I have been wondering of late if my rational heuristic driven approach to business selection is making me under reach. I feel I have been building and investing in reasonably “small projects” in the grand scheme of things.
By comparison, Elon Musk was disappointed we were not in space yet so he built a rocket company. He wanted to push electric vehicles so he built an electric car company, then a solar company. He put all he had into the companies: 100% of his wealth, 100% of his time and possibly sacrificed his marriages.
Likewise, whenever I hear the words of the Apple Think Different ad I find myself wanting:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
My general bias is to be a fast follower rather than trying to build something new. That’s why I have usually chosen to relocate proven ideas throughout my entrepreneurial career. It’s certainly a lower risk approach, but the primary tradeoff is that the upside is usually smaller and that I don’t have the field entirely to myself from the get go.
Then again it makes sense to do things we are naturally comfortable with and good at. Moreover, it’s very possible that the unsettling feeling of under achieving is the normal byproduct of ambition. Einstein admired Lemaître who in turn admired Hubble. I suspect they often felt they could be doing more.
It’s also unclear that “doing more” resolves the issue as we just keep pushing the bar forward. This makes it hard to gauge whether we are doing enough at any point in time. Being overwhelmed with work can make the sensation temporarily disappear, but it’s not the correct solution either because it skirts the issue of whether we are doing the right type of work.
Also defining what the “grand scheme of things” means is also problematic given that on a geological time frame our endeavors have no “Meaning” or long term influence. I suppose the definition that would resonate best with me is to accomplish something that profoundly alters the course of humanity for the better during the course of our lifetime.
Bill Gurley is a partner at Benchmark and an investor and on the board of Uber, OpenTable and Zillow amongst others. He just wrote a fantastic article on the optimal pricing strategy for Internet businesses. He makes a compelling argument that companies should have low rakes to establish themselves as the high volume leader and not leave an opening for competitors.
I have always been partial to third party action adventure games like Drake Unchartered and the latest Tomb Raider is a fantastic addition to the genre.
This game tells the origin story of Lara Croft and how she went from being an unsure academic to adventurer extraordinaire. The story is believable and Lara’s character is rich and nuanced. The setting is befitting the story and is extraordinarily rich in detail and history. The game also balances beautifully exploration with action.
I just finished it on Xbox 360 on hard mode and felt the difficulty and length were just right. The multiplayer is unremarkable, but it’s not an issue. When it comes to first person shooters I don’t even bother with the campaigns and head straight for multiplayer action. However, here it’s the single player campaign that really shines.
All those of you who have been yearning to unleash your inner Indiana Jones should give this game a try!
Paul Miller, a technology writer for The Verge, decided to spend 365 days offline. No email, Google, Facebook, texting. He became entirely Internet free. As he puts it, he embarked in his journey because:
“I thought it was making me unproductive. I thought it lacked meaning. I thought it was “corrupting my soul.” … I wanted a break from modern life — the hamster wheel of an email inbox, the constant flood of WWW information which drowned out my sanity. I wanted to escape. I thought the internet might be an unnatural state for us humans, or at least for me. Maybe I was too ADD to handle it, or too impulsive to restrain my usage. … I didn’t know myself apart from a sense of ubiquitous connection and endless information. I wondered what else there was to life. “Real life,” perhaps, was waiting for me on the other side of the web browser.”
In the first few months his offline life did feel more “real”, he went on bike rides, read and wrote more and felt better. However, bad offline habits started to replace bad online habits and by the end of his 365 day journey a shallow offline life had merely replaced his shallow online self. As he puts it:
“I was wrong. … I’m supposed to tell you how it solved all my problems. I’m supposed to be enlightened. I’m supposed to be more “real,” now. More perfect. But instead it’s 8PM and I just woke up. I slept all day, woke with eight voicemails on my phone from friends and coworkers. I went to my coffee shop to consume dinner, the Knicks game, my two newspapers, and a copy of The New Yorker. And now I’m watching Toy Story while I glance occasionally at the blinking cursor in this text document, willing it to write itself, willing it to generate the epiphanies my life has failed to produce.”
In Pogo’s immortal words: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
It is easy to blame others or circumstances for our failings and much harder to take responsibility. I applaud Paul for not romanticizing his offline life and for holding himself accountable for his actions. He criticizes himself for not being enlightened at the end of his journey, but I beg to differ. He has learned an essential life lesson. He now realizes he did not have to disconnect to care about his friends, get closer to his family and pursue his dreams. I hope more of us will have this epiphany.
I just finished reading through all of them and found them very insightful. Some sections are useful to aspiring entrepreneurs as they cover the basics of financing, vesting, etc. Most sections are useful to all entrepreneurs as they present a very thoughtful and often counter intuitive, not to mention contrarian, approach to entrepreneurship. By forcing aspiring entrepreneurs to ponder distribution, “secrets” and much more than just product/market fit, it pushes them to refine their idea and be more thoughtful about which startup to create.
I just came across his engrossing story in a recent copy of Wired. In many ways entrepreneurs, myself included, are a little bit crazy. However, after reading his story, I feel much more confident in my sanity!
I had not read Wired in a long time and was truly impressed by the in depth investigative journalism. I will definitely check them out more regularly.