Weston McBride writes about what he calls a “moment of clarity.” While he was building a mobile shopping startup, McBride’s girlfriend challenged him. His dream in life was to help solve the world’s water problems. So why wasn’t he doing that? The subsequent soul-searching made McBride realize he was on the “deferred life plan.” His post explaining the jolting realization and the subsequent weeks are worth a read for anyone who doesn’t feel quite right. His take:
My immediate defensive reaction [to the question] was to explain my 5 year plan, as I had rehearsed: “I’ll be [there] soon enough. I just have to sell this mobile shopping company for $200M and then I can actually pursue my dream of solving the world’s water problems.”
But my girlfriend challenged this: “How does selling a consumer app company help you disrupt the potable water market?” She was right, and I knew it.
McBride then decided to act brashly.
I knew that I was powerfully unhappy, that something was wrong, but I was powerless to do anything about it.
It took a piercing question from my girlfriend to wake me from that trance. I knew I was working on a startup where I had no empathy for my users and had no passion for the space or the problems we were solving, and I knew that was wrong. But what I had to realize was that I didn’t need to do that.
That revelation liberated me. The next day, I talked with my co-founders and transitioned out of the company over the next 4 weeks.
McBride says he’s currently researching for his next project: solving the world’s water problems.
According to Creativity For Sale author Jason Surfrapp, “90% of people are afraid to ask for things.” True or not, he’s dead on about the fact that we don’t get what we don’t ask for — including the raise, the sale, or even the date. But simply asking for what we want isn’t enough. In a piece on Inc., Surfrapp suggests that asks be made with creativity, confidence, and effort:
Creativity: When it comes to selling something online, your product or service most likely has competition. Someone else is already asking people to buy, so that alone should give you the validation and confidence to ask. But, you should also think about a unique or creative way you can package your ask so it stands out from the crowd.
Confidence: When it comes to relationships, confidence is key. No one wants to talk to, let alone go on a date with, someone who has zero confidence. But just like asking for things, the more you work to build your confidence and the more practice you put in, the more results you’ll see.
Effort: No one has ever put in an insane amount of effort for something and not gotten some value out of it. The more you ask for things, in the right ways, the better you’ll get at it. And the better you get at asking, the amount of times you hear “yes” will increase.
Here’s your challenge: decide to make an ask (one that you’ve been avoiding or too afraid to bring up) and do it in a creative, confident way that shows effort. Then repeat.
We’ve all been to the notorious status meeting, where in a round-robin fashion everyone says what they’re working on. According to research by Atlassian, you’re highly likely to daydream during this meeting, do other work during this meeting or just miss it entirely.
Author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Al Pittampalli, suggests that in an effort to skip the status meeting and get right to work, that we kill the status meeting altogether, and only have meetings that support a decision that has already been made:
If a decision maker needs advisement pre-decision, he should get it from others via one-on-one conversations. Only after a preliminary decision is made can a meeting be convened. A meeting might be necessary for either of two reasons:
Conflict: The relevant stakeholders can debate the decision, propose alternatives, suggest modifications, or have concerns addressed. The decision is ultimately resolved.
Coordination: If a decision demands complex collaboration from different people, teams or departments, stakeholders can convene to coordinate an action plan.
In an interview with Explore Create Repeat, graphic designer Adam J. Kurtz talks about the importance of having a side project:
I do think it’s important for everyone to do “things” on the side. Regardless of your chosen profession, career, or job, I hope that everyone enjoys other hobbies and activities and hopefully you have the resources to take them as far as you’d like to. If you love baking, bake a whole lot of cakes sometime and Instagram that sh*t. If you’re super knowledgeable about pizza and love bringing friends to your favorite spots (like Scott Wiener, who I met recently) then maybe you start a pizza tour.
For makers, side projects are not about generating extra money or developing new skills, they simply cannot stop creating. For Kurtz, making stuff is his life, his therapy and his hobby. It’s a way to experiment and combine multiple interests without an end in mind. When you work full-time in a creative field, sometimes you need to be reminded about the joys of simply creating. Kurtz reminds us that “everyone can do anything, we just forget.”
What’s the secret to good business? “Create more value than you capture,” says Tim O’Reilly, the entrepreneur and deep thinker behind O’Reilly Media.
A key figure in the rise of the open-source and maker movements, O’Reilly knows a thing or two about launching world-changing ideas. That’s why we interviewed him for our new book, Make Your Mark.
Here’s a glimpse of O’Reilly’s take on how creatives can build businesses that really make an impact:
Where do you think great business ideas come from?
Innovation starts with enthusiasts. The reason why it starts with enthusiasts is that they are focused on the right priority, which is the change they want to make in the world, versus say, a business idea that will get funded. Their perspective is: How cool would it be if we could all have our own computers? How cool would it be if I could put up information for free on the Internet and anybody could access it? How cool would it be if I could build an assistive robot for my grandmother?
What should entrepreneurs be thinking about if they really want to make an impact?
Aaron Levie of Box tweeted something great about Uber recently. He said, “Uber is a $3.5 billion lesson in building for how the world should work instead of optimizing for how the world does work.”
Being able to see the world in a fresh way is the essence of being an entrepreneur. You have an idea about the way the world ought to be. You have a theory about why and how you are going to connect the dots.
Read the full interview with O’Reilly—and 20 more insights from creative visionaries—in our new book on building a creative business: Make Your Mark.
Bonus: Use promo code “MAKEURMARK” to get 20% off pre-orders through Nov 17th, 2015.
So you want to build make some connections in your creative community? Fantastic. But if your first instinct is to attend a networking event and distribute business cards, think again – traditional networking aka “dirty networking” actually makes people feel physically dirty and is an ineffective way of making a name for yourself.
Building social currency is about being honest and authentic, and showing that you value others. In their Social Capital Building Toolkit, Harvard University researchers Thomas H. Sander and Kathleen Lowney, share some high impact and more natural ways to build social capital, including:
Food/Celebrations. ie. host a start-up open house or celebrate your agency’s anniversary.
Joint activity around common interest or hobby. ie. organize a team of friends or colleagues and play agency ball.
Doing a favor for another. ie. help another company move into their new office or volunteer space for a meetup.
Discussion of community issues. ie. talk about poor trash pickup or organize a town-hall about bike lanes.
Intentional relationship building (“one on ones”). ie. set up coffee dates with people you want to know.
To enjoy all the benefits of social currency, you first have to build it. Then be patient and let your relationships mature organically.
In an essay recently published on MIT Technology Review, Isaac Asimov states that meeting with other creatives is important, not for the creation of new ideas, but to share information that leads to new ideas:
No two people exactly duplicate each other’s mental stores of items. One person may know A and not B, another may know B and not A, and either knowing A and B, both may get the idea—though not necessarily at once or even soon. Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant… It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.
New ideas are often the result of making connections between two or more unrelated items. For this to be possible, you need to have a good background knowledge in a particular field and a wide variety of items available to connect. Asimov suggests meeting colleagues in a relaxed environment to discuss a particular subject and throw around all types of odd connections. To get the best ideas, make sure your participates are “willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.”