The Spectator Sport

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The thing with being a spectator is that, at some point you become critical.

In the long run a spectator becomes a critic. Not just an ordinary critic, but an angry bird.

You can’t be a player and a spectator at the same time. Just like it’s not good manners to eat and talk at the same time, those who are doing seldom have time to be critical at the same time.

Even those who criticised the Wright Brothers, when they got onto an airplane, they didn’t apologize to these engineers on their way in.

Spectators pay, doers get paid.

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Teamwork: Is this the best you can do?

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If the answer to this is “yes,” and you think you are done, you might be settling too soon.

The right question is, “Is this the best your team can do?”

And if you need a better team, it is never been easier to get one.

Especially if you are a soloist, a freelancer or a small company, if your upside is limited by the people you are working with, get new people.

Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger,

Bill Gates and Paul Allen;

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak;

Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu;

Nelson Mandela and OR Tambo;

Larry Page and Sergey Brin;

Kgosana, Magondo, Mokgabudi and Tshikovhi.

This journey is long:

“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.” – African Proverb

Any time you do work yourself, you have chosen not to use the services of someone who is probably better at it than you are.

There might be really good reasons for that choice, but inaction is not one of them.

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Underrated: Farming

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In my book The StartUp Revolution: Fit In or Stand Out, I talk about the various stages of development from the hunting, self-sufficieny age, through the farming, then industrial revolution and now the connection age.

Five thousand years ago, every human was a hunter. If you were hungry, you got a rock or a stick and you went hunting.

The problem was that all of the animals were either dead, really good at outrunning us or really good at hiding.

Fortunately, we discovered/invented the idea of farming. Plant seeds, fertilise them, water them, watch them grow and then you harvest them.

The idea spread and it led to the farming revolution and the birth of civilization.

Everyone got the idea… except for marketers.

Marketers still like to hunt. Hunt for customers.

What we are discovering, though, is that the good prospects are getting really good at hiding, outrunning Marketers. Spam emails go directly to the spam folder and is deleted without being read.

Clearly, farming is a very different activity from hunting. Farmers spend time sweating the details, worrying about the weather, making smart choices about seeds and breeding and working hard to avoid a bad crop.

Planting crops to grow food is less dangerous than going into the forest. Plus, having food around when you are hungry is a nice perk. But farming takes time, crops don’t just spring up overnight.

Hunters, on the other hand, have long periods of distracted noticing interrupted by brief moments of frenzied panic.

When hunting, you eat what you kill. Hunter prospecting methods involve doing things that get you business immediately. The downside is, you will soon be hungry again and need to spend time hunting down new clients.

As any jungle predator can tell you, your hunting success rate will vary and there are times you may go hungry for a spell.

In the age of branding and customer relationships, farming customers and building relationships from scratch, is more sustainable than randomly hunting clients.

Farming is looking after your existing clients and growing them.

Farming is underrated.

PS: Farming in certain communities is RSA is underrated because it is not a sexy sector. Putting overalls and riding tractors, ploughing and reaping are not deemed sexier than being in an air-conditioned incubator, drinking coffee the whole day starring in your MacBook building apps, and writing business plans. People eat everyday, at least 3 times a day, what a market, what an opportunity… missed.

 

 

 

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Underrated: Doing work that matters

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When I think of underrated, I think of a guy named Mark Bustos.

He has an awesome Instagram account [@markbustos] and is a very high-end hairdresser in New York.

He works at a top salon, and on weekend, he goes and he cuts the hair of homeless people around New York.

He records it, and writes about their stories.

I think it is so amazing that he is at the top of his game as a hairdresser, working with celebrity and things like that, and then on the weekend, on his one day off, he goes around and is of service to people who ordinarily would never have the chance to get their hair cut, especially by somebody like him.

I’m sure there are other people like Mark Bustos, who do work that matters not because they have to, but because they can.

Mark Bustos is a high-end hair stylist in New York City, working at a boutique salon where haircuts start at $150 [+R1,500] and lots of clients are well-known celebrities. But every Sunday, on his only day off, Mark hits the streets of New York City to give back to his community, offering free cuts to the homeless.

What is underrated is despite your success, you still have the heart to do work that matters.

You didn’t lose yourself on your way to your success.

I have no doubt that people reading this other articles will be successful in their lives.

The question is will you matter?

This is what mattering looks like to Mark Bustos:

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Underrated: Square One

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“It’s back to square one.”

When people say these words, it is usually after they have been defeated or failed and are forced to start again.

Perhaps the worst outcome most people can imagine when a project stutters is having to go, “all the way back to square one.”

Apparently, square one is an unhappy place, and far away, too.

In business, going back to square one is something entrepreneurs do more often.

Hey, if you are lost, if you have gone down the wrong road, it does not make sense to speed up and keep racing down the wrong road.

Instead, the smart thing is to go back to the last spot you were in where you had a chance to find the right road and start from there.

Square one: nicer than people expect.

Hello Square One, nice to see you again.

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Labor unions in a post-industrial revolution

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The us/them mindset of the successful industrialist led to the inevitable and essential creation of labor unions.

If, as Smith and Marx wrote, owning the means of production transfers maximum value to the factory owner, the labor union provided a necessary correction to an inherently one-sided relationship.

Industrialism is based on doing a difficult thing (making something) ever cheaper and more reliably.

The union movement is the result of a group of workers insisting that they be treated fairly, despite the fact that they don’t own the means of production.

Before globalism, unions had the ability to limit the downward spiral of wages.

But what happens when the best jobs are not on the assembly line, but involve connection, creation and art?

What happens when making average stuff is not sufficient to be successful?

When interactions and product design and unintended (or intended) side effects are at least as important as Frederick Taylor measuring every motion and pushing to get it done as cheaply as possible?

Consider what would happen if a union used its power (collective bargaining, slowdowns, education, strikes) to push management to take risks, embrace change and most of all, do what is right for customers in a competitive age…

What if the unionised service workers demanded the freedom to actually connect with those that they are serving, and to do it without onerous scripts, policies and procedures and a focus on reliable mediocrity?

What would have happened to Ford, Toyota or GM if NUMSA had threatened to strike in 2016 because the design of cars was so mediocre?

Or if the unions had pushed hard for more and better robots, together with extensive education to be sure that their workers were the ones designing and operating them?

Or, what if the corrections union, instead of standing up for the few bad apples, pushed the system to bring daylight and humanity to their work, so that more money would be available for their best people?

There is a massive cultural and economic shift going on. Senior management is slowly waking up to it, as are some unions.

This sort of shift feels risky, almost ridiculous, but it is a possible next step as the workers realise that their connection to the market and the internet gives them more of the means of production than ever before.

Without a doubt, there is a huge challenge in ensuring that the people who do the work are treated with appropriate respect, dignity and compensation. It is not happening nearly enough.

But in an economy that rewards the race to the top [creativity, uniqueness, value] so much more heavily than cutting costs to save a few rands, unions have a vested interest in pushing each of their members to reject the industrial sameness that seems so efficient but ultimately leads to a race to the bottom, and jobs (their jobs), lost.

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Just this once…

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“Just this once… I will never do it again.”

This is the start to a downward slope of the lack of morals and integrity.

I will take it just this once, I’m desperate for cash, I will replace it before anyone realises.

He/She is tempting, I will entertain him/her just this once, no one will find out and besides the urge will go away.

Just this once, no one will find out and besides I won’t do it again.

“Just this once” is a dangerous phrase to think or say to yourself. Often it serves as an excuse to do something you know you shouldn’t.

The problem with “Just this once” is that it is not just this once.

Once you cross the the line that one time, you will do it over and over in the years to come.

If you give in to “just this once,” based on a fact that you will not be caught, you will regret where you end up.

The decisions you make to break the rules is that consequences are almost always low.

But each of those “just this once” decisions roll up into a much bigger picture, turning you into the kind of person you never wanted to be.

The first step down that path is taken with a small decision.

Unconsciously, you justify all the small decisions that lead up to the big one and then you get into the big one and it doesn’t seem so enormous anymore.

As Dr. Mike Muendane would say, habits start as one drop, then another, then another…drip, drip drip… the next thing you know those drops have turned into an ocean.

Once your conscious get’s used to a small unethical decision you make just this once, it will easily get used to big unethical decisions you make.

You don’t realise that the road you are on until you look up and see you have arrived at a destination you would have once considered unthinkable.

Once you break your moral and ethical line just this once, you will break it again.

The “just this once” applies to every part of our lives. It applies to our health, our work, our relationship and every other area of our lives.

The boundary, you personal moral line, is powerful, because you don’t cross it, if you have justified doing it once, there is nothing to stop you doing it again and again.

As Prof Clay Christensen has said: “It is easier to hold onto our principles 100% of the time than it is 98% of the time.”

Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.

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Self-made not

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I often I hear people talk about being self-made. That they started from the bottom and they have grown to be titans.

Often stories of successful people are told as one lone ranger who single handedly overcame enormous obstacles to success.

This narrative has not be told to reflect the truth.

I believe a lot of successful people are not self made.

Successful people get to where they are by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Success is built on the foundation of parents, coaches, mentors and teachers, of kind souls to share their experiences and nuggets of their path.

A personal vision is important, disciple and hard work are important, having that fire in your belly is important, but you will never get to success without the help and collaboration of others.

To claim to be a self made success is to discount every person and every piece of advice that got you there. And it gives the wrong impression and that you can do it alone.

We all need fuel.

The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough.

Never stop learning. Ever.

You can admit that you can’t do it alone. I certainly can’t. No one can.

Without assistance, advice and inspiration of others, the gears of our mind grind to a halt, and we are stuck with nowhere to go.

I have always treated the world as my classroom, soaking up lessons and stories to fuel my path forward.

I hope you do the same.

Successful people [leaders, entrepreneurs] are not born successful, they are made successful… by others.

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Doers: Nthabiseng Legoete

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It is extremely difficult to find smart people willing to start useful projects.

Smart people are ego driven, they are not willing to start a project that will fail, because they equate failure with personal failure.

Doers are courageous. The need to do something outweighs personal ego. Doers are willing to get their hands dirty, something that smart people are not willing to do.

The fact that it does not work every time should give you confidence, because it means you are doing something that frightens others.

There are smart people who are driven by starting something that matters even if they expose themselves to failure.

Dr. Nthabiseng Legoete is one such smart person. After visiting India, where she saw people with no medical insurance using private care at a hospital in Bangalore, Nthabiseng started Quali Health.

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Dr Legoete’s unique primary healthcare model helps to reduce medical bills and to cut down on queues. Based broadly on the Indian healthcare approach, and aimed at under-serviced areas, the model relies on technology to provide a paperless system that delivers an efficient, convenient service.

Nthabiseng’s self-funded, Dieplsloot-based facility is already attracting the attentions of local and foreign investors interested in taking the service countrywide.

Quali Health is driven by the need to make healthcare affordable, convenient and making sure it is of an acceptable quality.

Doers start. They put their product or service out there to the market. They expose themselves and their work to the market and they say “here, I made this, what do you think?”

Starting means you are going to finish. If it don’t deliver it, you have failed.

You have not poked the box if the box does not realise it’s been poked.

To merely start without finishing is just boasting, or stalling, or a waste of time.

I have no patience at all for people who believe they are doing their best work but are hiding it from the market, talking about this idea or that project they want to start.

If you don’t deliver it, you actually have not started anything at all.

At some point, your work has to intersect with the market.

At some point, you need feedback as to whether or not it worked. Otherwise, it is merely a hobby.

Nthabiseng could have easily said:

“I’m a doctor, a professional who can get a job anywhere in the world, I don’t need the risk of being an entrepreneur and the risk of humiliating myself it fails.”

She could have kept it safe, but instead she saw an opportunity and started Quali Health nevertheless.

Doers start.

 

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Doers: Luvuyo Rani

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All great programmers learn the same way. They poke the box.

They code something and see what the computer does.

They change it and see what the computer does. They repeat the process again and again until they figure out how the box works.

Starting a business is like poxing the box.

You start, try something, when it doesn’t work, you try something else and see what happens.

You poke the box until something works.

Often those who want to be entrepreneurs freeze to start because they are afraid to fail.

Today, not starting is far, far worse than being wrong.

If you start, you have got a chance at evolving and adjusting to turn your wrong into a right. But if you don’t start, you never get a chance.

Starting is not like that. Starting something is not an event, it is a series of events. One step at a time, drip, drip, drip.

Umhlekazi Luvuyo Rani is an example of a doer.

Luvuyo Rani, founder and MD of Silulo Ulutho Technologies, left his school post to sell computers out of the boot of a car in Khayelitsha, township outside of Cape Town.

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People have come to the erroneous conclusion that if they are not willing to start something separate, world-changing, and risky, they have no business starting anything.

Somehow, we have fooled ourselves into believing that the project has to have a name, a building, and a stock ticker symbol to matter.

Luvuyo started from the boot of a car. More than 10 years later, Silulo Ulutho Technologies moved from the boot of a car to more than 40 internet cafes branches in the Eastern and Western Cape, South Africa. He employs more than 180 people.

Luvuyo has been awarded the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2016.

Luvuyo is a doer.

The job of a doer is not to catch up to the status quo, the job of a doer is to invent the status quo.

 

 

 

 

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