Tag Archives: the hard thing about hard things

Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset

It is easy now-a-days to think that you have the next best idea waiting to happen. You discovered it one day when you were at a family get together and all the kids kept complaining that they didn’t have an easy way to fill up their water balloons and that it took too much time. You figured out a way to build a spout that can fill up hundreds of balloons all at the same time.

In coming up with this product you figured that the time it took to make your device was pretty simple and easy and you kept hearing from people all around you that you have a million dollar idea on your hand. You begin to reason that “yea, I do have a million dollar idea on my hand but how I do I turn it into a business?”

Glamorizing the World of Startups
The show, Shark Tank on ABC, has grown in popularity because of the ability of the producers to take what is normally a boring presentation process and turn it into something entertaining to watch. If a startup company needed an investment then they had to apply to many Venture Capital Firms hoping that a few call them back to come in and pitch their idea, which was way before the show Shark Tank.

People love watching the show because a lot of them sit at home saying to themselves, “oh I had that idea a long time ago, mine was better.” Others might say, “No, I wouldn’t invest in your company, you have no idea what you are doing!” These are common things all across the board when watching the show until you come across an idea that already been done before but in a new way. Those are the companies, with a healthy growth rate, that catch the eye of the sharks in the room. Of course many of those sharks are not all that interested in your company in the but trying to gain as much control of your company as possible in order to increase the wealth potential of their own portfolio.

So what are those Sharks thinking about when they look at other people’s ideas? Why do they act so ruthless and not care that they might offer them a lowball offer for a high equity share when it means a not-so-positive fate for the CEO pitching to them? Why? They want the product and idea and the CEO pitching has done the homework of showing them how the market is reacting to their idea. If it is positive, then with the amount of money each shark has, they can easily turn it around and make millions more off of it but first they need to own it outright or have controlling power.


In order to see why certain entrepreneurs go on to make it and why others keeping to spin in circles I will show three habits that are shown to have huge positive effect on growing your business but also help improve your work habits.

Step 1. Developing Habits
Successful entrepreneurs are different from people who call themselves entrepreneurs because they don’t really do anything except keep busy with busy pointless work. Successful entrepreneurs have developed habits that keep them out there learning about what all is happening.

One of the first things that naturally successful people do is develop a complete picture of what they want their life to be in their head. They are usually the ones to get up early and perform some habit before breakfast. The most common are writing, working out, responding back to emails, preparing a To-Do list that is achievable throughout the day, or working on a project one step at a time. People like this keep their schedule well planned out but allow flexibility.

Many CEOs and many articles have been written about what they like to do early in the morning. It is a most common trait to hear that many of them get up at 5 or 6 in the morning to start their routine. Many of them don’t pour that first cup of coffee until an hour or two later. This is enough time to get your mind and body into the habit of getting work accomplished throughout the day. People who start their day with no purpose or direction tend to putter around in the mornings going from one little thing to the next before they sit down and ask themselves, ok, what should I do today?

An entrepreneur should have their days planned out according to their week and month. For example, they know that they need to work on their website but they know that they cannot spend all their time doing that so they devote a certain portion of an hour each morning until they have to launch, or if it is already up and running, then working that hour to make sure it looks updated for people to see that the website is new and refreshed each time. This habit of updating also matches with making sure the website is growing over time. A website that looks the same from seven months ago is not a company that shows any growth or promise.

The work you do today should match what you plan to accomplish tomorrow and the work you accomplish this week should enable you to finish the work you plan to do next week. Everything is built on layers and successful entrepreneurs have a clear understanding of this but also of their time and schedule. Events that pop up are not a challenge because successful entrepreneurs understand that there are events that they just need to be at. Schedules help keep things in order but Life is what you plan around so thinking that you can just ignore certain events is not the habit of successful people in general.

Creating a habit is difficult because it means having to change what you have been comfortable doing before. Many times it just requires doing it cold turkey and not looking back. There are many, many books out there about how to change habits, many are amazing books to read like this one, but the difference between reading and doing is the act of prolonging. A book gives you the feeling of accomplishing something in small steps just to convince yourself that you are doing something but many times after the book is over you fall back into the same rut. Change is not easy but doing great things was never the intention.

Step 2. Focus on Goals with Accomplishments in the End
This is a very common thing that people have trouble dealing with. You start a project with intense focus only to get distracted by something else and you get sidetracked. You set aside the project and leave it until you have more time again to work on it. Or as you are working on your project you run into a problem that prevents you from completing your work. The obstacle in the way, for many people, keeps them from completing their work so they lose interest and start another project thinking that a fresh start is all they need. This is a common bad habit because after years have past you look back at all the unfinished projects.

Each time you start something new without finishing those old projects you create the bad habit of “doing things that are easy” but also the creating the mindset, “if I don’t like it then why should I force myself to work on it if I’m not enjoying it?” Both are big problems that keep people from doing great things but none is more so than the last one. When you reason to yourself that it is ok to only work on things that make you happy you teach yourself to be selfish in your personal habits of work. Not all work is meant to be fun and accomplishing great things takes large amounts of time to be great at them but a huge proportion of that time is meant to be difficult and strenuous. Only great people become great by doing hard things.

The most common activity all books on creating positive habits tell you is to start with small activities that can be finished right away. This helps build the habit of learning to finish things you started. When I meet people one of the things I pay attention to is listening to how they speak about what they work on. People who sprinkle excuses in everything they say tells me that they are not interested in getting real work done because “they don’t have the time.” They just want to look busy but the reality is you will never have enough time.

The habit of maintaining your schedule concise and clearly enables you to see how to finish the projects you start. You should be able to look at their schedule and see when each part will be finished so by a future date set you will be able to move on to the next phase. Take for example someone who plans on writing a book. Someone that is serious will not let anything get in the way of their schedule so they set a time that is least likely to have any other major event push it out of the way, hence why so many successful people like writing early in the morning. They might give themselves a goal of an hours worth of time or 2000 words a day until they hit 300 pages.

A project with a goal like that is easy to follow because it has a defined limited with a daily goal set so all that needs doing is the work. You will be ale to know when you will finish the book by knowing how many words fit on each page. Understand that if writing books is your work then creating a schedule is helpful but creating a workflow is more important. This is why many writers look for little get-away locations that offer inspiration and solitude on the weekends in order to accomplish more without anything getting in the way. The importance behind all this is making sure the thing you set out to do is finished because there will always be a next phase that follows. Just because you finished the book doesn’t mean it stops there, now you need to get a cover done, get it edited, and then submit it to publishing houses. knowing there will always be a next phase scares many people because it means the work never stops and why should it? People will always want more if they like it.

Step 3. Being Proactive about Opportunities
This is a mindset that is very hard for a lot of people to follow just because it means having to put yourself out there more. How many times have you met an entrepreneur who is working on their project and you tell them about something that they should attend that will help with what they are doing only to find out that they never went. Then you find out that they are simply working on their project because they enjoy it but their actions do not show they actually want any growth for what they are doing. Actions will always speak louder than words so instead of asking someone if they want to grow their business it is better to ask them how they spend their time. That is a huge indication of what their actions are saying. An entrepreneur that is just starting out by meeting people will be more successful with their projects than someone who stays home and keeps to themselves but pours a lot of money into online advertising. Which one will be more successful in the end? The one that gets out and meets people because they might meet someone that connects them with someone who can help grow their business.

The internet has enable many people to just sit behind a screen and never talk to anyone but it gives the wrong impression that that is all they need to do in order to grow their business. In the book, The Promise of a Pencil, author Adam Braun talks about how he used his friends and their friends to help throw him fundraising parties for his organization. In was through his proactive nature to get out there and connect with people to find out who would be interested in what he was doing, which was building schools in poor regions of the world that didn’t have access to education. Starting an idea like that takes larges amounts of people to help because sitting behind his computer and just running a website wasn’t going to do it. He was always attending events, talking to people, and trying to find the next person who could help and he did.

An entrepreneur who is inflexible about his schedule will miss out on a lot in life. I could easily say that I have enough on my plate to work with but there will always be new events popping up that I need to be at and if I miss them I miss what opportunities were present If I had attended. Business is still very much a contact sport and can only be accomplished by getting out there and meeting people so if you are not willing to change your life and schedule for that then why are you trying to be an entrepreneur? There are many office jobs that will suit you just fine.


These three habits can help start the process of what it takes to start thinking and acting like someone with a purpose, especially if they are trying to build a company. The sharks on the TV all come in with a purpose, which is to find the next great idea that will make them a lot of money. They got to where they are by getting up and working on their business everyday without any excuses. It’s not easy, and it is most certainly not fun majority of the time as this book made very clear about what being a CEO is really like, so the next time you make an excuse about something catch yourself and do away with it. The reality about excuses is this, you can only use them once or twice before people start to see right through them. This is because you should learn to fix the problem so it doesn’t happen the next time but when you use it again to get out of something you lose respect from people because the “action” you are speaking is that you have no control over your life so other people begin to think why should I share any new information with you when all you are doing to do is make more excuses to get out of it?

If you need more help understanding how to view excuses, which is the very reason why I have made it a point to never use them unless it actually happens, then this saying that my teacher in high school used to tell everyone that tried to get out of doing something works like gold, “Excuses are like armpits, everyone’s got them and they all stink.” Just remember that the next time someone tries to use an excuse on you for getting out of something.

Improve Yourself with Books to Read in 2015

If you did a search right now on the top ten books to read for 2015, you would probably find tons of lists already out there. The challenge with this is that there are so many genre of books now that the lists are endless. Twenty years ago things were not as complicated because most “Must Read” book lists came from large chain book stores and newspapers. Now we have so many different sources on what to read, including this blog right here, that it is hard to narrow down just what all is good to read.

Goodreads is a good place to start if you don’t already have an account. If you love reading you need to open yourself an account and use it. I use that website just about everyday when I update everything I am reading. They have tons of lists to follow, groups to join, book reading challenges, and more. I enjoy reading the reviews to get a better idea of what it is about I’m to read so I know I will get something out of it.

In the meantime the books selected all come from authors who have already written some amazing books. A few of the books I look forward to reading this year are Clay Water Brick, The XYZ Factor, and Work Rules.

Try to always take at least an hour a day to read, 30 minutes when you wake up, and 30 minutes before you go to bed or 4 15 minute breaks throughout your day. If you are a real go-getter in life than you can have 8 15 minute breaks throughout your day. However you decide to read, make sure to take some time also to include the classics, self-help books, and adventure books, either in physical form or audiobooks. Always check your public library first to see if they have a copy available.

In the list I have included those from the list but also some classic business books everyone should read.

Top Business Books to Read for 2015
1. Clay Water Brick – Jessica Jackley
People wonder how anyone can make a successful business happen without having money to support everything. This book here shows you how some of the most innovative individuals created something great with the least amount of resources. This is a good one to start with to get out of the mindset that you need X – Y- Z before you can get started. If you think that is true, read the Kids who are exceptional article.

2. How to Fly a Horse – Kevin Ashton
You would think training a horse to fly would be easy but then again you probably have no idea where to start. The author takes the reader on a journey through history to show how some of the best creations came from challenge situations. Creating something from the ground up is never easy so with the world we live in today where costs for starting a business has dropped to near zero, why is it still hard? This book was on the list of Amazon’s best books of 2014

3. Getting To Yes with Yourself – William Ury
This is the same guy who brought you Getting to Yes, which is ranked as the number one best seller in Business Negotiating category on Amazon. The author explains that all the challenges that happen in life all take place in your head. When you think a deal is going wrong because you emphasized the wrong word, chances are you are probably wrong, or maybe you shook his hand longer than you should have, making you seem desperate. These are all mental games you play with yourself so when you begin to realize not to take life so seriously you can then see how easy it is to make yourself agree with what you are saying. A great movie to watch to help you understand why you should not take life so seriously is called “Being There.” Considered one of the best philosophy movies ever made about Life.

4. Bold – Peter Diamandis, Steven Kotler
This book explains the power of exponential entrepreneurship. When you bring people of life mind together to work on a task you double, triple, or even quadruple the power that goes into solving a problem. This is the idea behind XPRIZE, a program that uses crowdsourcing to it’s ultimate power by asking people all over the world to solve their problems posted on their website, Singularity University, in return for a large cash prize. This book explores all they have learned about this impressive program about how ideas are solved through the help of exponential power.

5. Yes, And – Kelly Leonard, Tom Yorton
The power of Improv acting has helped changed so many people’s personal and business skills for the better because it changes how a person thinks in any given situation. Improv is a form of acting that encourages no sensor thinking and to accept everything thrown at you and learn to think in the moment. Many companies hire theater companies to come in and provide Improv training with their sales staff because of how important it is to learn. If you want to learn more about this skill and join a program, read my previous article on the art of storytelling.

6. The XYZ Factor – Nancy Lublin, Alyssa Ruberman
This is a book about learning to empower people to see the benefit of their actions when they put them to good use for others. This can be very challenging for companies when they work with younger generations that are only interested in instant gratification and isolated circumstances, most of which they have grown up in. The DoSomething.org program is meant to get kids out of this habit of waiting, which many grew up in homes where they had to wait to be told what to do and when, and start getting out there and making a difference on your own. For any kid who grew up in a restrictive household, the transition to learn how to think for themselves is very difficult, which is not fair to companies that have to deal with that, and so teaching younger individuals how change is possible through their actions is a good skill to learn.

7. Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader – Herminia Ibarra
This book takes on a different approach for leaders. There are many management books that say to find your style of management and leadership in order to guide your department or people. This book here says to listen to what the people are looking for and take guidance from how they need to be managed. When you don’t over think a problem and dwell on it you can then work from the insight your team gives you.

8. Better Than Before – Gretchen Rubin
Changing habits can be hard but when you learn how to find the little tricks to turn small little actions into bit time change that is when results start to show. The author here talks about improving your life with changing your habits and routines. Humans are creatures of habit so it is important to understand how to make new habits work. Chip Heath also wrote a great book on the subject as well called Switch – How to change things when change is hard.

9. Work Rules! – Laszlo Bock
Imagine being the HR manager for one of the best companies to work for in the world? How much pressure would you have to know that you have to hire people that are extremely intelligent but also creative at the same time? That is a lot of pressure, in that, you have to design and create interviews to weed out the fakes and still find the ones that are hard to see the first time. Then after that you have to learn how to create an environment that encourages people to grow and increase productivity, all of which can be challenge, but brought together in this richly packed book of data examples.

10. Surprise – Tania Luna, Leeann Renninger
This element of surprise is important for many reasons but none more so than in the business world. Surprises happen all the time so being able to anticipate that surprise can keep you on your toes but also understand that change is constant. When you learn to accept things as they come, training from Improv acting, you won’t feel threaten by what is happening every time something new comes up.

11. No One Understands You and What to Do About It – Heidi Grant Halvorson
Why do people know who we are? Isn’t that what makes people want to work with other people, because they think different and act different? People who really studied psychology in college, and when I say really studied, I mean they went way beyond the required readings and read more than your typical grad student, you would know that how a person walks, the words they use to speak, the actions they take says everything about a person already. Not everyone studied psychology in college or graduate school so books like this are important to read because it helps people connect with others when they understand them. Engineers have the worst record when it comes to social and people skills so a book like this might help them to learn that when talking about a project of their their’s it is important to include personal identifying properties of themselves with how they created it instead of just the dimensions and costs and benefits of the projects. If you want to read another book on the subject and learn more about a person by the words they speak, “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,” is a great book to read.

12. The Eureka Factor – John Kounios, Mark Beeman
Do you remember the time you came up with that amazing idea that someone has already come out with? Why did you beat them to it? And why can’t you have more moments like that? This book explains how those moments come about and how to have more of them. They spark imagination, ideas, and bring about change so if they are so important why are they so few of them? Learn more about how the brain works with this book about how great insights are achieved.

13. The Road Character – David Brooks
Ever wondered why Robert Moses lead the life he did, or why the Men Who Built America, had such deep rich self-fulfilling lives? The challenge with creating a rich fulfilling life is not just the doing part but the upbringing part; people of character are built upon a solid foundation of morals, beliefs, and values, which guide them in everything they do. When you have no guidance in which to follow, then why would it surprise you to learn that your life has no purpose? The men who built america found their purpose because they had the keen sense to see what others couldn’t and put it into action. This book takes a look at ten lives and examines them for all these traits to learn how to create a life worth living.

14. Triggers – Marshall Goldsmith
Behavior Consultant Mr Goldsmith looks at how to change behavior for the good and how to make them into certain habits. He takes a look at how behavior works and why we behave differently when we are in groups and when we are by ourselves. This book helps explore all that in order to find the right behaviors that will lead to a successful life.

15. The Misfit Economy – Alexa Clay, Kyra Maya Phillips
Did you know that Pirates in the Indian ocean make millions stealing huge oil tankers and cargo ships in the area? Or that hackers cause millions, if not billions in loses every year to companies, but encourage the growth for many more industries? The growing behavior of misfits is creating whole new industries to come about because the reality is when someone acts bad, you need another to fix it. This book examines the history of people that did things unconventionally and how it turned out for them and what you can learn from doing that. The reality is, business has no rules, so once you learn that rule, all bets are off for anything you do.

16. Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter – Cass Sunstein
This important book contains the very reason you don’t want to surround yourself with people of like-mind. But if you have too, this book will teach you what you need to be aware of to keep from falling into the trap of staying with status-quo. Cass showed that when people of like-mind get together their values strengthen because each member reinforces what they already know or believe in. This is very dangerous because this is how progress is slowed down because if everyone thinks the same way and they all agree with one another then there is nothing to change or improve.

Cass also shows that similar minded groups make less dramatic changes than groups that are composed of different mindsets. He talks about this in the new elected Congress that is very one-sided and how dangerous this will be for policy making and America. You can watch his interview on The Daily Show to learn more about what happens when people who are conservative get together with similar minded individuals, and vice versa. This is a very important concept to learn so you don’t fall into the same mental trap. This is why the phrase, “Keep Your Friends Close, but your Enemies Closer,” is important to learn because your enemies will keep you on your toes and learning all the time. This book is ranked number 1 in Business & Organizational Learning.


Here are some Additional Books to read

Zero to One – Peter Thiel (Number 1 in Economic Policy and Development)
The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
The lean Startup – Eric Ries
Business Adventures – John Brooks (Number 1 in Commerce)
Influence – Robert Cialdini (Number 1 in Marketing and Consumer Behavior)
22 Immutable Laws of Branding – Al Ries

To find more business books to read, check out my previous article and Book Page
This book changed this billionaire’s understanding about Business
Business Books

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15 New Books to Read in 2015

Thinking of Majoring in Entrepreneurship? Here are the top Business Schools

It’s funny to think you need to get a major in something that didn’t exist ten years ago. This is just another way universities are trying to bring in more money while matching demand. If you want a real education study psychology, philosophy, business and throw in some engineering to balance it out. If you just want to make things for people go out and do it yourself, that will teach you more than sitting in a classroom for 5 or 6 years. You won’t get anything out of going to school for 4 years and no company will hire you if you have no work experience to offer so don’t fool yourself that companies will be begging for you to work for them after only 4 years.

So whether you are still deciding if it is smart to even go to business school, take a look at the list of places that made the cut. If you want my advice, use the money for the following

1. Read the following books
How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis
My Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
The Portable MBA for Entrepreneurship by William J. Bygrave
Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
What the Best MBAs know by Peter Navarro
Hacking Your Education by Dale J. Stephens (Study Very Carefully)

2. Start your first business for $100 dollars (that’s the first challenge)
3. Travel and find out how business is done in other places
4. Meet and Talk with lots of people offering to take them out for coffee or lunch or dinner. You can send random emails to people in different cities and see what comes from the experience. This lady did that and it lead her to travel all over the world meeting new people on her blog entitled 52 cups of coffee. (2nd Challenge)
If you have trouble talking to random people read The FIne Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine
5. Travel to a city that is known for being the best for Starting a Business
Best Places to Start a Business

You will learn more in that experience than what state legislative requirements make you take in school. You will probably even save some money considering now that more than 50 universities cost more than $60k a year to attend.

This is the list of schools that offer the best environments for startsup and entrepreneurs. They have incubators, think tanks, and special courses and even majors to help one learn how business works.

1. Standford University
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3. University of California, Berkeley
4. Cornell University
Look at what Cornell is doing for Entrepreneurs
5. University of California, Los Angeles
6. California Institute of Technology
7. Brown University
8. Princeton University
9. Pepperdine University
10. Dartmouth College
11. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
12. Yale University
13. Clark University
14. Syracuse University
15. Southern Methodist University
16. New York University
17. Howard University
18. San Diego State University
19. University of Colorado, Boulder
20. University of California, Santa Barbara
21. University of San Francisco
22. University of Southern California
23. The University of Texas at Austin
24. Carnegie Mellon University
25. University of Miami
26. Northwestern University
27. University of Denver
28. Boston University
29. American University
30. Brigham Young University
31. Miami University-Oxford
32. Brandeis University
33. Florida Institute of Technology
34. Harvard University
35. University of Maryland-College Park
36. Hofstra University
37. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
38. University of Tulsa
39. Tufts University
40. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
41. University of Notre Dame
42. University of Pennsylvania
43. University of Washington-Seattle
44. Clarkson University
45. Lehigh University
46. Pennsylvania State University
47. University of San Diego
48. Boston College
49. Colorado State University
50. Rice University

If you get rejected by any one of these schools you can always take yourself down to your local library and get a card. If there is any book you want you can always request for them to purchase it. You will learn more from this method than spending money to sit in a classroom the only thing is that you have got to want it bad enough to make yourself go to the library and sit down and not let yourself get distracted or make any excuse to get out of studying.

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