etc. Get out of town with a few friends and go experience something else besides what your college offers. In hindsight, I wish I had done a lot more of this.

4. Pitch a department head on a new project you can get paid to create.

A friend of mine introduced me to the head of the bioengineering department at my school, who I pitched a new website idea for. I spent one summer creating the site and getting paid pretty well to do it. I met a bunch of awesome new people too! Tip: it’s actually really easy to get in front of department chairpeople, and they usually have a budget to spend on just about anything they see fit.

5. Start a company with your friends.

Some of the world’s best companies were created by a handful of friends in college (Facebook is perhaps the best example). You don’t have to dream that big, or even be successful. It’s all about the process of starting something and seeing it to completion. This experience will benefit you later in life, regardless of how your project turns out.

Conclusion

There are many other benefits to college than just going to class and studying. Make sure to take advantage of all of the amazing opportunities that this chapter in your life affords you.

Dealing with Doubt

dealing-with-doubtExternal doubts are relatively easy to deal with. Most of the time, criticism is helpful, and when it isn’t, we ignore it.

Internal doubt, on the other hand, is a different animal. It’s really hard to ignore yourself.

So, your best bet is to embrace your doubts.

Doubt is good.

Doubt means you’re thinking.

Smart people are full of doubt, because they realize how little they actually know. They spend a lot of time exploring their doubts. They beat up ideas and processes and products and services until very little doubt remains. Then they doubt some more.

If you aren’t doubting, you’re probably not creating much value.

Those who do, doubt.

I Didn’t Blog Yesterday

one-day-blogging

 

Because I didn’t have the time.

Because I was too busy with other work.

Because I started two articles but couldn’t finish them.

Because I couldn’t think of anything good to write.

Because I was afraid a new post wouldn’t hold up to the previous one.

Because I didn’t want to.

Because I didn’t try hard enough.