Friday, June 27, 2008

The Ultimate Secret of Business Success

I often hear people advising young entrepreneurs to "work harder" or "work smarter." While this is good advice, neither is the ultimate secret of business success.

Working harder is a good starting point. There's no question that all other things being equal, I'll put my money on the harder worker. The problem is that many people think that hard work is good in and of itself. Not true.

I've known plenty of "grinds" who beavered away, expending vast quantities of effort, but without getting commensurate results. At the end of the day, while the gritty, hard-working underdog makes for a nice story, he usually doesn't win Superbowl MVP.

When folks realize that hard work is insufficient, they usually graduate to the next step: Working smarter. "Work smarter, not harder" is a time-honored maxim, and yes, it is often effective.

The entrepreneur who builds a better mousetrap is more likely to catch a mouse than the entrepreneur who works hard running from mousehole to mousehole trying to catch rodents with his bare hands.

But people who truly understand success know that working smarter is still a tactic, rather than a strategy.

Those who press on past working harder and working smarter discover the ultimate secret of business success: Working on the right things.

Trying to catch mice is fine, but wouldn't you rather devote your time to starting a company that changes the world and makes you mind-bogglingly rich than to catching mice?

I'd rather be Steve Jobs than the world's greatest mousecatcher. Heck, I'd rather be even a moderately successful entrepreneur like Evan Williams (the founder of Blogger and Twitter) than the world's greatest mousecatcher.

Focusing on working harder and working smarter begs the question of judgment and prioritization. It's the worker-bee mentality: How can I better carry out the wishes of my boss.

When you start asking yourself, "What is the most important thing I can work on," you're finally taking on the responsibility of being your own boss.

Don't go into entrepreneurship, then chain yourself to an invisible boss by focusing on working harder and smarter.

Be your own boss. Work on the right things.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How To End World Hunger And Turn A Profit

The key is not trying to bite off more than you can chew. What is the simplest way to feed people that will disrupt the economies of famine-hit countries as little as possible?

The key is not to impose new infrastructure, but to leverage existing infrastructure.

Another key assumption: I'm only worried about food. I'll let Dean Kamen take care of potable water.

1) SUPPLY: The hunger fighting entity (HFE--could be government or NGO) establishes contracts to purchase bulk quantities of non-perishable, complete nutrition food. In other words, food bars. Contract with Powerbar, Clif Bar, etc. to purchase large quantities of bars at a low price. These commercial providers would do so to get rid of excess inventory, or to sop up excess productive capacity. You could also get bars made specifically for the program if they were less expensive/higher quality than existing commercial products.

2) DEMAND: The HFE would seek out distributors in the various countries around the world. They would sign non-exclusive distribution contracts. The distributors could then resell the food bars at whatever cost they chose. The HFE would sell bars to anyone who paid money.

Allowing distributors to make a profit lets you tap into existing distribution networks. Non-exclusivity prevents distributors from using monopoly power to soak the hungry. Nothing stops NGOs from buying the food and distributing it for free (though I expect for-profit firms to do a much better job).

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Bond of Brothers

Bob Herbert's latest Op-Ed in the New York Times tells the story of two friends, Josh and Luis.

After graduating from high school, Luis went into the army (both their dads were career soldiers). A few years later, Josh was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and Luis was constantly on the phone, encouraging him through the ordeal.

This April, while leading a patrol in Baghdad, Luis was caught in the blast of an IED. He lost both legs, his left arm, and his sense of hearing.

Luis has no memory of the attack; when he woke up, his friend Josh was by his hospital bed in Walter Reed, where he has been every single day since Luis was admitted.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Sherman put it best when he said, "War is hell." The cost of war (even a "good" war) is difficult to grasp, especially for those like me who have never experienced it.

Yet in these deep tragedies, we as humans get a chance to show our true qualities. Do we rise to the occasion? Or do we falter under the weight of our burdens?

As a side note, if you are looking for more stories of the heroism during times of war, pick up a copy of Medal of Honor (I found it at my local library). These stories of Congressional Medal of Honor winners will inspire anyone with a pulse.

Note that the ranks of these heroes even include medics who, for religious reasons, never bore arms, but still repeatedly risked their lives on the battlefield to save their fellow men.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Comment of the Day: 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

I told my wife about my post on how narcissistic, Machiavellian psychopaths get more sex.

"Well," she said, "You've got 2 out of 3 going for you."

Chicks Dig Two Things...Monet, and Assholes

My old friend Andrew's dictum now has scientific proof...the part about assholes, that is.

(Monet will have to wait for another day, though an unscientific survey of freshman dorm rooms seems to confirm the assertion)

New Scientist reports that two separate studies confirm what the nice guys of the world have always known, and the hot chicks of the world refuse to admit: Chicks dig assholes.

And by dig, I mean making sweet, sweet love.

Of course, being scientists, they have to dress out their conclusions in more roundabout language:

"The study found that those who scored higher on the dark triad personality traits [narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellian] tended to have more partners and more desire for short-term relationships, Jonason reported at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society meeting in Kyoto, Japan, earlier this month. But the correlation only held in males."

Translation? If you want to get it on, drop the caring tone and buy yourself a black leather jacket. Thank me later.