Friday, January 07, 2011

Creator's High

People ask me about why I write. I guess they figure that I have some kind of well-reasoned master plan. They're usually surprised when I tell them I write because I enjoy it.

It may be that not everyone enjoys writing as much as I do. I hear all the time about writer's block, or the pressure of cranking out post after post. For me, it's much simpler. For me, writing is the easiest way to get what I call a Creator's High.

Psychologists often talk about flow states. Flow is the experience of becoming complete absorbed in an activity. Scientifically, you enter a flow state when you pursue an activity that is involving and just the right level of challenging. One of the reasons we play games is to achieve this state--something anyone who has played Rock Band can appreciate.

I'm no psychologist, but I observe in myself that achieving flow when I'm creating something is more pleasurable than garden variety flow.

Perhaps it's the sense of accomplishment, which provides a slow-burning pride of achievement. Perhaps it's because creative endeavors reflect ourselves more than neutral activities like video games. Either way, it's a feeling I love and crave. And I find that writing is the easiest way for me to achieve this Creator's High.

Unlike starting a company, which takes years, or building a product, which takes months, I can bang out a good post in an hour or two, and the sense of completion from finishing something can last me the rest of the day.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that blogging is an addiction for me. Best of all, it's an addiction that has brought me insights, friends, and yes, even business.

I think those are some pretty good reasons to write.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Why This Is A Golden Age For Entrepreneurs Who Follow This Approach

This is a golden age for entrepreneurs--if you build a sustainable business.

The costs of starting a business are lower than ever before.

Social media makes it easier than ever to spread word about great products and services (note that I said easier, not easy!).

There's more transparency in the startup ecosystem (AngelList, VentureHacks, HackerNews) than would have seemed possible 10 years ago when, I kid you not, we looked to places like Red Herring for advice.

But there also downsides to today's environment.

Tons of companies are getting funded, which means competition and pricing pressures, not to mention general noise in the market. And with major exits few and far between, it's tough to make money if you raise more than a few million dollars.

The key to success in this environment is to build a "real" business in a capital-efficient manner.

It's never been easier to raise seed funding. You can cut through the market noise by providing a useful product and through the funding noise by demonstrating revenue traction. You can make your seed funding (which is easy to come by) last, and exit profitably for millions or tens of millions rather than rolling the dice on raising a larger round and achieving a nine-figure outcome.

If you think you can follow these lessons, and you want to be an entrepreneur, start now. There's never been a better time.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Support, Don't Envy Your Fellow Entrepreneurs

Every day, the Internet brings me an endless stream of news about good things happening to other entrepreneurs and investors--product launches, VC financings, acquisitions.

I'm faced with a choice in how to react to this news.

A) "Dammit, I'm falling further behind!"

B) "It's wonderful how progress keeps opening up new possibilities!"

A lot of times, it's tempting to pick Reaction A. It's tough not to envy others' good fortune. But Reaction A embodies zero-sum thinking. The implicit assumption is that there is conservation of success--if someone else succeeds, it reduces your own chances.

Gore Vidal summed this up with his famous quote:

"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

This is a terrible way to think. Not only is it patently false (imagine if you had taken this attitude back in the Stone Age--"Screw that guy who invented fire!"), it's also bad for you. These extrinsic comparisons crowd out intrinsic motivations.

If you choose Reaction B instead, you'll be happier and more productive.

Rather than draining your motivation, the news you read will energize you and fill your mind with new possibilities. You'll see other entrepreneurs as role models and peers, rather than rivals.

It's up to us to collectively decide whether to be A) envious or B) supportive. I hope you choose B.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Power of Behavior Change

One of the things we're taught in Silicon Valley is how difficult it is to change user behavior. We go out of our way to avoid requiring behavior change (though some of our biggest success stories depend on it--witness Facebook and Twitter).

But there's another implication that most people miss--if changing behavior is hard, you can really stand out if you're able to change your own behavior.

People are often surprised to learn that I've lost 40 pounds in the past two years. They think I've gotten a physical trainer or personal chef. Far from it. In fact, I don't even have a gym membership anymore. What I have done is adopt a very strict low-carb diet. Is it hard to give up bread, rice, and pasta? You bet. But because I'm willing to eat differently, I'm able to achieve different results. I may be getting older, but I'm winning he battle of the bulge.

Are there ways you could change your behavior, to do things differently from everyone else, that could make a big difference in your life?