StartUp Tip #39: Be event time


In A Geography of Time, Robert Levine points out that most people work on “clock” time:

“It’s five o’ clock, I will see you tomorrow.

While successful people work on “event” time: “My work is done when it’s done.”

Event time people rest when they are tired, not when it’s resting time.

Event time people eat when they are hungry, not when it’s lunch time.

The most productive people work on event time.

They don’t stop until their work is done.

Dr. Reuel Khoza says his father always believed that you need to earn your break, not take a break because it’s break time.

Clock time is important to ensure that events starts and ends on time, that we are able to get work-life balance and that we invest time in other things.

Event time ensures that we complete tasks, work hard to finish projects and reach goals.

It is wise to strike a balance between clock and event time.



StartUp Tip #38: Beware of distractions disguised as opportunities


If you are good at what you do and pursuing your career, opportunities will come your way.

As your success grows, surprisingly, the real challenge might not be finding opportunities so much as choosing between them.

It is important to recognise the difference between an opportunity and a distraction.

An opportunity is not really an opportunity if it deviates you from your goals, even when it is lucrative and looks great.

An opportunity that is really a distraction almost always looks great.

It will seem like an easy way to make money, and it will be similar to what you do.

It will excite you at first. However, it will deviate you in at least one important way or another.

When you are not focused, you are tempted to embrace every opportunity that comes along.

Ideas are an entrepreneur’s secret addiction. More often than not, ideas are simply distractions disguised as opportunities.

When you know where you are going, you are able to easily say no to things that looks exciting but are not adding to your long-term goal.

Being clear about your “yes” opportunities makes it easier to say “no” to distractions.

Not every opportunity in mining is your opportunity.

Not every opportunity in network marketing is your opportunity.

Not every opportunity in another country is your opportunity.

Know yourself, know you path. Plan your path & focus on it all the way.

It is when your vision is fuzzy that you are likely to embrace every opportunity.

When your vision is crystal clear, you will confidently walk away from distractions.

StartUp Tip #37: Build for joy


Traditional businesses, particularly large-scale service and manufacturing businesses are organised for efficiency, or consistency, but not joy.

Joy comes from surprise and connection and humanity and transparency and new…

If you fear special requests,

If you staff your startup with cogs [people who follow instructions and do as they are told].

If you have to put it all in a manual,

Then the chances of amazing customers are really quite low.

Such startups have people who will try to patch problems over after the fact, instead of motivated people eager to delight on the spot.

The alternative, it seems, is to organise for joy.

Built for job startups are businesses that give their people the freedom (and the expectation) that they will create, connect and surprise.

Built for job startups are business that embrace someone who makes a difference, as opposed to searching the employee handbook for a rule that was violated.

Is your startup built solely on efficiency or are you allowed to have joy at work.

Is your project, relationship, NGO, church, school, clinic or department embracing true connections, warmth, or are employees doing what is in their employment contract only.

Once an employee says “I don’t get paid to do this” referring to putting extra effort, then you know the company is built on efficiency not joy.

It’s going to be very difficult to be successful at something that is not joyful to you.

Warren Buffett says he tap-dances to work everyday because he does what gives him joy.

StartUp Tip #36: Overpromise…


… and overdeliver.

The problem with underpromising and overdelivering [in this connected world] is that if you underpromise in face of competition that is overpromising, you may not be chosen.

It’s an old cliché in business that smart companies underpromise and overdeliver. But in today’s crowded market, that’s not enough.

In today’s crowded marketplace, who chooses an average service when there is a chance to receive exceptional service.

Keep your promises, and not just any promises, but dangerously ambitious promises.

Rather overpromise and overdeliver.

Overpromise to lure customers in and then overdeliver to keep them.

Don’t overpromise for the sake of getting clients, overpromise because you know you can deliver.

Find an area in your business that you can overdeliver than your competitors and then overpromise to them.

Ali overdelivered.

StartUp Tip #35: Mental strength


Phase 1: This is the best idea ever.

Phase 2: Ok, this is harder than I thought.

Phase 3: This is going to take some work.

Phase 4: This sucks and it’s boring.

Phase 5: Dark night of the soul: What was I thinking?

Phase 6: It will be good to finish because I will learn something for next time.

Phase 7: Maybe it’s not that bad. Let me tweak it here and try it this way.

Phase 8: It’s actually not as bad as I thought.

Phase 9: Wow, it is working.

Phase 10: I have another best idea ever, next project.

Most projects end on Phase 1: Best idea ever. Ideas never see the light of day because people are afraid to fail.

Once started, most projects end on Phase 5: What was I thinking? I quit.

Wrestling with a puzzle, a project or a problem, the likeliest reason to give up is the belief that it can’t be done.

What’s the point of persevering if it’s actually impossible to succeed?

“It can’t be done,” we say, throwing up our hands. Not “I can’t do it,” or “It’s not worth my time,” but “It can’t be done.”

Entrepreneurship is about going from Phase 1 to 10 fighting the mental battle of not giving up.

Huge value accrues to the few able to actually do a thing for the very first time.


StartUp Tip #34: Tips on how to live when you feel like giving up


The following are some of my 20 tips on how to live that I feel will be helpful when you feel like giving up:

  1. Appreciate happiness when it is there;
  2. Sip, don’t gulp;
  3. Be gentle with yourself. Work less. Sleep more.
  4. There is absolutely nothing in the past that you can change. That’s basic physics;
  5. Kurt Vonnegut was right: ‘Reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found;’
  6. Listen more than you talk;
  7. Be aware that you are breathing;
  8. Hate is a pointless emotion to have inside you;
  9. Go for a run or walk. Then do some yoga;
  10. Look in the sky. Remind yourself of the cosmos. Seek vastness at every opportunity, in order to see the smallness of your issues;
  11. Be kind;
  12. Do no watch TV aimlessly. Do not go on social media aimlessly. Unchecked distractions will lead you to distraction;
  13. Sit down. Lie down. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it;
  14. No drug in the universe will make you feel better, at the deepest level, than being kind to other people;
  15. You don’t need the world to understand you. It’s fine. Some people will never really understand things they haven’t experienced. Some will. Be grateful.
  16. Pray;
  17. Less complaining, more encouraging;
  18. Help others;
  19. There is nothing weird about you. You are just a human, and everything you do and feel is a natural thing, because we are natural animals;
  20. Read Emily Dickinson, Ben Okri, Susan Cain, Bessie Head, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Read Maya Angelou. Read anything you want. Just read. Books are possibilities. They are escape routes. They give options when you have none. Each one can be a home for an uprooted mind;


21. Be brave. Be strong. Breathe, and keep going. You will thank yourself later.



StartUp Tip #33: Take initiative


Most people spend a lot of time to get an education.

They wait for the teacher (hopefully a great one) to give them something of value.

Many employees do the same thing at work.

They wait for a boss (hopefully a great one) to give them responsibility or authority or experiences that add up to a career.

Many conference delegates wait to be told that the break is over and they must come into the conference hall.

A few people, not many, but a few, take.

They take the best education they can get, pushing teachers for more, finding things to do, exploring non-defined niches.

They take more courses than the minimum,

They invent new projects and they show up with questions.

A few people, not many, take opportunities at work.

A few people take initiate.

They take responsibility.

They take accountability.

They take the first step.

They take a chance.

Excellence is not about working extra hard following orders, it is about taking the initiative to do work you decide is worth doing. 

What have you taken today?

StartUp Tip #32: “Here, I made this”…


Deliver before you are ready, because you will never be ready.

Ready implies you know it is going to work, and you can’t know that.

Waiting to be ready is hiding.

My approach has always been, start and deliver it now and improve it as you go.

You should deliver when you are prepared, when it’s time to show your work, but not a minute later.

The purpose is not to please the critics.

The purpose is to make your work better.

Polish with your peers, your true fans, the market. Because when we polish together, we make better work.

“Here, I made this,”…

The more we say these words, and mean them, and deliver on them, the more art and connection we create.

The cost of being wrong is way less than the cost of doing nothing because you are waiting for perfect.

Startup entrepreneurs tend to plan, plan and plan for perfection. This delays delivery, and progress.

Ultimately you find reasons why it won’t work and end up not delivering. This is the danger of analysis paralysis.

“Here, I made this,”…

Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Vulnerable is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we have made.

StartUp Tip #31: Addicted to being busy


Some of us get so used to the adrenaline rush of handling crises that we become dependent on it for a sense of excitement and energy.

How does urgency feel? Stressful? Pressured? Tense? Exhausting?


But let’s be honest.

It’s also sometimes exhilarating. We feel useful. We feel successful. We feel validated. And we get good at it.

Whenever there is trouble, we ride into town, pull out our six shooter, do the varmint in, blow the smoke off the gun barrel, and ride into the sunset like a hero.

It brings instant results and instant gratification.

We get a temporary high from solving urgent and important crises.

Then when the importance isn’t there, the urgency fix is so powerful we are drawn to do anything urgent, just to stay in motion.

People expect us to be busy, overworked.

It’s become a status symbol in our society, if we’re busy, we’re important; if we’re not busy, we’re almost embarrassed to admit it.

Busyness is where we get our security. It’s validating, popular, and pleasing. It’s also a good excuse for not dealing with the first things in our lives.

“I’d love to spend quality time with you, but I have to work. There’s this deadline. It’s urgent. Of course you understand.”

“I just don’t have time to exercise. I know it’s important, but there are so many pressing things right now. Maybe when things slow down a little.”

Urgency addiction is a self-destructive behavior that temporarily fills the void created by unmet needs.

And instead of meeting these needs, the tools and approaches of time management often feed the addiction. They keep us focused on daily prioritization of the urgent.

It is that a meaningful life is not a matter of speed or efficiency. It’s much more a matter of what you do and why you do it, than how fast you get it done.

The above is adopted from Stephen R. Covey‘s book First Things First: Interactive Edition


StartUp Tip #30: Slay at the office and play horsie at home


Actors spend months and months getting into role.

They also spend time getting out of role.

The dangers of actors not getting out of role [i.e de-roling] is that the roles they play affects their personality, creating depression, acting out or heavy drinking because they didn’t leave their impersonation characters behind at the end of the work day.

We are all actors.

We play different roles in this stage called life.

We play the role of a father, sister, brother, son or daughter.

We play the role of an entrepreneur, manager, CEO or super-star soccer player or actor.

When a person is appointed in a position temporarily before a permanent appointment is made, we say he is in an acting-role in that position.

We may not it think that way, but when we get to our work places, we assume certain roles, we carry out duties and perform tasks so that we can get paid at month end.

Our offices are our theatre, the jobs we do is the role we play, our contracts with jobs descriptions is our script. 

Those who perform their scripts [job descriptions], practice their scripts and show up on time, will always be popular and get paid more.

We are acting our lives.

When you put hours into your role, you become good at your role.

Spend more time studying, you become a good student.

Spend more time improving your cooking skills, you become a good chef.

Spend more time improving your caring skills, you become a good caring partner.

Great actors, spend time perfecting their roles.

What we focus and spend more deliberate time on, improves.

Great actors like Sello Maake Ka Ncube, Lupita Nyongo or John Kani spend time immersing ourselves in their acting roles.

We work hard as entrepreneurs.

We put in long hours slaying at the office.

We leave last on the soccer pitch practicing our free-kick technique.

We leave late in the studio learning our lines and understanding a character.

When we succeed in those roles, the world celebrates us, we become public successes.

When you get home, your family expects to see a father, mother, sister, brother, daughter.

Which means when you leave your business, office, soccer pitch, the studio, you have to de-role from being an entrepreneur, manager, super-star or actor and get into the role of being a father, mother, sister, daughter, son.

When we don’t put more time and effort perfecting those roles we play after work, we become private failures.

Cornet Mamabolo [lead actor as Thabo ‘Those’ Maputla in Skeem Saam] in his recent talk says, the problem is when you don’t de-role when leave work, instead you carry your work role to home. You perform as an actor at home instead of a father, brother, or son.

The problem is when a superstar actor behaves like a diva at the airport throwing “you don’t know who I am?” to the official checking her in.

The problem is when a successful entrepreneur sees his wife is an employee when he gets home.

The problem is when a superstar son refuses to run errands for his mother because he believes a superstar doesn’t do those chores.

The problem is when a daughter who has done well at university and now holds a respectable position at work, now thinks she smarter than her mom.

The problem is when the high position wife at work gets home and behaves like her home is a boardroom.


The problem of not de-roling when you get home is that it creates tension with people around you.

In order to succeed in her next role, a great actor has to de-role her previous role and mentally and emotionally get into the next role.

Relationships work the same way.

When you get home and you still play the role of a manager at home instead of husband, it creates tension.

When you fail to de-role from your professional role, your home role is left unfilled.

When people at home expect to see a father, sister, brother, daughter, son instead they get to meet the entrepreneur, manager, super-star, actor, it creates tension.

The Godfather always insisted that we don’t talk business on the dinner table at home. He understood de-roling.

De-roling means when you get home, you play the role of a father and do what fathers do, when you are mother, you mother at home, when you are a son, daughter, sister, cousin, you play that role.

You are an amazing entrepreneur, strive to be an amazing husband at home.

You are a high flying slayer at the office, strive to be an amazingly wife at home.

You are a kickass soccer star, strive to be an obedient son to your parents.

You are an amazing actor on stage, strive to be a dependable friend, sister, brother.

De-roleing is not about work-life balance, it is about knowing your various roles, knowing when to switch between them and playing the right roles at the right times.

Failure to play the right roles at the right time might result in being a public success but a private failure [or vice-versa]

Get on your knees and play horsie with your kids at home, play with the dog at home and then get into your power-suit and slay at the office the following day.

On Saturday, get into your sneakers and take the family out on date-night.

Sunday afternoon, spend some time mentoring young boys in your community.

Excel in all the roles you are assigned to play. Don’t just excel in one role.

Avoid being a public success but a private failure.

StartUp Tip #29: As a leader, don’t hog the space


Cincinnatus was an emperor in the Roman Empire. Cincinnati, the city, is named after him because he was a big idol of George Washington.

Cincinnatus is a great example of successful leadership because he was asked to reluctantly step into power and become the emperor and to help, because Rome was about to get annihilated by all the wars and battles.

He was a farmer. Powerful guy.

He went and took on the challenge, took over Rome, took over the army, and won the war.

After they won the war, he felt he had done his mission and was asked to go and be the emperor, and he gave the ring back and went back to farming.

He didn’t only do this once. He did it twice.

When they tried to overthrow the empire from within, they asked him back and he came back.

He cleaned up the mess through great, great leadership.

He had tremendous leadership quality in bringing people together.

And again, he gave the ring back and went back to farming.

Leaders are aware that it is not about them.

It is about their people.

If you are conscious more about yourself instead of the people you are leading, then you are not ready to lead.

Leaders are more concerned about the well-being of their followers.

They are aware that their job is about people, not about them.

If you are constantly thinking about you, your position, your status, your looks, your self-consciousness, you are not ready to lead.

Once you let go of your self-consciousness and start obsessing about others, you are likely to champion and be the champion of your followers.

It is about them.

Being generous can mean sharing your feedback, your knowledge, and your credit with people, but most importantly, it can mean the difference between a good leader and a great one.

StartUp Tip #28: Tantrums not caught


Tantrums are frightening.

Whether it is an employee, a customer or a dog out of control, tantrum behavior is so visceral, self-defeating and unpredictable, rational participants want nothing more than to make it go away.

And so the customer service rep or boss works to calm the tantrum thrower, which does nothing but worsens the behavior, setting the stage for ever more tantrums.

Consider three ideas to calm down the tantrums thrower:

  • Listen to the person, not the tantrum;
  • Tantrums want to deal with tantrums;
  • Create systems to avoid it in the first place.

When an employee calls you up, furious, in mid-tantrum, it Is tempting to placate or to argue back. That is the tantrum pressing your buttons.

Instead, ask him to write down every thing that is bothering him, along with what he hopes you will do, and then call you back.

Or even better, meet with you tomorrow.

Email tantrums are similar.

If someone sends you an email tantrum, don’t respond, point by point, proving that you are correct.

Instead, consider ways to de-escalate, not by giving in to the argument, but by refusing to have the argument.

Engaging in the middle of a tantrum rewards the tantrum by giving it your attention: and it makes it likely that you will get caught up, and say or do something that, in the mind of the tantrum-thrower, justifies the tantrum.

If your dog is going crazy, straining at the leash and barking, it turns out that yelling, “sit,” is going to do no good at all, no matter how loudly you yell.

No, the secret is to not take your dog to this park, not at this time of day, at least not until you figure out how to create more positive cycles for him.

Eliminate the trigger, you start to eliminate the tantrum.

When the cost of throwing a tantrum is high and when the systems are in place to eliminate the triggers, tantrum behavior goes down.

The problem with taking offense is that it is really hard to figure out what to do with it after you are done using it.

Better to just leave offense on the talk and walk away.

Offense is taken, not given.

Offense untaken quietly disappears.

Train your mind to be calm in every situation.