Something hit me today like a ton of bricks.
Something that's so damn obvious I can't believe I never encapsulated it into a single coherent thought before.
The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is... trading up.
Yep, that's right, trading up.
Trading up, as in the Red Paperclip guy who, after a series of trades, went from a paperclip to a house.
Except I'm not talking about trading paperclips for houses. I'm talking about turning nothing into something.
I'm talking about hustling. About maximizing opportunities. About asking yourself, "what could I do with this thing I just got, to turn it into something bigger and better based on my goals?" (the "thing" being press, or a successful product launch, or an introduction, or basically anything).
I just realized today this is something I do all the time. I've done it so much that it's ingrained in the very fabric of my being.
It'd be really easy to take this the wrong way, especially if you don't trade up often or at all. I don't mean this in a manipulative sort of way at all. There's a certain earnestness you have to have in doing this to live a good life while always reaching for something greater. Let me just give you the small example that made me realize it today, in chronological order:
We're looking to hire engineers. In a big way.
So I heard the news on TechCrunch today about Digg laying people off
And then I thought to myself, "hmmm, I know some SimpleGeo guys" so I looked up the people I know to see what their email addresses were in an attempt to discern a pattern of email addy so I could email Joe
So I did a Google search for "[email protected]" and viola! A few things did pop up - enough to assure me that I had his email address right (note - took part of the email addy out in this link for spam bot mitigation)
So I emailed him, letting him know about my relationship w/ SimpleGeo and how we were looking for engineers
And he emailed me back letting me know he'd shard my info with some ex Digg engineers
I 'traded up' a series of thoughts & actions to achieve a goal, starting with a simple thought about how ex-Digg engineers were available and I might have a connection to someone who could connect me, to following through with an email and response.
I don't know if anything will come of this, but that's somewhat besides the point. It's kinda like baseball scores. Having a ".267" is pretty solid and a ".335" is even better - if you do it enough times, you'll see results. Or to put it another way -- the way I just figured out today-- if you trade up often enough, you'll get outsized, unusual and extraordinary results, even if you completely strike out much of the time.
The example I showed you above isn't even that impressive. I think any entrepreneur worth their salt will say, "so what? I would've done the same thing. In fact, I'm going to email Joe now." Some of you may have in fact already emailed Joe from reading the part above. That's exactly my point. This is what all good entrepreneurs do. In fact, we do it without even thinking about it, which is why it hit me today that it's such an obvious thing and yet such a marker for success. I must do things like this dozens or more times per day. If I were an Angel or a VC, I'd find a way to test for this.
Another example from today that comes to mind: Sean, one of my co-founders, sent me an article about a "first of its kind" partnership Apple just inked with a Fortune 500 company. So I used Jigsaw to find the contact info for the person mentioned in the article who inked the deal with Apple and emailed him. Who knows if anything will come of it. The process of looking him up and composing an email to him took me about 3 minutes. But if something comes of it, it could mean meaningful revenue to our company. Most likely, it won't happen, but it's a numbers game and seeing his name in the article and reaching out to him is just another example of 'trading up.' It's something I do almost without thinking about it.
Trading up explains why entrepreneurs are always thinking about work, or taking work home with them, or mulling things over in the shower. Trading up explains why being an entrepreneur is an all-consuming experience. Because you know that that one email you didn't get to write, or that one phone call or meeting you didn't take, or that one networking event you didn't go to could have been the home run.
Although many (I might even say all successful) entrepreneurs do this, I don't think many non-entrepreneurs do this, simply because they don't have to. It's mentally exhausting to always be thinking about trading up. Or to put it another way, it's not exhausting once you've done it enough, like building up a muscle group. You have to be hungry to always be looking for ways to trade up. If you have a nice job, or you're satisfied, you won't need to trade up. You never develop those mental muscles. You never see the little opportunities in front of you that you can turn into big opportunities ".335" percent of the time.
Some day I may feel like I don't need to trade up anymore. Then again, it might just be set like concrete into my persona; unchangeable.
I've already had one person disagree with me that "trading up" is the most important facet to being a successful entrepreneur, but I'm going to stick with it for now, at least until someone can convince me otherwise in the comments.
PS see, there I am, trading up again. Putting a line and the end of my blog to encourage comments, so I can make a connection, so I can have another data point in my batting average. I'm telling you, this is big.
PPS if you like this blog, please vote for it on Hacker News. Yep, trading up again, you called it.
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Hense why im reading this and it's almost 2am. You know you've got it bad when "trading up" trumps sleeping. The intrigued mind can justify the most absurd behaviors and actions... call me biased but I wouldn't have it any other way.
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What a great article! I have no clue how you were able to write this report..it'd take me days. Well worth it though, I'd assume. Have you considered selling advertising space on your website?
Christopher, I'll forward you the original email I sent Verizon so you can try reaching out to them.
Daniel, I am the Founder of DatBoys Data Recovery here in Belmont Ma. I have a long standing issue with Verizon and I'd appreciate some assistance with contacting the C Level Management.
I'll be looking forward to your reply.
Adam, would love to hear more about your GoogleTV experience. Are you getting the content you want from it?
Agreed - would call that "trading up"? And what do you think it is about entrepreneurs that they see the world this way, when others don't? Is it a learned skill, or an innate ability you're born with?
It's solving problems with limited resources. Being creative at finding solutions. Seeing the world in a different way. Being able to find an open door at the side of the building when the front door is locked.
Nice:) Since I've posted my comment here I did purchase the GoogleTV box from Logitech and I'm very pleased with it. The best part? The Logitech Harmony remote app for my iPhone. Once I can install full featured apps on the system, it will get closer to being a real alternative to my laptop (FTP, Text Editors, Image Editors).
Isn't it amazing how sometimes the smallest things make the biggest differences?
I'm going to tell you about two of those things: Your "from" email address, and checking your SPAM box.
First, about email: Click the image at left to see a full-size pop-up of a portion of my inbox. Now, imagine it was yours. Let me ask you, how many of the "from" addresses would you immediately recognize as being from a certain company? My answer? Only one, and it happens to be one of my agents, Giovanna, who changed her "from" address to read her name + phone # + company name. As far as I'm concerned, all the others could be SPAM because they haven't identified themselves in a meaningful way to me.
The importance of this point should not be lost on you, especially if most of your business is conducted via email, and ESPECIALLY if you're a salesperson or you need to command the attention of people who may not immediately recognize who you are. Just because you know who you are doesn't mean anyone else does. So instead of having your "from" name say "[email protected]", have it say "Joe Black - 703-555-1212 - Equity Consultant" (or whatever your info is). And take comfort in knowing the fact that NOBODY else out there is doing this, so it gives you a huge competitive advantage, AND take comfort knowing that people will be able to easily call you when they need to, because your phone number is prominently featured. Just ask yourself - have you ever tried calling someone who emailed you, but you can't find their phone number anywhere on their email? I know it happens to me all the time.
If you want to know "how" to change your "from" address, just Google some related terms; there are plenty of sites with tutorials. For example, here are the results of a Google search I just did on the topic.
Isn't it amazing how sometimes the smallest things make the biggest differences? I'm going to tell you about two of those things: Your "from" email address, and checking your SPAM box. First, about email: Click the image at left to see a full-size pop-up of a portion of my inbox. Now, imagine it was yours. Let me ask you, how many of the "from" addresses would you immediately recognize as being from a certain company? My answer? Only one, and it happens to be one of my agents, Giovanna, who changed her "from" address to read her name + phone # + company name. As far as I'm concerned, all the others could be SPAM because they haven't identified themselves in a meaningful way to me. The importance of this point should not be lost on you, especially if most of your business is conducted via email, and ESPECIALLY if you're a salesperson or you need to command the attention of people who may not immediately recognize who you are. Just because you know who you are doesn't mean anyone else does. So instead of having your "from" name say "[email protected]", have it say "Joe Black - 703-555-1212 - Equity Consultant" (or whatever your info is). And take comfort in knowing the fact that NOBODY else out there is doing this, so it gives you a huge competitive advantage, AND take comfort knowing that people will be able to easily call you when they need to, because your phone number is prominently featured. Just ask yourself - have you ever tried calling someone who emailed you, but you can't find their phone number anywhere on their email? I know it happens to me all the time. If you want to know "how" to change your "from" address, just Google some related terms; there are plenty of sites with tutorials. For example, here are the results of a Google search I just did on the topic. OK on to topic #2: SPAM. So, now that we've learned how to keep your email from looking like Spam to others, let's talk about what you should do with your Spam. I'm not going to get into an in-depth discussion on Spam filters (although I'll say that for Windows applications, Cloudmark is the best I've ever seen, and for Macs, Spamsieve is the best), but rather I want to talk to you about what you should do with your Spam folder. No Spam filter is perfect, and over time you'll accumulate some Spam in a Spam folder. My point is this: it is absolutely imperative that you go through that Spam folder on a regular basis, whether once a week or once a month. And it's a total pain to do, but you will almost certainly find one or two legitimate emails within the junk, and it only takes 1 missed email to ruin a business deal. So here's my strategy (I go through mine weekly): First sort by "To" address, and concentrate on Spams that have been sent to you; i.e., ignore any that were sent to other email addresses but showed up in your Spam box. Once you've ensured there's no real email using the "To" sorting method, re-sort by "From". Since many Spams tend to be from the same "person", you can often skim through your Spam folder quickly and ignore multiple emails from the same source. Once you've verified there's no real email in there (or pulled out any that is), delete the emails so next time you go through them you don't duplicate efforts. Until someone comes up w/ a better Spam fighting solution, I cannot stress how important it is that you do this. The only possible exception I've ever found is Cloudmark, because of the way it fights Spam, there are rarely any false-positive Spams in your Spam folder. Good luck.
Its good to be back, talking to you all again. As many of you know, I had an injury last month, and I was pretty much laid up for all of August. I've emerged, and I'm pretty much back to normal. I've taught a few classes, and built a few websites, and life is getting back on track. A bunch of you called and emailed and visited, and found various ways to be supportive, and I really appreciate it. It was very nice of you, and inpsired me to commit to do the same, if any of my friends should ever suffer a similar fate. Although I hope not. I would certainly prefer if nobody ever got punched in the face ever again, until the time comes that the sun refuses to shine. However, knowing that there will continue to be sickness, old age, and death, there will also continue to be deliveries of juice, and kindness. So it goes, my favorite Vonnegut quote. Which makes me think I should read more Vonnegut, I'm sure he's got a few other gems. Oh, and it just occurred to me that maybe some of you are not aware of my healing adventure, in which case, you can read this blog post by my friend Elise. She captures a day in the life of a guy with a broken face quite well. I'm also working on a short book, which will be release in ebook form, "So You Broke Your Face". Again, I hope it has a very narrow audience. And maybe in the future, I'll email y'all some of the insights that arose from the experience, but not today. Today, I just want to say hi. So, Hi! Oh, and if you want to come to Yin Yoga Teacher Training, a workshop, or have a private yoga lesson, or have me build a website, that would be awesome, because, apparently, hospital bills don't just go away if you ignore them. Thanks, Love you, Daniel P.S. It was recently pointed out to me that me that the signature line in my email has the quote: There is a crack in everything That's how the light gets in -Leonard Cohen I am feeling like I've learned that lesson as fully as I care to. I feel like, in this lifetime, I really have enough cracks. My face has just about as much light as I can take. If anyone wants to share some other quotes that maybe will promote a lessons and manifestations that are more pleasant and delightful, I'd love to hear them. OM Om