Biz Stone is best known as the founder of Twitter, but things weren’t always so rosy for him:
My first startup, an online reviews site called Xanga, was struggling, and, tired of being broke in New York, I quit. My wife and I headed back to my hometown of Wellesley, Massachusetts, with tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt in tow. We moved into the basement of my mom’s house. I had no job. I tried to sell an old copy of Photoshop on eBay, but no one bought it.
Meanwhile Stone religiously kept a blog, and began to think of himself as an expert. On a whim he called Ev Williams who ran Blogger as part of Google and convinced him to bring him on. But even with Williams on his side, he had trouble getting the gig:
Larry and Sergey flat out said that he couldn’t hire me. Ev persisted. Finally, they begrudgingly agreed that Wayne Rosing—then Google’s senior VP of engineering—could talk to me on the phone. I waited nervously in my attic apartment. The phone rang, and as I reached for it something came over me. In that instant I decided to abandon all the failure I’d been carrying around. Instead, I would embody my alter ego.
It worked. Wayne told Larry and Sergey to hire me. Working at Google, my virtual and physical worlds collided: With the seemingly limitless resources, scientists, and secret projects, the place was practically Genius Labs.
Years later Williams and Stone would quit, leaving lots of pre-IPO money on the table to start their next project: Twitter.
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.”
“Whether you’re a leader doing the hard work of articulating a purpose for your organization, or you’re an individual ready to live a more directed life,” says Keith Yamashita. “The first step in living your purpose is distilling it.”
Once you find your purpose, it acts as a comfort and a compass for every decision—big and small—that you make about how to spend your time.
Kicking off our brand-new 99U book Make Your Mark with a bang, Yamashita dives right into the key questions you should be asking to uncover your purpose.
At the intersection of these four questions lies your personal purpose. The questions are deceptively simple, and you might be tempted to rush through them. To really do the task justice—and to do yourself justice—you have to peel away the layers of your self-conception. You have to get beyond that image you’ve made for yourself that you so strongly defend. And you have to get at what is actually true. The tension among your answers reveals as much as the commonalities. Lean into it. This process may take days. It may obsess your thinking for weeks. For some, it takes years to unfold. There is no magical timeline. Move at your own pace.
You can find Keith’s complete essay—and 20 more insights from creative leaders—in our new book on building a creative business with impact: Make Your Mark.
Bonus: Use promo code “MAKEURMARK” to get 20% off pre-orders through Nov 17th, 2015.