Sunday, July 3, 2016


Be Careful What You Wish for

If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, really successful, then this fine book is for you.

The authors call our attention near the beginning to a video, “The Life of an Entrepreneur in 90 Seconds,” which went flu-viral (millions of viewings). It starts with entrepreneur Patrick Bet-David getting into his beautiful sports car (not being a big fan of cars, I don’t know which one), and encouraging the viewers that they can become highly successful entrepreneurs, and enjoy the perks, but “what most don’t see, is what they’ve overcome. All the struggles, the daily rejections, the heart aches, the betrayals, the rumors, the criticism, the empty bank account, and all those lonely nights while trying to make the vision a reality.”

That viral video inspired the follow-up book about the life of the entrepreneur, in 90 pages rather than 90 seconds, and it is a fine, inspiring, informative read. Here are the major elements:

THE TRUTH: Don’t fool yourself. You are where you are largely because of your own choices. If you want big success, you will need to make big changes.

VISION: Yogi Berra told us if you don’t know where you are going, you’ll never get there. A vision keeps you motivated, keeps you on course. Make it one that is worth the effort you will expend.

COMMITMENT: To reach your goals, you will have to be committed. In a ham-and-egg sandwich, the hen is involved, but the pig is committed. Well, you’ll need “skin in the game,” but probably won’t give your life. Or will you?
Cellist Yoyo Ma started practicing at five years of age. Author Malcolm Gladwell gives examples of winners who invested 10,000 hours or more to achieve exceptional proficiency. These authors regard the 40-hour week as “part-time” for entrepreneurs, and those who are “all-in” work 100+ hours per week. As Steve Jobs commented, it isn’t work if you love it. Do you?

RESILIENCY. Winners make it through the School of Hard Knocks by bouncing back when disaster strikes. General George Washington weathered Valley Forge and got to accept British Lord Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. Phenomenal driver of race cars Al Unser, Jr., suffered many losses before surpassing the racing record of his famous dad.

VALIDATION: Incentives incent. You need to keep track of your little victories. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and crew started with a bell that rang each time they made a sale; they turned it off when it didn’t stop ringing!

DRIFT OR DRIVE: You can go with the flow or you can paddle against it. Not always clear which is wisest, but to make a big impact, you will probably have to drive hard and fast and sometimes against stiff head winds.

Fine book. Well worth reading.

And yet…I advised my son, as I advise myself, to “optimize the life, not the career.” We don’t know what lives these prominent entrepreneurs would have had if they had taken another route, and we don’t know what lives they have now, in fact, other than what they choose to show us. They probably are happier having done this, but would we be, if we followed their advice yet achieved much less? The winners of a lottery can tell us how they picked their numbers, but if we mimic that, we still are unlikely to win. These winners were not merely lucky, but many others have probably invested much the same effort without such spectacular results.

When I was finishing Basic Training in the Army in the Vietnam War era, I was among a select group invited to view a recruiting film to induce us draftees to enlist for an extra year, go to Officer Candidate School, and get the gold bars of a Second Lieutenant. The movie closed with the line, “Don’t go to Officer Candidate School unless these gold bars mean more to you than anything else in life.” They did not.

One can admire those who chose to take a certain path without deciding to imitate them.    


My latest book is Write Your Book with Me. I help others write and publish their books; see my site

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