If You Are Going To Fail, Fail Forward

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On 23 May 2009, he was declined by Twitter;

On 03 August 2009, he was turned down by Facebook;

After being rejected by both Twitter and Facebook in 2009, he then decided to start his own company.

Four years later, on 19 February 2014 Brian Acton sold his company, WhatsApp Messenger to the same company that rejected him, Facebook for US$19 billion, in what is Facebook’s largest acquisition to date.

When one door closes, move on to the next door. Failure is a stepping stone to success.

Persuade vs. convince

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An anonymous copyeditor working on my new book unilaterally changed each usage of “persuade” to “convince.”

I had to change them all back.

Entrepreneurs don’t convince. Engineers convince. Entrepreneurs persuade. Persuasion appeals to the emotions and to fear and to the imagination. Convincing requires a spreadsheet or some other rational device.

It’s much easier to persuade someone if they’re already convinced, if they already know the facts. But it’s impossible to change someone’s mind merely by convincing them of your point.

If you’re spending a lot of your time trying to convince people, it’s no wonder its difficult to make sales.

We are convinced by evidence or arguments made to the intellect

We are persuaded by appeals made to the will, moral sense or emotions.

I’d also add a further subtle distinction that we are convinced to think something; persuaded to think & do something.

When Family Hurts You

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“The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other.” – Mario Puzo

Ever felt hurt or betrayed by family? Or maybe someone you love or held in high esteem suddenly became untrustworthy or strangely deceitful in behavior?

At some point, we all experience it. Disappointment in family choices and behaviors can cut deep to the heart like nothing else. When you feel like you truly know someone–his or her heart or intentions–and then witness disloyal or secretive behaviors from them, it can leave you feeling abandoned, confused, and ultimately bitter. In the end, it’s the legacy of family who’ve gone before us that gets tarnished when one or more remaining family members are disloyal.

As I’ve wrestled with this topic in my own life recently, I was reminded of God’s picture of family loyalty and good stewardship throughout His Word. The Bible is clear that loyalty to God demands that we be loyal to others. Here are just a few Scripture passages on loyalty and responsibility:

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

“He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise”
(Proverbs 11:29).

“A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live” (Proverbs 15:27).

“Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

“And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more” (Luke 12:48).

“It is expected of managers that each one of them be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

“If people say, ‘I love God,’ but hate their brothers or sisters, they are liars. Those who do not love their brothers and sisters, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have never seen” (1 John 4:20).

It’s obvious that God desires for us to be loyal. It’s also obvious that He desires us to be good stewards of what we’ve been entrusted. When family is involved, these principles should take great priority over any of our (intentional or innocent) selfish desires. As decent, moral human character seems to be a lost concept in our world today, we must fight all the harder at staying true to who our Creator designed us to be.

Lord, may I never be disloyal to family, but rather an example of godly, upright character and selfless love. May I always put the feelings and needs of others before myself. When entrusted with much, may I honor You in my management and leadership. And ultimately, God, may you receive the glory for it all!

Long-term manipulation is extremely difficult

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In the short run, it is easy.

It is easy to fool someone or lie to them or give them what they think they want.

It is easy to write a great block of copy, to sell on credit, to grab the attention of the crowd.

Not so easy: to build mutually profitable long-term relationships that lead to satisfaction, trust and work worth doing.

Lincoln was right about fooling people, but along the way we often forget that while trickery is easy, the longer path of keeping your promises is far more satisfying and stable.

Showing Up is not Enough

Showing Up
You have probably got that part nailed. Butt in seat, smile on your face. We often run into people who understand their job to be showing up on time to do the work that’s assigned to them. They are competent and present at their workstations and at meetings.

In the Start-up revolution, showing up is no longer enough. We have moved way beyond that now.

Showing up and taking notes is not your job. Your job is to surprise and delight and to change the agenda. Your job is to escalate, reset expectations and make us delighted that you are part of the team.

Thank you for showing up, now delight and escalate us.

Showing up is overrated. Necessary but not nearly sufficient.

Empathy takes effort

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When we step out of comfort zones and put ourselves in their shoes.

When we extend our heart, our soul and our feelings to another, when we imagine what it must be like to be them, we expose ourselves to risk.

The risk of feeling bruised, or of losing our ability to see the world from just one crisp and certain point of view.

It is easier to walk on by, to compartmentalise and to isolate ourselves. Easier, but not worth it.

Waiting for all the facts

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“I’m just going to wait until all the facts are in, until I have all the facts, its all about the facts…”

All the facts are never in. We don’t have all the facts on the sinking of the Titanic, on the efficacy of social media or on whether dogs make good house pets. We don’t have all the facts on genetically modified food, global warming or the demise of the industrial age, either.

The real question isn’t whether you have all the facts. The real question is, “do I know enough to make a useful decision?” (and no decision is still a decision).

If you don’t, then the follow up question is, “What would I need to know, what fact would I need to see, before I take action?”

If you can’t answer that, then you’re not actually waiting for all the facts to come in.

Question the question

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The best creative solutions don’t come from finding good answers to the questions that are presented.

They come from inventing new questions.

Are you inventing new questions in your business? Those who invent new questions, invent new solutions.

Do you need permission?

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Where, precisely, do you go in order to get permission to make a dent in the universe? To get permission to create change that matters?

The accepted state is to be a cog, keep your head down and follow the rules. The preferred career is to follow the well-worn path, to read the instructions, to do what we are told. It is safer that way. Less responsibility. More people to blame.

If I try something different and fail, people will blame me but if we all do the same thing and fail, it is easier to avoid individual blame in a crowd. It is safe to fail by the numbers because that way it is not our fault, it is the system’s fault.

When someone comes along and says, “not me, I’m going down a different path,” we flinch. We are not organised to encourage and celebrate the unproven striver, the innovator. It is safer to tear them down (with their best interests at heart, of course). Better, we think, to let them down easy, to encourage them to take a safer path, to be realistic, to hear it from us rather than the marketplace.

Perhaps, years ago, this was good advice. Today, it’s clearly not. In fact, it’s disrespectful, ill-advised and short sighted. How dare we cheer when a bold change-maker stumbles?

Our obligation today is not to spare the feelings of our peers from future disappointment. It is to establish an expectation that of course they are going to do something that matters.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.

If you think there is a chance you can make a dent, GO.

Now.

Hurry.

You have my permission. Not that you needed it.

How much extra for nice?

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If I pay R5,000.00 extra for a first-class seat, odds are the flight attendant will be nice to me.

If I pay R5,000.00 extra for the presidential suite at the hotel, odds are the front desk clerk will be nice to me.

If I give the car wash dude R100.00 to park my car, odds are he will be nice to me as well.

So, here’s the question: if all I want, the only extra, is for someone to be nice to me when I visit your business, how much extra does that cost? How much extra to talk to a nice person when I call technical support or customer call centre to sort out my issue? How much extra to find a nice receptionist at the doctor’s office?

I know you are rushed and stressed and stretched. I know your team deals with hundreds or thousands of customers, and a lot of them are not very friendly or warm. And I know that some of your customers (maybe a lot) would happily pay a little extra to get that one thing they want most of all.

I think there is a huge gap between what people are willing to pay for nice (a lot) and what it would cost businesses to deliver it (almost nothing). Smells like an opportunity: Why not be nice to your customers and still not charge them extra.

Hungry

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I had lunch (a big lunch) with a university student (a mentee) last week. An hour later, she got up and announced she was going to get a snack. Apparently, she was hungry.

By any traditional definition of the word, she was not actually hungry. She didn’t need more energy to power her through an afternoon of sitting around in the library. No, she was bored. Or yearning for a feeling of fullness. Or eager for the fun of making something or the break in the routine that comes from eating it. Most likely, she wanted the psychic satisfaction that she associates with eating well-marketed snacks.

Marketers taught us this. Marketers taught well-fed consumers to want to eat more than we needed, and consumers responded by spending more and getting fat in the process.

Marketers taught to us amplify our wants, since needs are not a particularly profitable niche for them. Is it not interesting that we don’t even have a word for these marketing-induced non-needs? No word for sold-hungry or sold-lonely…

Thirsty? Well, Coke does not satisfy thirst nearly as well as water does. What Coke does do is satisfy our need for connection or sugar or brand fun or consumption or remembering summer days by the pool party…

People don’t need Twitter or an SUV or a iPad. We don’t need much of anything, actually, but we want a lot. Truly successful industries align their ‘wants’ with basic needs (like hunger) and consumers (that’s us) cooperate all day long.

Do you think you could live without the R16,000 a year you spend on cell phone service and R7,000 a year you spend on DSTV? Of course you can. You did ten years ago. You certainly lived without facebook or your smartphone. But now, that high-speed, always-on connection to the rest of the world is so associated with your basic need of connection that you can’t easily divorce the two (need and want).

Suddenly your wants have turned into needs that you can’t live without.

As discretionary corporate and individual spending contracts, what’s going to get cut first? The obvious wants. The corporate dining room or the big screen TV for Christmas. What is interesting to watch are the things that we cannot live without, the things we think we need, not want. Those things won’t get cut, yet most of them are not needs at all.

That’s because the industries that market these items have done a brilliant job of persuading us that they are needs after all.

If you truly believe in what you sell, that’s where you need to be, creating wants that become needs. And if you’re a consumer (or a business that consumes) it might be time to look at what you’ve been sold as a need that’s actually a want.

Learn to Care, Wholeheartedly

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A lot of us settle into our careers after determining our roles in life and falling in line with what’s expected of us.

Instead of becoming a part of the sea of numbered employees, break free and find your passion. And pursue, pursue, pursue.

Dreams are decisions not yet made, action not yet taken.